Architect Career Information

The role - an overview of a career as an architect

Architects design new buildings and the spaces in and around them and supervise their construction. They also help with the conservation, restoration and reuse of existing buildings.

They are involved in projects from beginning to end, from site selection and design through to completion, working closely with clients, with a range of professionals including surveyors, engineers, builders and interior designers, and with officials from local planning and building control departments. Many architects specialise in a particular field, such as conservation or urban design.

Day-to-day activities in an architecture career

During the early design phase of a project, an architect's work involves developing ideas and concepts with the client, taking into account the available funds, the needs of users and other interested groups, and the impact the project may have on the environment and the local community. They then produce detailed working drawings using computer-aided design, showing how the finished building or space will look.

Once the designs have been accepted by the client and approved by the appropriate authorities, the architect produces detailed drawings for the construction team, which specify everything from the precise dimensions of the building and the nature and quantity of materials required, through to the type of fixtures and fittings to be used. The architect then makes regular site visits to inspect the work and monitor progress, working closely with contractors to ensure that the project is completed on schedule and to the specific standards set and solving any problems that may arise along the way.

Skills and personal profile required in architect careers

Successful architects need to combine a wide range of skills and talents. Employers will look for the following attributes in particular:

  • Excellent communication skills - both written and verbal.
  • Good presentation skills.
  • Strong organisational and time management skills, with the ability to manage a number of projects simultaneously.
  • Well developed problem-solving ability.
  • An imaginative and creative mind.
  • Strong computer skills, with experience of AutoCAD.
  • Excellent drawing skills, with the ability to work in three dimensions.
  • Sound mathematical ability, with a keen financial awareness.
  • The ability to manage and motivate others.
  • The ability to work as part of a team.
  • A passion for buildings and the ability to convey that passion to others.

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Training required for a career in architecture

A minimum of seven years is required to train as an architect. Architects complete a five-year full-time degree course, usually divided into two parts: a three-year course (RIBA Part 1), followed by a further two-year course (RIBA Part 2). At least two years must also be spent working in an architect's office, with one year normally taken after Part 1 and the second year after Part 2. Students then take the Professional Practice Examination, known as Part 3, in order to become qualified architects.

Architecture career outlook

More than 30,000 architects are employed in the UK, with around 80% working in private practice, mostly in small or medium-sized firms. Most of the remainder are employed either by commercial or industrial organisations (such as retail, finance or manufacturing companies) or by central or local government. Other opportunities are increasingly arising with house-building companies, housing associations and private developers.

Architects joining a private practice typically start as salaried employees, before progressing, on merit, to associate and, ultimately, partner. The public sector career path leads to principal or senior architect and eventually on to a management role. Many architects set up their own practices. Career moves are also possible into a number of other specialist areas, such as interior design, landscape architecture, project management or planning.

A newly registered architect can expect to start on around 25,000 a year (somewhat less in Scotland). After ten to fifteen years' experience in private practice, architects' earnings range between 30,000 and 60,000 a year, depending on the individual practice and the level of seniority reached.

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