How to Become an Architect?

How to Become an Architect?

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So you want to become an architect, but how much do architects earn?

The median annual wage for architects was just over $72,500 in May 2010. The bottom 10% of architects earned less than $42,880, and the top 10% earned more than $119,490.

Partners in established architectural firms earn varying amounts as and when business conditions change. It can be difficult to create your own practice and if you do then there may be periods when your expenses are higher than your income, which means you may need considerable financial resources available to you to set up your own business.

Many architectural firms pay fees and tuition to help their employees with their education requirements.

Architects often work over 50 hours a week and it they often have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.

Working Environment for Architects

There were about 113,700 architects in 2010, 65% of whom worked in the architectural, engineering, and other services industries. In the region of 24% were self-employed.

As an architect you will spend most of your time in an office, consulting with clients, developing reports and drawings, and working with architects and engineers. From time to time, however, you will need to visit construction sites to see how projects are progressing.

How do you become an Architect?

To become a licensed architect you generally need to complete 3 stages:- 1) a professional architecture degree, 2) work experience via an internship, 3) pass the ‘Architect Registration Exam’.

Educational Requirements
In most states in the US, in order to be an architect you need to have a professional degree in architecture. There are 123 architecture schools accredited by the NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board). But state architectural registration boards have their own standards, so, in a number of states, you may be able to comply with the educational requirement for licensing by graduating from a non-accredited program.

To obtain a professional architecture degree you typically need to complete a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree course, designed for students with no previous architectural training. You can also earn a master’s degree which may take between 1 and 5 years to complete, depending on how much previous training you have in architecture.

Which degree you choose is a matter of personal preference and educational background. The 5-year Bachelor of Architecture course is the most direct route to a professional architecture degree, but courses are specialized. Typically courses include architectural history and theory, structures, building design with an emphasis on CADD, construction methods, technology, professional practice, mathematics, etc… . The design studio is central to most architectural courses, as this is where you will apply the skills you learn in the classroom to create 3D models of your designs and drawings.

Many schools also offer post-professional degrees for people who have already obtained a bachelor’s or master’s degree in either architecture or other sectors. Graduate education after a professional degree is not needed for practicing architects, but it may prove useful for research, teaching, or special areas.

State architectural registration boards require that architecture graduates complete a periodof training, typically a minimum of 3 years, before they are allowed to take the licensing exam. As a new graduate you will generally complete your training period by working as an intern at an architectural firms. Some states allow some training to be carried out in the firms of related professionals, e.g. engineers and general contractors. If you complete your internship while you are still in school you will be able to count some of that time toward the 3-year training period.

Interns may be involved in designing projects, or may help draft architectural documents and drawings, build models, and prepare construction drawings using CADD. They may also be required to research building codes and draft specifications for building materials, finish quality, installation criteria etc…

All states in the US and the District of Columbia require architects to be licensed. Requirements for obtaining a licence include a professional degree in architecture, a period of time of practical training/internship, and a pass in all parts of the Architect Registration Examination.

In addition to this most states require some continuing education in order to keep a license, and some are expected to adopt mandatory continuing education. Requirements are different from one state to the next but generally involve further education through workshops, university classes, self-study, conferences, etc….

Architects are increasingly choosing to seek certification by the NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards). Certification can make things easier if you want to become licensed across states, and is the primary requirement for licensing reciprocity among state boards that are NCARB members. In 2011, almost 33% of all licensed architects had this certification.

Important Qualities
Analytical skills. Architects need to be able to understand the content of designs plus the context in which they were produced, e.g. they must understand the mechanical system locations and how they affect building functions.

Communication skills. Architects need to share their ideas, whether verbally or in writing, with clients, colleagues or workers who prepare the drawings. Many also are require to give presentations.

Creativity. Architects are responsible for producing the overall look of a building, designs should therefore be both pleasing to the eye and functional.

Critical-thinking. Architects need to be able to provide solutions to unforeseen problems, which often involve looking at the issue from multiple perspectives.

Organizational skills. Architects must keep records dealing with the details of a project, i.e. overall cost, materials used, and progress.

Technical skills. Architects use CADD programs to produce plans.

Visualization. Architects must be able to visualize how the various parts of a structure are interrelated. They also need to be able to imagine how the building will look once it is completed.

What Architects Do

Architects design buildings and a variety of other structures.

As an architect you will typically:-

  • Find new projects by marketing and presentations
  • Consult with clients to decide building and structure requirements
  • Estimate the quantities of materials and equipment, costs, and the time required for construction
  • Prepare and design specifications
  • Give directions to the workers invovled in preparing drawings and documents
  • Prepare scaled drawings for the project
  • Draft contractual documents for building contractors
  • Manage construction contracts
  • Visit worksites in order to make sure that construction work is following the architectural plans

Architects are responsible for designing places where people live, play, work, meet, learn, shop, eat etc…. indoors and outdoors; or separate rooms, buildings, or complexes.

Architects discuss objectives and requirements with clients, and the budget set aside for a project. They may provide pre-design services, such as studies into feasibility and environmental impact, site selection, cost analyses, land-use studies, and design requirements.

After agreeing the initial proposal, as an architect you will be required to develop final construction plans showing the building’s appearance, plus the details for its construction. These plans are accompanied by drawings of the structural system; heating, ventilating systems, air-conditioning; communications systems; electrical systems; plumbing; and, sometimes landscape plans.

You must follow building codes, fire regulations, zoning laws, etc… such as those requiring disabled access.

CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) and BIM (building information modeling) technology are now used instead of traditional drafting paper and pencil.

You may also need to assist clients get construction bids, choose contractors, and negotiate contracts.

During the course of the construction you will probably need to visit the building sites to check that the contractors are following the design, keeping to the timetable, using the specified materials, and meeting quality standards. The job is not finished until the whole construction is finished, any tests required are carried out, and construction costs are paid.

As an architect you will often be required to work with related professionals.

Job Outlook for Architects

Jobs for architects are forcast to grow 24% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

There will be an increased need for architects. Many school districts and universities will replace or renovate existing facilities. The population in the sunbelt states continues to rise, and residents will need new places to live and/or work. The population is continuing to live longer and there will be a greater need for healthcare facilities, nursing homes, and retirement communities.

Architects with knowledge of green or sustainable design should be in demand. Sustainable design stress the efficient use of resources, (e.g. energy and water conservation); waste/pollution reduction; eco-friendly designs, specifications, and materials.

The outsourcing drafting and design work overseas has decreased considerably.

Job Prospects for Architects

With the increase in the number of students with architectural degrees, there will be competition for jobs, which will be particularly strong at the most prestigious firms. Those who complete internships will be at an advantage, as the best job opportunities will be taken by applicants who distinguish themselves by their creativity.

Jobs for architects are closely linked to the activities of the construction industry. These workers, in particular the self-employed, may experience periods of unemployment if the overall level of construction falls.


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