Architects Job Description, Education, Career Path and Salary Outlook

Through their knowledge of physics, engineering and aesthetics, architects design the buildings and outdoor spaces in which people live, play, work and worship.

Posted 2010

No building can be erected without a plan. Architects are the professionals responsible for coming up with a design and construction plan for creating a new structure or refurbishing an old one. They may draw up the plans for anything from a single house to an entire community.

While architects are an integral part of any construction project, they are not the only ones involved. They often work closely with the client who is financing the construction to make sure that the design they come up with incorporates all of the elements that the client deems important. Architects must also ensure the construction process will fit their client’s budget.

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Architects are generally involved in a building project every step of the way. Once their client approves the design, they will have to figure out how to get the project underway and see it through to a successful completion. This requires a wide range of skills because of the many different types of work involved. Architects must have expertise in engineering and design as well as strong leadership and communication skills.

Architects Job Summary

  • In order to become certified, architects must complete a professional architecture degree, work in the field as an apprentice to a certified architect for at least three years and pass the Architecture Registration Examination.
  • A much larger proportion of architects are self-employed compared to most other professional occupations.
  • Architects entering the field can expect to face significant competition, particularly for the more prestigious positions at high-profile architecture firms.
  • The number of job opportunities in the field is expected to increase in the coming years, but there will still be significant competition due to the high number of people interested in these jobs.

Work Environment for Architects

While they will occasionally need to spend some time out in the field at construction sites, architects spend most of their time in an office environment. They are often involved in meetings, either with clients or other architects. Depending on the type and scope of the project they are working on, architects may work as part of a larger team made up of landscape architects, urban planners, engineers and professional designers, among others.

Architects Education, Training and Licensing

Each state has its own particular requirements for obtaining certification as a professional architect. In most states, a degree from an architecture program that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) is necessary. Most NAAB-accredited schools award a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree. However, professionals with a bachelor’s degree in another field may earn a master’s degree in architecture. Depending on whether a student has an undergraduate degree or experience in architecture, a master’s degree can take between one and five years to complete.

Courses in architecture degree programs cover a range of subjects, including physical sciences, math, technology, architectural history and theory, structures, professional practice and construction methods. After graduation, aspiring architects must spend at least three years working in the field under the supervision of a certified architect before they can qualify to take the Architect Registration Exam and become certified in their own right.

Architects Jobs Outlook and Salary Projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 88,900 people working as architects in May of 2014. These figures do not include landscape and naval architects. The BLS predicts a 17% increase in employment in this field from 2012 through 2022, but there will still be stiff competition for jobs because of the high number of interested and qualified applicants.

BLS records indicate that the median annual income for architects was about $95,310 as of May 2014. The middle 50% of professionals in this field made between $57,380 and $95,310. While architects in the bottom 10% bracket made $44,940 or less, those in the top 10% earned in excess of $121,910 a year.

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