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How to Become an Architect: What You Need to Know

Oct 13, 2021 · 6 minutes to read

Female architect in office working on architects project

Architects design buildings and, as such, perform a role that is essential to society.

If you’re contemplating a career as an architect, our handy guide contains everything you need to know.

What do architects do?

At the most basic level, architects design structures and buildings. While it sounds simple, being an architect is a highly skilled role that involves extensive training and education. Before the foundations are poured for any construction project, architects need to draw up a detailed design that is aligned with the client’s requirements and government regulations.

Some of the factors architects need to take into consideration when drawing up designs include:

  • How the building will be used. Architects need to consider what activities will be performed in the building and how it will be used. The design of an office, for example, is very different to that of an apartment.
  • Building requirements. Before finalising the design, architects need to ensure all required safety needs have been taken into account.
  • The location of the building. Depending on where the building is positioned, special zoning regulations and rules will need to be considered, such as the building’s height.
  • Environmental footprint. Architects need to account for how the process of the build and the final construction will have an impact on the area.

When the architect has produced a design for the building that takes the factors outlined above into account, he or she will produce detailed drawings to scale and share these with the client. A construction project manager will subsequently be recruited to produce cost and time estimations.

The architect’s involvement with a construction project doesn’t end after the designs have been finalized. They will regularly visit the construction site to ensure the build is going according to plan and will help solve any problems that arise. Some architects may also contribute to the design of the gardens or landscape surrounding the building.

How can I become an architect?

You will need to undergo a large amount of training to become a qualified architect. It can take anywhere between 7-10 years to become a qualified and certified architect. However, architects often enjoy great earning potential. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from May 2020, architects are paid a median salary of $82,320.

The typical path to becoming an architect is outlined below:

Education: You will need to complete a master’s or bachelor’s degree at an institution that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

Experience: Once you have acquired the basic education, you will need to gain practical work experience by completing the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) or an Intern Development Program (IDP). You will need to complete around 5,600 hours of training to meet this requirement.

Exams: Before working as an architect, you will need to pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

Licensing: You will also need to secure a license to work as an architect. Licensing requirements differ from state to state, so check with your state or local licensing board for more information.

How to get an architect license

Before you can apply for a license to practice as an architect, you will need to pass the Architect Registration Examination. This exam is a basic requirement in most states and consists of six sections:

  1. Project management
  2. Practice management
  3. Project planning and design
  4. Programming and analysis
  5. Project development and documentation
  6. Construction and evaluation.

The test is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and offers training frameworks that are designed to help people pass the exam.

After you have passed the exam, you will need to check the requirements and laws in the state(s) in which you hope to practice and ensure you meet all conditions.

Types of architects

Some people may choose to specialize in a certain type of architect role. Some of the popular options are as follows:

  • Commercial: Designs constructions for non-residential use
  • Residential: Concentrates on constructing individual homes
  • Interior design: Specializes in designing interior spaces
  • Restoration: Restoration architects preserve and conserve historic structures and buildings
  • Landscape: Design and plan outdoor areas

Setting up an architectural firm

Many architects opt to start their own architectural business as this grants them more freedom and flexibility to work on projects that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access if they were working for a different organization.

However, prior to starting your own business, there are several things you may need to take into account. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Deciding what type of organization you want to start; i.e., what projects are you interested in working on?
  • Who are your ideal clients? You may wish to specialize in smaller projects as opposed to large ones.
  • What will your ideal organizational structure look like? Do you wish to have partners or work independently?

How to secure new

Once you have answered some of the questions above, you will find it more straightforward to find new clients. Here are some strategies you can try:

  • Talk to members of your network, as they may know of people who are embarking on a new project.
  • Create a website and use it to share articles that establish you as an expert in your niche.
  • Secure a mentor who can potentially pass work on to you.
  • Team up with larger organizations on projects so you can enhance your portfolio.
  • Participate in design competitions to promote your skills.
  • Become an expert speaker who offers presentations in your area.

Avoid risks and protect your business

Architecture is a unique blend of science and art. As much as it may be fantastic to design a beautiful building, it is essential that the building is safe and serves its purpose. In the rare event that things don’t quite go according to plan, having insurance in place can help protect your business and cover the costs associated with injuries or damage. Learn more about business insurance for architects. Visit BizInsure today to quote, compare and buy business insurance online.

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