About 1 in 4 architects was self-employed—more than three
times the proportion for all professional and related occupations.
Licensing requirements include a professional degree in architecture,
3 years of practical work training, and passing all divisions
of the Architect Registration Examination.
Architecture graduates may face competition, especially for
jobs in the most prestigious firms; opportunities will be best
for those with experience working for a firm while still in
school and for those with knowledge of computer-aided design
and drafting technology.
Nature of the Work
People need places in which to live, work, play, learn, worship,
meet, govern, shop, and eat. These places may be private or public;
indoors or outdoors; or rooms, buildings, or complexes, and together,
they make up neighborhoods, towns, suburbs, and cities. Architects—licensed
professionals trained in the art and science of building design—transform
these needs into concepts and then develop the concepts into images
and plans of buildings that can be constructed by others.
Architects design the overall aesthetic and look of buildings
and other structures, but the design of a building involves far
more than its appearance. Buildings also must be functional, safe,
and economical and must suit the needs of the people who use them.
Architects consider all these factors when they design buildings
and other structures.
Architects provide professional services to individuals and organizations
planning a construction project. They may be involved in all phases
of development, from the initial discussion with the client through
the entire construction process. Their duties require specific
skills—designing, engineering, managing, supervising, and communicating
with clients and builders. Architects spend a great deal of time
explaining their ideas to clients, construction contractors, and
others. Successful architects must be able to communicate their
unique vision persuasively.
The architect and client discuss the objectives, requirements,
and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide various
predesign services—conducting feasibility and environmental impact
studies, selecting a site, or specifying the requirements the
design must meet. For example, they may determine space requirements
by researching the numbers and types of potential users of a building.
The architect then prepares drawings and a report presenting ideas
for the client to review.
After discussing and agreeing on the initial proposal, architects
develop final construction plans that show the building’s appearance
and details for its construction. Accompanying these plans are
drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating,
and ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems;
plumbing; and, possibly, site and landscape plans. The plans also
specify the building materials and, in some cases, the interior
furnishings. In developing designs, architects follow building
codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such
as those requiring easy access by disabled persons. Throughout
the planning stage, they make necessary changes. Computer-aided
design and drafting (CADD) technology has replaced traditional
paper and pencil as the most common method for creating design
and construction drawings. Continual revision of plans on the
basis of client needs and budget constraints is often necessary.
Architects may also assist clients in obtaining construction
bids, selecting contractors, and negotiating construction contracts.
As construction proceeds, they may visit building sites to make
sure that contractors follow the design, adhere 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. Sometimes,
architects also provide postconstruction services, such as facilities
management. They advise on energy efficiency measures, evaluate
how well the building design adapts to the needs of occupants,
and make necessary improvements.
Architects design a wide variety of buildings, such as office
and apartment buildings, schools, churches, factories, hospitals,
houses, and airport terminals. They also design complexes such
as urban centers, college campuses, industrial parks, and entire
communities. In addition, they may advise on the selection of
building sites, prepare cost analysis and land-use studies, and
do long-range planning for land development.
Architects sometimes specialize in one phase of work. Some specialize
in the design of one type of building—for example, hospitals,
schools, or housing. Others focus on planning and predesign services
or construction management and do minimal design work. They often
work with engineers, urban planners, interior designers, landscape
architects, and other professionals. In fact, architects spend
a great deal of their time coordinating information from, and
the work of, others engaged in the same project. Many architects—particularly
at larger firms—use the Internet and e-mail to update designs
and communicate changes efficiently. Architects also use the Internet
to research product specifications and government regulations.
Architects usually work in a comfortable environment. Most of
their time is spent in offices consulting with clients, developing
reports and drawings, and working with other architects and engineers.
However, they often visit construction sites to review the progress
of projects. Although most architects work approximately 40 hours
per week, they often have to work nights and weekends to meet
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
All States and the District of Columbia require individuals to
be licensed (registered) before they may call themselves architects
and contract to provide architectural services. During this time
between graduation and becoming licensed, architecture school
graduates generally work in the field under supervision of a licensed
architect who takes legal responsibility for all work. Licensing
requirements include a professional degree in architecture, a
period of practical training or internship, and a passing score
on all divisions of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).
