ArchitectArchitects design public and private buildings or structures. They are licensed professionals, specializing in the science and art of building design.
Architects dedicate a fair amount of their time designing a building's appearance, but they are also responsible for ensuring the building is safe, functional, serve peoples' needs, and is cost effective.
Architects are involved in all the building phases of a project from the initial building design through the entire construction process. Architects must possess engineering, design, supervising, and persuasive communication skills since they spend a lot of time explaining their vision for a project to customers and contractors.
Architects and their clients talk about project goals, budgets, and requirements. Architects provide the following services before beginning a project: conduct environmental impact studies, determine a building site, perform cost analysis, conduct research to determine occupancy limits, and determine design standards. After these tasks have been completed, an architect prepares drawings and a report detailing his or her vision with the customer.
After a proposal has been agreed upon, architects prepare final detailed construction plans. These plans are accompanied by air conditioning, ventilating, heating, plumbing, and electrical system designs with the structural drawing sketched out. Plans also detail the building materials to be used. Architects must follow zoning laws, building codes, fire regulations, and disability accessibility laws. Architects now use computer aided design and drafting (CADD), and building information modeling (BIM) technology, to design buildings rather than using a pencil to draw designs. Architects often have to change plans to accommodate customer demands.
Architects also help customers select contractors, negotiate contracts, and get bids. They can also monitor construction to make sure the plans are being followed properly, use appropriate materials, or perform quality control. After construction is completed, architects sometimes perform building management duties, determine if building is meeting customers' needs, and implement necessary improvement such as enhancing a building's energy efficiency.
Architects also spend a lot of their time coordinating and working with engineers, interior designers, urban planners, and landscape architects. The buildings and structure architects design include hospitals, factories, homes, apartments, churches, schools, bridges, landscapes, urban centers, and university campuses, or in some cases, entire communities.
Architects sometimes specialize in designing specific buildings, pre-design services, or construction management.
Work EnvironmentArchitects typically work in comfortable offices, spending most their days designing structures, developing plans and meeting with clients. They often travel to construction sites to review construction progress. Architects work 40 hour weeks, often working extra hours and weekends to meet deadlines.
How to Become an ArchitectBecoming an architect requires smarts, determination and strong creative instinct – and it also requires a degree. The first step to becoming a professional architect is to earn a degree in architecture from an accredited program. The second step is to find a paid internship and obtain real-world experiece. The last step is to pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
Earning a bachelor's degree in architecture is usually the first step to becoming a licensed architect. Most Bachelor in Architecture degree programs take 4-5 years to complete, and are typically designed for students with no previous experience in architecture. For those aspiring students who want to set themselves apart from the competition there is the Master of Architecture, a graduate level degree with requires an addition 1 to 4 years of schooling. While a master's degree isn't necessary for all entry-level positions, we believe it's worth the investment. For students with previous architectural experience, some colleges offer accelerated degree programs.
A bachelor's degree in architecture from an accredited program will typically include coursework in architectural history, architectural theory, mathematics, building design, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), construction methods, civil engineering, structures, and physical science. Most reputable architectural programs these days also offer a design studio, where students are able use 3D modeling and design technologies and tools to apply what they've learned in the classroom to develop lifelike designs and models of buildings and structures.
With the exception of a handful of states, architects are required to hold a degree in architecture from one of over 120 NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) accredited schools of architecture located in the United States. While state licensing requirements are pretty standard, they may vary slightly from state to state. Licensing requirements for individual states are found on the NCARB website. For the 16 states that do not require the completion of an accredited degree, architects are required to obtain 8 to 13 years of qualifying experience to become licensed. Needless to say, most architects obtain a degree in architecture from an NAAB accredited school regardless of which state they work in.
Obtaining a paid internship is not just a good idea, it's a requirement. Before sitting for the Architect Registration Exam, graduates are required to complete a 3 to 4 year paid internship that provides them with relevant experience. Often aspiring architects will obtain a qualifying intership through NCARB's Internship Development Program (IDP). For applicants with experience in engineering or general contracting, the 3-year intership requirement may be shortened.
PayAs of 2014, the median pay for architects employed in the United States was $74,520 a year. The top 10% of architects make over $122,000 a year, while the lowest 10% earn less than $45,000 a year.
There are several factors that influence how much an architect can earn. These include the following:
- Firm Size and Specialization - Larger firms that employ a lot of architects usually have a greater understanding of the going rate for architects. Consequently, they pay architects what they're worth. What does this mean? It means that you're not likely to get paid any more or less than what the general market will support if you're working at a large firm. However, there is a caveat. If you're a partner, owner, or top manager at a large firm, there is huge salary potential. Working your way up the ladder at a large firm can lead to a very attractive compensation package. Smaller firms tend to offer more flexibility in pay since they don't usually have as a large a candidate pool and need to compete with larger firms for new recruits.
- Location - The region where you work will have a significant impact on your earning potential as an architect. Cities where the cost of living is fairly high, such as Chicago, New York and San Francisco, are also some of the highest paying job markets for architects. Areas that are experiencing growth and have larger projects that offer larger fees, also offers higher salaries. If you want to earn big bucks, you'll have to move to the area(s) where the demand for architectural services is highest.
- Skills and Qualifications - Earning a bachelor's degree in architecture is the minimum requirement for entry into the field, and it's important, but it won't help you stand out from the pack. What will, is making sure you work toward obtaining your license through the NCARB as soon as possible. Architects who put off licensure see their earning potential greatly diminished. And if you really want to excel, you'll want to constantly update your skills and qualifications through continuing education, seminars, certifications and specialized training.
- Market Conditions - As is the case within many construction fields, pay level for architects is often a function of market conditions. In a strong construction market where architecture services are in high demand, earning potential may be high. In fact, looking for a new, higher paying position or job, is best done while the economy is strong and architects are in high demand. If you're really valuable to a company, you should be able to justify a 10-20% annual raise, not a 1-3% raise that barely keeps up with inflation. If you're not worth more than a 1-3% annual raise, either your not working with the right company, or you need to make yourself more valuable.
- Your Position - Your position with the firm you work for makes a huge impact on how much you'll be paid. An architectural drafter is going to make much less than a design director or even a project manager. Since there are many different hierarchies within most architecture firms, it's difficult to say what the earning potential is for each position, but as a rule of thumb the more people and projects you manage, the more money you'll make.
Job OutlookBetween 2014 and 2024, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment opportunities for architects will grow by 7% – just about as fast as the average projected growth for all other occupations in the United States.
Growth in employment for architects will be driven by demand for plans and designs for construction of stores, commerical offices, homes, buildings, schools, and other structures. As baby-boomers continue to age and require medical assistance and health care, the demand for architects to design new hospitals, healthcare facilities and retirement homes will also grow.
The demand for "green design", also known as Sustainable Design, is on the rise. Architects with a knowledge or sustainable design, specifically design that emphasizes energy conservation; water conservation; pollution and waste reduction; the use of environmentally safe construction materials; and that maximizes the use of resources, will be in high demand. Environmental safety and rising energy costs are two of the biggest issues facing new construction. Consequently, firms and clients are looking for architects that know how to design buildings that are highly energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
As employment of architects is directly correlated to the strength of the construction industry, job opportunities will be strongest in those regions where construction is thriving. When overall construction falls, the demand for architects falls.