An architect could...
|Create innovative designs for college dorms, like this one built from used shipping containers.||Shape the skyline of a city by creating plans for an iconic building.|
|Design and draw up blueprints for a family's dream house.||Collaborate with engineers to create modern skyscrapers, like London's Gherkin.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||The essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson called Greek architecture the "flowering of geometry." Architects blend art and science, designing structures for people, such as houses, apartments, schools, stores, malls, offices, places of worship, museums, sports stadiums, music theaters, and convention centers. Their designs must take into account not only the structure's appearance, but its safety, function, environmental impact, and cost. Architects often participate in all phases of design, from the initial consultation with the clients where the structure is envisioned, to its completion. Architects can enrich people lives by creating structures that are as beautiful to look at as they are functional to live, work, or shop in.|
|Key Requirements||Creativity, excellent spatial skills, the ability to work independently and in groups, and outstanding communication skills|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, chemistry, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus, English; if available, art, applied technology (CAD).|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||Much Faster than Average (21% or more)|
Training, Other Qualifications
There are three main steps in becoming an architect: completing a professional degree in architecture; gaining work experience through an internship; and attaining licensure by passing the Architect Registration Exam.
Education and Training
In most states, architects must hold a professional degree in architecture from one of the 117 schools of architecture that have degree programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). However, state architectural registration boards set their own standards, so graduation from a non-accredited program might meet the educational requirement for licensing in a few states.
Most architects earn their professional degree through a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program, which is intended for students with no previous architectural training. Others earn a master's degree after completing a bachelor's degree in another field or after completing a pre-professional architecture program. A master's degree in architecture can take 1 to 5 years to complete, depending on the extent of previous training in architecture.
The choice of degree depends on preference and educational background. Prospective architecture students should consider the options before committing to a program. For example, although the 5-year bachelor of architecture offers the most direct route to the professional degree, courses are specialized, and if the student does not complete the program, transferring to a program in another discipline might be difficult. A typical program includes courses in architectural history and theory, building design with an emphasis on CADD, structures, technology, construction methods, professional practice, math, physical sciences, and liberal arts. Central to most architectural programs is the design studio, where students apply the skills and concepts learned in the classroom and create drawings and three-dimensional models of their designs.
Many schools of architecture also offer post-professional degrees for those who already have a bachelor's or master's degree in architecture or other areas. Although graduate education beyond the professional degree is not required for practicing architects, it might be useful for research, teaching, and certain specialties.
All state architectural registration boards require architecture graduates to complete a training period—usually at least 3 years—before they can sit for the licensing exam. Every state follows the training standards established by the Intern Development Program, a program of the American Institute of Architects and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). These standards stipulate broad training under the supervision of a licensed architect. Most new graduates complete their training period by working as interns at architectural firms. Some states allow a portion of the training to occur in the offices of related professionals, such as engineers or general contractors. Architecture students who complete internships while still in school can count some of that time toward the 3-year training period.
Interns in architectural firms might assist in the design of one part of a project, help prepare architectural documents or drawings, build models, or prepare construction drawings on CADD. Interns also may research building codes and materials or write specifications for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of finishes, and other related details.
Architects must be able to communicate their ideas visually to their clients. Artistic and drawing ability is helpful, but not essential, to such communication. More important are a visual orientation and the ability to understand spatial relationships. Other important qualities for anyone interested in becoming an architect are creativity and the ability to work independently and as part of a team. Computer skills are also required for writing specifications, for 2-dimensional and 3- dimensional drafting using CADD programs, and for financial management.
Nature of the Work
People need places in which to live, work, play, learn, worship, meet, govern, shop, and eat. Architects are responsible for designing these places, whether they are private or public; indoors or out; rooms, buildings, or complexes. Architects are licensed professionals trained in the art and science of building design who develop the concepts for structures and turn those concepts into images and plans.
Architects create the overall look of buildings and other structures, but the design of a building involves far more than its appearance. Buildings must also be functional, safe, and economical, and must suit the needs of the people who use them. Architects consider all of these factors when they design buildings and other structures.
