An architect career is an exciting one – so how easy is becoming an architect? An architect will design and build spaces of the future, as well as restoring and conserving old buildings. An architect’s work can involve planning the layout of groups of buildings and the spaces around them.

If you choose an architect career you will find most opportunities for work in the private sector. You can work in-house with a wide range of commercial and industrial organisations in areas such as retail, leisure, tourism and banking. In this sector there is often no promotional structure. In an architect career, progression will depend on your skills, competence and experience.

In the public sector however, you may be able to progress to chief architect. And, as an experienced architect, you may work on freelance contracts or even set up your own practice.

What’s involved in an Architect Career?

When producing a design, architects take into account all of their client’s requirements and a range of other issues including:

  • budget
  • safety
  • social factors
  • building regulations
  • planning laws

Once a design is agreed, architects will produce a further set of detailed drawings for the building contractor. These will contain precise dimensions and specified materials – with these they liaise closely with contractors. Engineers, surveyors, lawyers and planning departments regularly inspect the construction work to assess progress.

Architects will take responsibility for a building project from the earliest stage through to completion. On larger jobs a team of architects may work together to achieve this.

Architect hours and environment

Becoming an architect means you should be able to work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, deadlines and workload can sometimes involve working unsociable hours. With some organisations you may be expected to cover an on-call rota.

You will be mainly office based although you may spend some time at meetings, visiting clients, planning departments, builders and sites – and in all weathers! You may need to climb ladders and scaffolding and wear safety equipment such as hard hats and boots.

Architect skills and interests

Below are a few attributes that help to make a good architect:

  • an interest in buildings and their uses
  • practical and scientific skills
  • a methodical, logical and analytical approach
  • design and computer/CAD skills
  • strong mathematical ability to work out costing
  • good business awareness
  • strong communication and negotiation skills
  • the ability to manage and lead a team
  • the ability to work under pressure and accept criticism of your work
  • an awareness of the social and environmental impact of your work

Training and architecture courses

To practise as an architect in the UK you must be accepted onto the UK Register of Architects, run by the Architects Registration Board (ARB). You need to complete around seven years of education and training to be eligible for the register and start your career in Architecture.

The most direct way to become an architect is by taking ARB-approved (prescribed) qualifications, which involves three stages of training plus practical work experience.

  • Part 1 -degree in architectureInvolves completing an approved degree in architecture (the ARB hold a list of institutions). The minimum entry requirements for an architecture degree are usually five GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3) including maths, English and a science subject, plus three A levels/H grades.
  • Part 2 – diploma or second degreeA diploma or second degree in architecture approved by the ARB, or other approved course (this stage can take two years full-time or four years part-time study). A further year of work experience under the supervision of a registered architect.
  • Part 3 – Professional Practice ExaminationsWhen you have completed each stage of training you can join RIBA (as a Chartered Architect), join the UK Register of Architects and practise independently as an architect.As a qualified architect it is important for you to keep up-to-date with developments in the field by taking short courses, for example, which may be run by your employer or externally by organisations such as RIBA.

Architect career salary expectations

Guideline figures:

  • architect studying Part 2, RIBA exams around £25,000 a year
  • qualified architect with experience between £30,000 and £35,000
  • senior architects can earn upwards of £50,000.Other sources of information
  • RIBA – Royal Institute of British Architects
  • RIAS – Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
  • ARB – Architects Registration Board
  • Learn direct – advice on training and advice

Good luck in becoming an architect and if you need any future architect career advice please get in touch.