Job Description

Architects plan and design building and structures, such as private residences, office buildings, theaters, factories, hospitals, and museums.  

Rewarding Aspects of Career

“Architects are often called upon to bring order to a disparate set up ideas and desires. Designing a building is incredibly complicated and requires the work of many people, sometimes over many years in the context of different economic, social, political forces. In this kind of environment, after sometimes many years of hard work, to see a building you designed come to fruition is so exhilarating. It is so gratifying to create something out of nothing and make a client’s vision a reality in a way that they can not conceive of themselves.” Christina Cho Yoo, AIA, PE, Architect and Professional Engineer, Atelier Cho Thompson

2016 Employment
2026 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Day in the Life
  • Architects discuss with clients the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide various predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses and land-use studies, and design requirements. Architects must help conceptualize the program and devise formal solutions for the client.
  • In developing designs, architects must create compelling spaces all the while serving a functional need, following 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 (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) technology have replaced traditional drafting paper and pencil as the most common methods for creating designs and construction drawings. Still, being able to sketch is an important skill that architects should cultivate to effectively communicate with clients during meetings or with consultants in systems coordination.
  • ​​Architects also may help clients get construction bids, select contractors, and negotiate construction contracts.
  • As construction proceeds, architects may visit building sites to ensure that contractors follow the design intent, keep 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.
Job Responsibilities
  • Seeks new work by marketing and giving presentations
  • Consults with clients to determine requirements for structures
  • Estimates materials, equipment, costs, and construction time
  • Selects materials and equipment and/or coordinate engineering & specialty consultants to do so
  • Prepares, designs, and structures specifications
  • Directs workers who prepare drawings and documents
  • Prepares scaled drawings of the project
  • Prepares contract documents for building contractors
  • Manages construction contracts
  • Visits worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Verbal and written communication
  • The ability to represent your ideas in diagrams, drawings, renderings, and presentations
  • Computer drafting and modeling skills
  • Technical understanding of construction and engineering systems
Different Types of Organizations
  • Architectural firms
  • Universities – planning office or as professors
  • Museums
  • Research Organizations
  • Product design companies
  • Design directors for corporations or retail stores
  • Real estate developers
  • Staging companies
Expectations and Sacrifices
  • Long Hours: Culturally architects are known to work long hours as they feel like design can always iterate and become better. They also are oftentimes the prime consultant working right under a client on projects, and this role requires them to oversee all other specialty consultants’ work.
  • Compensation: Typically, architects do not get compensated to the level that other professionals with a similar amount of schooling may get. However, most architects often say they love how their training affords them to see the world and be creative with whatever task may be put in front of them.
Current Trends

New areas of practice include ideation, design strategy, and public interest design.

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…
  • Draw
  • Legos
  • Daydream
  • Make things out of random things
  • Interest in different cultures & travel
Education and Training Needed
  • 4- or 5-year Bachelor’s degree in architecture or architectural engineering or
  • Any undergraduate degree, completion of certain prerequisites for a Master’s degree (calculus, physics, architectural history), a portfolio, and a 3 to 3 1/2 year Master’s degree in architecture (see specific school requirements as they vary)
  • Benefits of getting a Master’s: more skills, more upward mobility, ability to work on more complex projects
  • You can get not call yourself an Architect until you are licensed. However, you can do the work even if you are not licensed. You are just called a Designer.
Requirements of getting licensed

Getting licensed varies by jurisdiction; however, below are the general steps. For more information about specific jurisdictions, go to NCARB.

  • Intern Development Program (IDP)
  • Pass ARE (Architecture Registration Examinations) licensing exams
  • Get an initial license
  • Get certified
  • Continuing education requirements
Education Stats
  • 1% with High School Diploma
  • 5% with Associate’s
  • 49% with Bachelor’s
  • 32% with Master’s
  • 8% with Doctoral/Professional
Things to look for in an University

Some schools are known for being very hands-on about building while others are known to be more conceptual. Some architecture departments are housed in the same building as the landscape architecture, urban design, or art departments. Depending on your personal bent, you should choose a school that suits what kind of architect you would like to be.

Top Educational Institutions

Top 10 Architecture Undergraduate Programs for 2018 

  1. Cornell University
  2. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  3. Syracuse University
  4. Virginia Tech
  5. University of Southern California
  6. Rice University
  7. University of Texas, Austin
  8. Southern California Institute of Architecture
  9. Pratt Institute
  10. Rhode Island School of Design

Top 10 Architecture Graduate Programs for 2018

  1. Harvard University
  2. Columbia University
  3. Cornell University
  4. Yale University
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. University of California, Los Angeles
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. University of California, Berkeley
  9. University of Southern California
  10. Washington University, St. Louis
Things to do in High School and College
  • Art classes
  • Photography
  • Architectural internship
  • Math & sciences classes
  • Build things (i.e. make furniture)
Typical Roadmap
Typical Roadmap for Architect
How to Land your 1st job
  • Take the time to create a well-designed web-based and/or digital- or paper-based portfolio of your best work.
  • Intern during school or summers and make connections.
  • Personal references: However, as is the case in many other fields, getting a job through personal references (e.g. friends, colleagues, alumni) may be most fruitful. Don’t be afraid to ask professors or administrators for help. More often than not, they will respect how proactive you are and help.
  • Professional Sites: Sometimes blogs like Dezeen and Archinect and professional sites like the AIA will have job boards.
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Keep abreast of the latest technologies in the industry.
  • Attend industry events.
  • Keep in touch with your network of designers and architects.
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile updated.
  • Try to become an expert in a certain type of design or with a certain valuable program.
  • Get AIA licensed and LEED accredited
Recommended Tools/Resources
  • Blogs:  Dezeen, ArchDaily, Archinect, DesignBoom
  • Magazines:  Architectural Record, Metropolis, Dwell, El Croquis, Detail, Mark, Fine Homebuilding, CLOG, Domus, Casabella, Architectural Review
  • Organizations:  AIA (American Institute of Architects), National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), Architectural League of New York, Van Alen Foundation, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Architecture for Humanity
Plan B

Key transferable skills

  • Design thinking – how to systematically and creatively come up with a solution to a problem
  • Graphic representation
  • Presentation skills
  • How to build things and think through how details may come together

Alternate careers:

  • Universities – planning office or as professors
  • Museums
  • Research Organizations
  • Product designer, Industrial designer
  • Production Designer (film and television sets)
  • Design directors for corporations or retail stores
  • Real estate developers
  • Staging companies
  • Architecture professor

“People often have a love-hate relationship with architecture. Many architects are known to work long hours for less pay than other professionals. Architects like the idea of designing but the realities and challenges of pushing through a project are often grueling and frustrating. However, once those hurdles are overcome and a project is built, there are few things as gratifying as seeing the culmination of many years of hard work right in front of you.” Christina Cho Yoo, AIA, PE, Architect and Professional Engineer, Atelier Cho Thompson


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Source: Interviews, Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET

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