Architects might be involved in all phases of a construction project, from the initial discussion with the client, through the final delivery of the completed structure. Their duties require specific skills—designing, engineering, managing, supervising, and communicating with clients and builders. Architects spend a great deal of time explaining their ideas to clients, construction contractors, and others. Successful architects must be able to communicate their unique visions persuasively.
The architects and clients discuss the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide various pre-design services: conducting feasibility and environmental impact studies, selecting a site, preparing cost analysis and land-use studies, or specifying the requirements the design must meet. For example, they might determine space requirements by researching the numbers and types of potential users of a building. The architect then prepares drawings and a report that presents ideas for the client to review.
After discussing and agreeing on the initial proposal, architects develop final construction plans that show the building's appearance, and details for its construction. Accompanying these plans are drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems; plumbing; and, possibly, site and landscape plans. The plans also specify the building materials and, in some cases, the interior furnishings. In developing designs, architects follow building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those requiring easy access by people who are disabled. Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) technology has replaced traditional paper and pencil as the most common method for creating design and construction drawings. Continual revision of plans on the basis of client needs and budget constraints is often necessary.
Architects might also assist clients in obtaining construction bids, selecting contractors, and negotiating construction contracts. As construction proceeds, they might visit building sites to make sure that contractors follow the design, adhere to the schedule, use the specified materials, and meet work quality standards. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are conducted, and construction costs are paid. Sometimes, architects also provide post-construction services, such as facilities management. They advise on energy-efficiency measures, evaluate how well the building design adapts to the needs of occupants, and make necessary improvements.
Often working with engineers, urban planners, interior designers, landscape architects, and other professionals, architects in fact spend a great deal of their time coordinating information from, and the work of, other professionals engaged in the same project.
Architects sometimes specialize in one phase of work. Some specialize in the design of one type of building; such as hospitals, schools, or housing. Others focus on planning and pre-design services or construction management and do minimal design work.
Usually working in a comfortable environment, architects spend most of their time in offices consulting with clients, developing reports and drawings, and working with other architects and engineers. However, they often visit construction sites to review the progress of projects. In 2008, approximately 1 in 5 architects worked more than 50 hours per week, as long hours and work during nights and weekends is often necessary to meet deadlines.
On the Job
- Consult with client to determine functional and spatial requirements of structure.
- Prepare scale drawings.
- Plan layout of project.
- Prepare information regarding design, structure specifications, materials, color, equipment, estimated costs, or construction time.
- Integrate engineering element into unified design.
- Prepare contract documents for building contractors.
- Direct activities of workers engaged in preparing drawings and specification documents.
- Conduct periodic on-site observation of work during construction to monitor compliance with plans.
- Seek new work opportunities through marketing, writing proposals, or giving presentations.
- Administer construction contracts.
- Represent client in obtaining bids and awarding construction contracts.
- Prepare operating and maintenance manuals, studies, and reports.
Companies That Hire Architects
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Avoiding Disaster: The Right Bridge Design
- Bridges That Can Take a Shake!
- Building the Tallest Tower
- Ding, Dong, Ding, Dong: Morning Bells Are Ringing
- Dome Sweet Dome
- Fallen Arches: The Surprising Strength of Eggshells
- Gigantic, Invisible Triangles: Measuring Height (or Altitude) with an Inclinometer
- Newspaper Tower
- Scale Models
- Shape Changing with the CyberSquad
- Shapes with Straws
- The Effect of Bridge Design on Weight Bearing Capacity
- The Leaning Tower of Pasta
Do you have a specific question about a career as an Architect that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- National Architectural Accrediting Board
- National Council of Architectural Registration Boards
- The American Institute of Architects
- The American Institute of Architects and the American Institute of Architecture Students
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- Education.org. (2006, February 2). Design and project diversification have led this architect's practice to international heights…An interview with Gyo Obata, FAIA, founding partner of HOK. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www.architectureschools.com/interviews/gyo-obata.html
- Art Schools: A Monster Company. (n.d.). Teresa Rosano – Architect. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www.artschools.com/interviews/rosano/
- Plus Magazine…Living Mathematics. (2003, September 1). Career interview: Architect. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://plus.maths.org/content/career-interview-architect
- Baime, J., and O'Brien, M. (2010, January 11). "The Solar Decathalon: Housing's Bright Spot." Science Nation. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/solardecathlon.jsp