What Is an Architect?

Architects design, plan and direct construction projects concerned with buildings - residential, commercial and industrial.

What Does an Architect Do?

An architect is involved in almost every stage of constructing a building or complex. They will consult on the original plans and use computer aided drafting and design to produce a workable blueprint. Once approved and construction is underway, they will usually be available to direct the process of building, including ensuring that the construction personnel adhere to the original specifications agreed with the client. Architects also work on building remodeling and extensions to existing buildings.

As well as the practical work, they may work to promote the interests of their business or industry - giving public talks, bidding for contracts, helping clients secure building work, sourcing material and keeping up with research advancements in the building industry. They engage in research, practical design and in some cases, the physical work of building.

Increasingly, architects are required to design plans to account for a number of environmental engineering issues. Where new sustainable materials are used, they may be required to alter existing plans to ensure it is of the most efficient and safe design. They may also be called on to take into account natural shading and heat dispersal to remove the need for air conditioning, especially in the hotter areas of the country or the world. They are fundamental to carbon reduction in the building process today.

Where Does an Architect Work?

At present, there are around 112,000 architects in the US. According to 2015 data, the overwhelming majority of qualified architects (69%) work for architectural consultancy firms. They will perform many of the tasks pointed out above under the direction of their employer. They spend their time traveling between offices and construction sites where they may direct and supervise construction work.

20%, that's around a fifth, are self-employed. They work on a consultancy basis, negotiating contracts for specific work. Their role will include all of the above, but they will be employed for a specific set of tasks - either the complete process or a single task.

Sponsored Content

What Is the Average Architect Salary?

The median salary for architects in the US is $82,320. The recorded salary of the lowest 10% of earners was $49,950; the highest 10% of earners reported a salary of $136,310.* In some cases, architects require ongoing training in-line with new regulations and to keep up to date with new methods and materials. An employment package will often include payment of education for those employed by an architectural firm.

Architecture Jobs & Job Description

An entry level architecture position requires a Bachelor's degree in architecture or other related field with basic proficiency in the use of computers for architectural drawings, calculations and 3-D visual simulations. Job duties at the beginning of his or her career may include:

  • Assist in the preparation of designs, quantity calculations, sketches, diagrams, schematic drawings and final working architecture drawings
  • Use computer software as a tool for solving basic architectural problems
  • Ensure conformance with building standards, established architecture practices and principles and applicable building codes
  • Develop proficiency and work experience with REVIT, Adobe InDesign and AutoCAD programs
  • Gain experience in the coordination, planning and preparation of site plans, design drawings, presentation graphics and construction documents
  • Prepare finish material sample boards, physical models and graphic presentations for client approval
  • Assist with requests for information and other correspondence with clients and contractors
  • Research project specific components and applicable building codes
  • Work under the supervision of a licensed architect to gain experience and working hours toward becoming licensed

An architect who has worked for several years who has attained their professional license may take on the following job tasks:

  • Prepare and present design proposals to potential clients
  • Plan or design structures such as residences, office buildings, commercial or retail spaces, manufacturing facilities or other structural properties in accordance with environmental, safety or other regulations
  • Direct and coordinate activities of technicians engaged in preparing drawings or specification documents
  • Prepare architectural design documents using computer aided design and other tools
  • Prepare contract documents for building contractors and other outside consultants
  • Negotiate with and coordinate the work of contractors and other professionals
  • Develop documents that include information on the design, structure specifications, materials, colors, equipment, estimated costs or construction time
  • Meet with clients to discuss or review architectural design and project status
  • Make site visits to check on the progress of a project

What Is the Job Demand for Architects?

Employment in this area is expected to grow 3% between 2020 and 2030.* This is about the average of all jobs in the US. Much of the demand for architectural services comes from construction. The more the country builds, the more demand there is. Naturally, this relies on the economic picture nationally and globally. Increasingly, architects with knowledge of sustainability will find they are in greater demand than those who do not. New technologies in CADD (computer aided design and drafting) and BIM (Building Information Modelling) could lead to a reduction in job posts with improved efficiency of production. Students with these skills will find greater demand.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become an Architect?

High school students will need good grades in relevant subjects, particularly in math and physics to gain access to a bachelor's degree in architecture. Most colleges offer this type of degree and students will usually study for five years in the US on custom Bachelor of Architecture degrees. These will include internships. Students will learn all about the methods, theory and processes of architecture. Increasingly, you will be expected to understand green building and sustainability, and issues such as environmental engineering. If the degree program does not offer this as standard, then select a relevant minor or elective.

Master of architecture degrees will prepare students for a life in academia and teaching, and for some more advanced roles. Studying a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree can take up to ten years depending on previous experience and background. Most students will not require this but it may be advantageous in some areas of the country and for some prestigious and well-paid positions. A doctoral program will only be suitable for those students seeking a career in academic research or in teaching at a college or a university department.

Regardless of where and when the student completes his or her studies, the majority of states require licensing and accreditation from one of the many architectural boards such as NAAB and NCARB. States will vary on requirements to be allowed to practice as an architect and you should check your relevant states laws and regulations. All states will require that the student complete an internship before licensing is permitted.

Architecture - Related Degrees

What Kind Of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Architects Have?

Architecture is a vital part of the economy and building network of the country. The following groups, boards and organizations can help you learn more about this area.

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for architects reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

Sponsored Content