In most States, the professional degree in architecture must
be from one of the 113 schools of architecture that have degree
programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting
Board (NAAB). However, State architectural registration boards
set their own standards, so graduation from a non-NAAB-accredited
program may meet the educational requirement for licensing in
a few States. Three types of professional degrees in architecture
are available through colleges and universities. The majority
of all architectural degrees are from 5-year Bachelor of Architecture
programs, intended for students entering university-level studies
from high school or with no previous architectural training. In
addition, a number of schools offer a 2-year Master of Architecture
program for students with a preprofessional undergraduate degree
in architecture or a related area, or a 3- or 4-year Master of
Architecture program for students with a degree in another discipline.
The choice of degree depends upon each individual’s preference
and educational background. Prospective architecture students
should consider the available options before committing to a program.
For example, although the 5-year Bachelor of Architecture program
offers the fastest route to the professional degree, courses are
specialized, and if the student does not complete the program,
transferring to a program offered by another discipline may be
difficult. A typical program includes courses in architectural
history and theory, building design, structures, technology, construction
methods, professional practice, math, physical sciences, and liberal
arts. Central to most architectural programs is the design studio,
where students put into practice the skills and concepts learned
in the classroom. During the final semester of many programs,
students devote their studio time to creating an architectural
project from beginning to end, culminating in a three-dimensional
model of their design.
Many schools of architecture also offer postprofessional degrees
for those who already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in
architecture or other areas. Although graduate education beyond
the professional degree is not required for practicing architects,
it may be for research, teaching, and certain specialties.
Architects must be able to communicate their ideas visually to
their clients. Artistic and drawing ability is helpful, but not
essential, to such communication. More important are a visual
orientation and the ability to conceptualize and understand spatial
relationships. Good communication skills, the ability to work
independently or as part of a team, and creativity are important
qualities for anyone interested in becoming an architect. Computer
literacy also is required for writing specifications, for two-
and three-dimensional drafting, and for financial management.
Knowledge of CADD is essential and has become a critical tool
for architects. Most schools now teach students CADD programs
and methods that adhere to the National CAD Standards.
All State architectural registration boards require architecture
graduates to complete a training period—usually 3 years—before
they may sit for the ARE, the third and final requirement for
becoming licensed. Every State, with the exception of Arizona,
has adopted the training standards established by the Intern Development
Program, a branch of the American Institute of Architects and
the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
These standards stipulate broad and diversified training under
the supervision of a licensed architect over a 3-year period.
Most new graduates complete their training period by working as
interns at architectural firms. Some States allow a portion of
the training to occur in the offices of related professionals,
such as engineers or general contractors. Architecture students
who complete internships in architectural firms while still in
school can count some of that time toward the required 3-year
Interns in architectural firms may assist in the design of one
part of a project, help prepare architectural documents or drawings,
build models, or prepare construction drawings on CADD. Interns
also may research building codes and materials or write specifications
for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of
finishes, and other, related details.
After completing their on-the-job training period, interns are
eligible to sit for the ARE. The examination tests a candidate’s
knowledge, skills, and ability to provide the various services
required in the design and construction of buildings. The test
is broken down into 9 divisions consisting of either multiple
choice or graphical questions; States give candidates an eligibility
period for completion of all divisions of the exam that varies
by State. Candidates who pass the ARE and meet all standards established
by their State Board become licensed to practice in that State.
Most states require some form of continuing education to maintain
a license, and many others are expected to adopt mandatory continuing
education. Requirements vary by State, but usually involve the
completion of a certain number of credits annually or biennially
through workshops, formal university classes, conferences, self-study
courses, or other sources.
A growing number of architects voluntarily seek certification
by the NCARB, which can facilitate an individual’s becoming licensed
to practice in additional States. This practice is known as “reciprocity.”
Certification is awarded after independent verification of the
candidate’s educational transcripts, employment record, and professional
references. Certification is the primary requirement for reciprocity
of licensing among State Boards that are NCARB members. In 2004,
approximately one-third of all licensed architects had NCARB certification.
