Architects are responsible for designing new buildings and structures and renovating older ones. Their work could range from designing domestic, and residential homes to large-scale commercial buildings and structures like bridges.
What is an architect?
An architect turns a client’s vision of a building or structure into reality. They will listen to key requirements such as overall aesthetic, budget and safety features, then design and support the execution of structures. They look at the big picture and the small, anticipating how a building or structure will fit into a wider development or commercial space, right down to the sustainability of particular materials.
Architects usually work with wider teams of design and construction professionals. They could work in conjunction with an interior designer, planning how building features work with proposes interior aesthetics. They’ll likely partner with construction workers too, overseeing a project from beginning to end.
Your responsibilities as an architect will depend on the kind of building or structure you are designing, as well as the needs of your clients. There are some common duties in architect jobs, though:
- Listening to a client’s vision for the building or structure, taking account of their budget requirements, accessibility needs and intentions for the structure.
- Creating detailed plans via technical drawings for appraisal by the client.
- Using computer-aided design (CAD) to create construction plans and detail-heavy designs, to be used by a wider team of workers.
- Providing an architect survey by reviewing how the building or structure design could impact other buildings, organisations, people or ecosystems in the local area and assessing how any negative impacts can be avoided or minimised.
- Present design plans to clients and potentially large boards within organisations, if you’re working on a commercial project, explain your plans, material and design choices.
- Advising on the best materials to use for sustainable construction.
- Advising on adjustments to client plans based on safety requirements, sustainability and accessibility.
- Keeping on top of building regulations to ensure projects are compliant with construction law.
- Work within a wider team of construction, design and architectural professionals, overseeing workload, distribution of responsibilities and sharing of resources.
- Managing budgets for clients, updating them if additional costs crop up or there are options to reduce overall fees.
An architect salary depends on experience, seniority within an organisation, location (London salaries are higher) and whether they are fully qualified. The average architect salary for a fully qualified individual is around £40,000.
Once you complete your undergraduate degree, you’ll be able to apply for architectural assistant jobs.
Part 1 Architect assistant jobs are largely considered entry-level architecture graduate jobs and usually attract a salary of around £22,000. Once you progress in your career and reach partner and principal architect jobs, you could achieve a salary of between £46,100 and £70,571. It’s worth noting that these statistics are average ranges. Higher salaries come with jobs closer to London and positions are high-end, established firms. You may also be able to earn more if you choose to become a self-employed architect.
Architecture is a fairly formalised occupation when it comes to training. The most common route to become a qualified architect is starting with a 5 year degree course (also known as ‘Part 1’ of qualifying), followed by several years in professional practice. Examples of courses in architecture include:
- Talent.comArchitecture degrees
- Architecture and the Built Environment degrees
- Architectural Engineering degrees
- Interior Architecture degrees
- Urban Planning degrees
You’ll usually need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C) and 3 A Levels to apply. In addition, you’ll need a portfolio showing your abilities in technical drawing and architectural analysis.
Once you complete your undergraduate degree, you’ll be able to apply for architectural assistant jobs. This is where you take on ‘part 2’ of your study, deepening your professional knowledge and practice for 2-3 years. You’ll then be eligible to take ‘part 3’, a written and oral examination. Once you have passed this exam, you can apply to the Architects Registration Board (ARB) as a fully qualified architect. You’ll also be qualified to apply for chartered architect status with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
A degree is not the only route to qualified architect status. You could take an apprenticeship route to qualification. RIBA has a list of accredited architect apprenticeships which count towards your Part 1, then Part 2 and 3 training. Entry requirements are similar to the degree route. You’ll usually need 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C) and 3 A Levels, as well as a CV and portfolio, to apply.
Training and development
As training is highly standardised across the profession, much of your development will happen as you pass through parts 1, 2 and 3 of your training. You’ll combine academic knowledge with practical skills, especially at part 2. RIBA offers a Professional Experience and Development Resource (PEDR) that allows you to record your learnings from professional work.
Architecture work experience is vital when it comes to applying for part 2 of your qualification process.
Once you’re qualified as an architect, there’s plenty of additional training available via RIBA to keep on top of your development. This is particularly relevant if you plan to apply for chartered architect status, where you’ll need to take regular continuing professional development (CPD) to retain your status. RIBA offers lectures, seminars and conferences on interesting topics within the profession, as well as offering awards for excellent architectural projects and research.
Your skills as an architect combine academic knowledge and robust technical ability. These include:
- Excellent technical drawing ability, for creating initial client plans.
- A good grasp of computer-aided design for creating more complex building designs to be used by various stakeholders.
- A good understanding of relevant building regulations, health and safety procedures, and sustainability.
- Excellent written and verbal communication - you’ll usually need to prepare presentations and reports for clients summarising your plans, as well as keeping in touch with different professionals on projects, such as construction workers and interior designers.
- High attention to detail - you’ll be working on minute details of large-scale projects, so it’s good to have a ‘zoom in, zoom out' approach.
- An eye for aesthetics - it’s your job to not only create a practical, budget-friendly design but also make sure it looks the part.
- A good knowledge of construction to ensure your plans and designs are suitable for the professionals who are going to put them into action.
- Ability to work well in a team - your work will be delivered by multiple people, so you need to work collaboratively.
Architecture work experience is vital when it comes to apply for part 2 of your qualification process. If you’re studying towards an apprenticeship, this will come from your employer partnership. If you’re studying for a degree, make sure to make use of relevant academic contacts and aim to secure internships or shadowing opportunities.
Prior to starting your degree or apprenticeship, it’s also worth trying to access some shadowing opportunities. You could reach out to local architecture or construction firms to see if they would accept a trainee architect.
As the career trajectory of an architect is clearly set out, your progress through the profession is fairly standardised up to the point of a chartered architect or qualified architect status.
An architect turns a client’s vision of a building or structure into reality.
Once you’re qualified, you can work your way through the ranks of architecture firms, eventually moving towards partner or director status. Some architects choose to go self-employed at this point, or set up their own firm offering architect consultation.
If you particularly enjoy the research and academic side of architecture, you could consider teaching at university level. You could aim towards being a principal lecturer and publish your own research in reputable journals.
- Salary guide 2022 - architects and architecture — Architecture.com Retrieved 2nd September 2022.