How to Become an Architect
Architect Careers & Degrees

An architect is a qualified person who specializes in the organization and design of buildings.

An architect may design both the interior and exterior of houses, buildings, schools, factories, and even skyscrapers.

There is quite a lot of education required to become an architect, you will need a wide knowledge base, and will have to study a wide range of subjects ranging from engineering to art history.

Education Requirements to Become an Architect

To become an architect, you must first be qualified and registered to practice.

To do this, you will need to complete a course that is endorsed by the National Architectural Accrediting Board , or NAAB.

You can complete either a five year Bachelor of Architecture degree, there are also Master’s and Doctorate programs available.

It’s possible to complete a Bachelor’s degree in an unrelated area, followed by the two or four year Masters program.

It’s also advisable to consider completing an honors year, as this will make you a much more attractive prospect to architectural firms later on.

There are 105 NAAB approved schools across America.

You’ll cover a broad range of subjects while at college, including design, writing, math, physics, construction, and art history.

Upon graduation you will have a good amount of general knowledge, and the well rounded skills base that architecture demands.

It’s a good idea to get as much practical experience as you can while you are in college.

Architectural firms will give jobs to students over the summer.

The pay is minimal and you might spend most of your time photocopying and making coffee, but you will also be getting some valuable work experience and making contacts in the industry.

After college, you’ll need to complete some practical experience as an intern before you are fully qualified.

Depending on the licensing requirements in your state, you will need to spend around three years as an intern.

After this, you can take an exam set by the state board, to become a registered and licensed architect.

Architect Job Description

A day in the life of an architect is a busy one.

They must communicate with people from all walks of life, such as clients, colleagues, site managers, and construction contractors.

While some architects will simply work with a client to prepare drafts and plans, others will stay with the project until completion.

This means working with construction contractors to make sure plans are followed, as well as making any necessary changes as the job goes on.

Here are some of the typical tasks of an architect.

  • Communicate with clients and colleagues
  • Plan out jobs according to objectives and budgets
  • Conducting environmental impact studies
  • Selecting sites or judging site viability for various projects
  • Preparing drawings and drafts
  • Preparing final construction drawings
  • Work with site managers to ensure plans are followed and make changes as needed
  • Following all safety and building regulations

Ongoing professional development is required of architects as technology evolves.

Computer drafting is now a large part of working in building and design, and it’s important to keep up to date with the current trends and new technology.

Architect Salary and Career Path

Once you’ve done the hard work and become a licensed architect, you can be assured of the fact that you will have excellent job security for the rest of your career.

The demand for architects is expected to increase faster than the average of other occupations in the next five years.

While it may be competitive to work in some of the larger firms, as a qualified architect it’s likely you will not have problems finding employment.

Most architects start their career working for a medium to large sized firm.

In these kinds of positions they learn the ropes, with time advancing within the company, moving on to more senior positions and a higher salary.

Later on, they may take up a managerial position, start up their own firm, or simply work for themselves.

As a qualified architect, there are other career paths you may decide to go on to.

For instance, you might become an architecture historian, a journalist specializing in architecture, or an interior designer.

The median salary of an architect is $70,000 per year according to BLS.gov.

During your first few years as an intern, expect to earn a lot less.

Working as an architect is an ideal career for those who have a passion for design, buildings, and history.

Those who are working in this job report a high level of satisfaction in their work.

Seeing something you have created on paper become a functional and attractive space can be very satisfying indeed.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$89,560
$48K
$62K
$89K
$105K
$137K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$88,560
Alaska$92,420
Arizona$88,520
Arkansas$70,470
California$98,050
Colorado$75,040
Connecticut$87,560
Delaware$86,760
District of Columbia$105,380
Florida$77,550
Georgia$104,470
Hawaii$83,430
Idaho$65,140
Illinois$84,430
Indiana$73,760
Iowa$81,370
Kansas$75,090
Kentucky$73,360
Louisiana$78,720
Maine$72,740
Maryland$92,190
Massachusetts$102,320
Michigan$81,870
Minnesota$99,870
Mississippi$66,110
Missouri$78,070
Montana- NA -
Nebraska$88,970
Nevada$78,320
New Hampshire$88,230
New Jersey$85,620
New Mexico$75,450
New York$106,910
North Carolina$82,010
North Dakota$72,990
Ohio$87,340
Oklahoma$73,660
Oregon$84,590
Pennsylvania$81,480
Rhode Island$79,210
South Carolina$85,510
South Dakota$79,400
Tennessee$79,040
Texas$94,030
Utah$74,240
Vermont$80,620
Virginia$86,180
Washington$83,480
West Virginia$75,830
Wisconsin$79,070
Wyoming$84,680
Guam$96,790
Puerto Rico$50,500

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $106,910.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $106,910
District of Columbia - $105,380
Georgia - $104,470
Massachusetts - $102,320
Minnesota - $99,870
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Architects, Except Landscape and Naval, OCC Code 17-1011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is an architect?

Architects are trained professionals who plan and design buildings.

They are hired by clients to prepare structure specifications, direct workers who create the drawings and to prepare scaled drawings of the building using software or by hand.

Architects are also responsible for putting together documents for building contractors and for managing construction contracts.

They can visit the worksites to make sure that constructors follow the plans.

If you are a creative person with good analytical, technical, and visualization skills, then becoming an architect can be the right path for you.

QuestionHow much does an architect make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for architects was $79,380 in May 2018.

Salaries vary depending on many factors; the top 10 percent earned more than $138,000 while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,000.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become an architect?

In order to become an architect, you need a lot of training.

You will first have to complete a five-year bachelor’s degree program in architecture; total tuition costs ranging between $15,000 to more than $60,000 a year, depending on the college or university you choose.

If you hold a bachelor’s degree in a different field, you can still become an architect if you get your master’s degree in architecture.

A master’s program can be finished in 1 to 5 years, depending on how much previous architecture training you have.

Master’s degree programs cost, on average, around $14,000 a year at a public college and around $36,000 a year at a private college.

Completing an internship will also help you get hands-on experience in this field.

In order to practice as an architect, you also need state licensure.

QuestionWhat is the demand for architects?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for architects is expected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Architects will continue to be hired by people who want to construct or renovate homes, offices, stores, etc.

Those who are experienced in sustainable design should have good job prospects in the future.

QuestionHow long does it take to become an architect?

Becoming an architect requires at least a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree in architecture usually can be completed in around five years and covers topics such as architectural history, computer-aided design and drafting, construction methods, math, physical sciences and more.

A master’s degree in architecture will help you further perfect your skills in this field and will give you better job prospects.

Those who hold a bachelor’s degree in a different field may still become architects if they finish a master’s degree in architecture, but the master’s degree program will last longer in this case.

In total, a master’s degree program can be completed in 1-5 years, depending on how much previous training you have.

Architects also need to pass the Architect Registration Exam.

In order to become registered with the architecture board, you will also need to complete a paid internship, which usually lasts around 3 years; the exact internship duration depends on the state where you want to practice.

Many states also require architects to complete continuing education classes in order to keep their license.

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