After becoming licensed and gaining experience, architects take
on increasingly responsible duties, eventually managing entire
projects. In large firms, architects may advance to supervisory
or managerial positions. Some architects become partners in established
firms, while others set up their own practices. Graduates with
degrees in architecture also enter related fields, such as graphic,
interior, or industrial design; urban planning; real estate development;
civil engineering; and construction management.
Architects held about 129,000 jobs in 2004. Approximately 3 out
of 5 jobs were in the architectural, engineering, and related
services industry—mostly in architectural firms with fewer than
five workers. A small number worked for residential and nonresidential
building construction firms and for government agencies responsible
for housing, community planning, or construction of government
buildings, such as the U.S. Departments of Defense and Interior,
and the General Services Administration. About 1 in 4 architects
Employment of architects is expected to grow about as fast the
average for all occupations through 2014. Besides employment growth,
additional job openings will arise from the need to replace the
many architects who are nearing retirement, and others who transfer
to other occupations or stop working for other reasons. Internship
opportunities for new architectural students are expected to be
good over the next decade, but more students are graduating with
architectural degrees and some competition for entry-level jobs
can be anticipated. Competition will be especially keen for jobs
at the most prestigious architectural firms as prospective architects
try to build their reputation. Prospective architects who have
had internships while in school will have an advantage in obtaining
intern positions after graduation.
Employment of architects is strongly tied to the activity of
the construction industry. Strong growth is expected to come from
nonresidential construction as demand for commercial space increases.
Residential construction, buoyed by low interest rates, is also
expected to grow as more and more people become homeowners. If
interest rates rise significantly, this sector may see a falloff
in home building.
Current demographic trends also support an increase in demand
for architects. As the population of Sunbelt States continues
to grow, the people living there will need new places to live
and work. As the population continues to live longer and baby-boomers
begin to retire there will be a need for more healthcare facilities,
nursing homes, and retirement communities. In education, buildings
at all levels are getting older and class sizes are getting larger.
This will require many school districts and universities to build
new facilities and renovate existing ones.
Some types of construction are sensitive to cyclical changes
in the economy. Architects seeking design projects for office
and retail construction will face especially strong competition
for jobs or clients during recessions, and layoffs may ensue in
less successful firms. Those involved in the design of institutional
buildings, such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional
facilities, will be less affected by fluctuations in the economy.
Residential construction makes up a small portion of work for
architects, so major changes in the housing market would not be
as significant as fluctuations in the nonresidential market.
Despite good overall job opportunities some architects may not
fare as well as others. The profession is geographically sensitive
and some parts of the Nation may have fewer new building projects
than others. Also, many firms specialize in specific buildings,
such as hospitals or office towers, and demand for these buildings
may vary by region. Architects may find it increasingly necessary
to gain reciprocity in order to compete for the best jobs and
projects in other States.
In recent years, some architecture firms have outsourced to architecture
firms overseas the drafting of construction documents for large-scale
commercial and residential projects. This trend is expected to
continue and may have a negative impact on employment growth for
lower level architects and interns who would normally gain experience
by producing these drawings. However, most firms will keep design
services in-house, and opportunities will be best for those architects
that are able to distinguish themselves from others with their
Median annual earnings of wage and salary architects were $60,300
in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $46,690 and
$79,230. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,060, and the
highest 10 percent earned more than $99,800. Those just starting
their internships can expect to earn considerably less.
Earnings of partners in established architectural firms may fluctuate
because of changing business conditions. Some architects may have
difficulty establishing their own practices and may go through
a period when their expenses are greater than their income, requiring
substantial financial resources.
Architects design buildings and related structures. Construction
managers, like architects, also plan and coordinate activities
concerned with the construction and maintenance of buildings and
facilities. Others who engage in similar work are landscape architects,
civil engineers, urban and regional planners, and designers, including
interior designers, commercial and industrial designers, and graphic
Sources of Additional Information
Information about education and careers in architecture can be
The American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Ave. NW.,
Washington, DC 20006. Internet: http://www.aia.org/
Intern Development Program, National Council of Architectural
Registration Boards, Suite 1100K, 1801 K Street NW., Washington,
D.C. 20006-1310. Internet: http://www.ncarb.org/
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics,
U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,