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How to Become an Architect

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What architects do
Architects design and create plans for a wide range of buildings. This can include designs for retail and office space, homes, hospitals, skyscrapers and others.  Frank Gehry has built a name for himself as an architect through use of contemporary design in large buildings, such as the Experience Music Project in Seattle and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2012) reports the duties of an architect can include seeking new business, consulting clients to understand needs, working on scaled drawings, managing contracts and visiting construction sites. Job responsibilities may also include doing cost estimates for work and materials, and establishing deadlines to move a project forward.

Architecture is a job that requires acute attention to detail. An architect needs to be familiar with computer-aided design and drafting, or CADD, as well as building information modeling, or BIM, technology. They also must know how to incorporate systems such as air-conditioning and heating, electrical, and plumbing into their design plans, the BLS notes. They also need to be aware of the regulations that exist in regards to building codes, access for the disabled, and zoning, according to the BLS.

How to become an architect

Many architectural students complete a five-year bachelor’s degree program, according to the BLS. Other students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree might aim for a master’s degree instead. Classes typically focus on architectural history and theory, computer-aided design and drafting, construction methods, math and the physical sciences. Students might also participate in a design studio during which they put the strategies and approaches they have learned into practice.

Architects may benefit from having good analytical and communication skills, being creative and organized, and looking at design from a technical aspect, the BLS reports.

The steps to becoming an architect may vary state but state, but the path could include the following:

  • Completing an accredited bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in architecture.
  • Working for an extended time after graduation as an intern. This service is typically three years in length and required for taking the licensing exam. The BLS notes that internships completed during school may apply to the professional training period.
  • Passing the Architect Registration Examination
  • Finish any state-required education/training after obtaining a license

Additionally, many architects now voluntarily pursue certification through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. This certification can be helpful when it comes to working in other regions after initial licensing has been obtained.  

Additional certification, education, training or licensing may be required. No employment is guaranteed by following these how to become steps.

Career outlook for architects

The BLS projects a national employment increase of 24 percent for architects between 2010 and 2020. The BLS attributes many reasons for this growth, including the increasing age of existing buildings, as well as an increased need for new buildings on school campuses, more places for baby boomers to retire, and healthcare facilities and nursing homes.  The BLS reported a national annual wage of $73,340 median for architects (excluding landscape and naval architects). The lowest-paid 10-percent in this group earned up to $44,030 nationally and the top-paid 10-percent earned up to $119,410 nationally in 2011. Wages vary according to a number of factors including number of years of experience, location of practice and more.

Quick Facts: Architects

2011 National Median Pay      $73,340 per year (Excluding landscape and marine architects)
$35.26 per hour (Excluding landscape and marine architects)
Entry-Level Education        Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training    Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2011         83,590 (Excluding landscape and marine architects)
Job Outlook, 2010-20    24% nationally (Faster than national average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 27,900



Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Architects, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-eningeering/architects.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, 17-1011 Architects, Except Landscape and Naval http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes171011.htm

National Council of Architectural Registration Boards

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