Where Can A Career In Architecture Take You?
Houses, hospitals, shopping centres, iconic skyscrapers… architects are the driving force behind almost every building in existence, creating everything from our family homes to our city skylines. Quite simply, they dream-up, plan and create the world – and in the process influence how we use and move through it. It’s one of the most esteemed career areas that you could choose to pursue.
Architecture is big business, with governments, corporate companies and prestigious names vying for the most high tech and aesthetically pleasing buildings. There are over 3,000 RIBA-chartered architecture practices in the UK, with thousands of architects working on projects that have both national and international scope.
Architects and others working within the architectural field have to balance a large number of priorities every day: aesthetics and design, the environment, new technology, safety, social value and the needs and current make-up of the local area are just a few of the things that need to be considered at every stage of the process. It’s a challenging and fascinating industry, and one that requires a high level of responsibility and dedication from those who work within it.
Types of jobs within architecture
As with all wide-reaching industries, there are a large number of different roles and levels that make up an architectural business. Here are just some of them:
Design architect – The person responsible for the overall design of a building or structure
Project architect – Responsible for the production of documents that guide the architectural process, including design specifications and briefs
Architectural project manager – Overseeing the whole process, from preparing the site before construction begins to the finalisation of the building
Architectural technologist – Helping architects with solutions to issues involving the brief, clients, or any other stakeholders
Architectural technician – Responsible for the application of technology to the architectural process
Landscape architect – The same responsibility as an architect, but specifically for the outdoors, including land features and garden structures
Skills & interests required
Architects need to be diligent, logical and - importantly - high-level critical thinkers. To make it in this sector you’ll also need an eye for design, and the ability to see the bigger picture whilst paying attention to seemingly tiny details.
Here are some other skills that are essential for a career in architecture:
- Entrepreneurial approach
- Commercial awareness
- Listening skills
- Willingness to learn
- Networking skills
- Team work
- Attention to detail
- Time management
Typical Career Progression Routes for Graduates in Architecture
Architects have a set development path, and can expect significant pay increases and qualified status after completion of their exams and training (see Qualification requirements & subjects to study below for details on architecture degrees.)
As a newly qualified architect, you can apply to work within an architecture firm at a junior level. You should register as a Chartered Member of the RIBA and sign up to become a RIBA Associate Member in order to increase your standing.
Architects can work their way up by keeping up to date with technical developments and seeking out more prestigious projects and opportunities at bigger organisations.
Tips for getting into the field
Obviously, a strong head for design and a clear, defined logical approach are both essential in architecture.
There are also a large number of general, non-industry-related things that you can do to put yourself in a good position to start applying for jobs. These include:
- Tailoring your CV for each specific role, making sure you focus on previous experience and relevant skills
- Applying for internships and/or work experience – this is a no-brainer: as well as ensuring that you’ve experienced the field before you start applying for jobs within it, it’ll show that you’re committed and allow you to start acquiring the practical skills you’ll need in your future job
- Take on similar roles – for example as an office assistant or similar, in holidays or whilst you apply for higher-level roles
- See what the top companies in the field require – start by looking for case studies from the big firms, and note what backgrounds and skills their current employees have
- Get the relevant accreditation – in the case of architecture, a degree course that is validated by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
- Use your contacts – university professors, those you met on work experience, people you can approach through social media or LinkedIn – they’re all potentially the stepping stone to your next role, and they might very well be happy to help you
Types of jobs in Architecture
Being a highly skilled career area with a large amount of prestige attached, architecture traditionally pays well. Of course, the larger the company and the more prestigious the project the higher the salary you’re likely to receive.
Here are the average salaries for some specific roles within the industry, according to Payscale:
Design architect - £33,683
Project architect – £35,710
Project manager, architecture - £35,669
Architectural technologist – £24,591
Architectural technician – £24,333
Architectural designer – £26,545
Landscape architect – £25,264
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
Many of those looking to move into architecture will study it at undergraduate degree level, leading to a qualification that is accredited by RIBA. The degree structure for architecture consists of:
- RIBA Part 1 – A RIBA accredited undergraduate degree in architecture (three or four years)
- Stage 1 practical experience/year out (one year)
- RIBA Part 2 – a two year continuation of your degree (BArch, Diploma or MArch) at your previous university or a different one (two years)
- Stage 2 practical experience – (one year minimum)
- RIBA Part 3 – final qualifying exam
Not all architects have taken this direct path though. If you want to study an MA in architecture in order to get into the field then a 2.1 or higher in a relevant degree will usually be required. Also the ability to demonstrate your interest in the field will be important. Relevant degree subjects may include art, art history, design or physics. Some universities ask that students with non-design related degrees, e.g. history, submit a portfolio to demonstrate their interest in the subject. You may also be asked to attend an interview.
Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologies
Architects Registration Board
Association of Consultant Architects (ACA)
The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)