Do you ever gaze up at skyscrapers or look admiringly at beautiful buildings and marvel at how they were built? Do you wonder how these buildings are put together so that they’re safe, functional and aesthetically pleasing? It all starts with the work of an architect.
Architects plan and design buildings and other structures*. They’re responsible for everything from estimating materials, equipment, costs and construction time for a project to preparing scaled drawings of the project to visiting worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans.
Architecture is not only an exciting and challenging field, but it’s also one that is growing. Employment of architects is projected to grow 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.
If the idea of building a career as an architect sounds rewarding, here’s more information on how to enter the field:
Education and training
In order to become an architect, you must complete a professional degree in architecture, participate in training and pass the Architect Registration Exam.
There are 123 schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, and most states require that a professional degree is earned from one of these schools. However, some states may allow graduation from a nonaccredited program. Most architects earn their professional degree through a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program, while others may earn a master’s degree, which can take one to five years to finish, depending on the amount of previous training completed.
Once you graduate, you will need to get at least three years of training under your belt before you can take the next step — getting licensed. Graduates usually receive this training through an internship at an architectural firm. All states require architects to be licensed, and you can’t get licensed until you’ve earned a professional degree, participated in practical training and passed the Architect Registration Examination. Most states also require some form of continuing education to keep a license.
Beyond getting the proper education and training, it’s important that those interested in becoming an architect possess certain qualities that will ensure their success in the field. Such qualities include:
- Analytical skills — understanding the content of designs and the context in which they were created.
- Communication skills — the ability to share ideas, both orally and in writing, with clients, other architects and workers who help prepare drawings.
- Creativity – creating designs that are both pleasing to the eye and functional.
- Critical-thinking skills – providing solutions to unanticipated challenges.
- Technical skills – skilled at using computer-aided design and drafting programs to create plans as part of integrated building information modeling.
While architects spend much of their time in offices, they do venture out to construction sites occasionally to review the progress of their current projects. When they’re in the office, they’re consulting with clients, developing reports and drawings and working with other architects and engineers. A typical workweek is about 50 hours, which may include evenings and weekends when deadlines are looming.
While it takes a lot of training to get there, once you become an architect, you have the opportunity to earn an enviable salary. As of May 2010, the median annual wage of architects was $72,550. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,860 and the top 10 percent earned more than $119,500.
*All information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.