Architect job profile

 

What does an architect do?

Architects design buildings, such as houses, shops, offices and factories. They design extensions or alterations to buildings that already exist, and the spaces around buildings too. Some architects work on projects to renovate old buildings. 

The work may focus on one building, but it often involves many buildings within large redevelopment schemes.

The day-to-day job can be varied. So, what do architects do?

  • Compete for work by submitting tender documents and delivering presentations
  • Meet with clients to understand their project goals and requirements
  • Supervise building projects from start to finish
  • Create detailed technical plans and designs using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Decide which building materials to use
  • Make sure projects stay within building laws, safety regulations and budget
  • Make sure building projects don’t have too much of a negative impact on the environment
  • Work with a team of other construction professionals, such as surveyors and engineers.

Working environment and hours

Architects tend to work for private practices. Some may work in the planning departments of local or central government, or they can set up their own practice and become self-employed.

Usually, architects work in offices or studios. They go to meetings in the offices of clients, builders and planning departments too. 

Architects visit building sites to check on the progress of projects. While on site, they must wear protective equipment, such as boots and headgear.

The hours of work are between 35 and 40 hours per week, Monday to Friday. They don’t tend to work at the weekend, but sometimes project deadlines mean they have to work longer hours. This could be during the week or at the weekend.

Key skills

An architect job description is likely to include some or all of the following skills. 

Creativity and imagination 

Architects have created some of the world's greatest structures, from the University of Cambridge to the Burj Al Arab. The best architects have great imagination and creative flair. 

Design and drawing 

They need to be able to communicate their creative ideas to their clients. They do this through presenting and designs. This requires good drawing skills. 

Communication and negotiation

It is part of an architect’s job to negotiate project costs. They also meet with clients, builders and planning departments. Communication is key in situations like these.

Computing

They use computer-aided design software to create architectural drawings. They also create tender documents to win contracts, so computer skills are important. 

Accuracy and attention to detail

The ability to focus on the small details is essential. Architects need this skill to make sure everything fits together to create the strongest, most stable and most attractive building. 

Analysis

They need to be able to analyse all of the risks and dependencies of a project. They must consider rules and regulations on health and safety and the environment. 

Organisation, planning and project management

Successful building projects must be carefully planned from start to finish. This is to make sure the client gets the building they want, within the agreed budget and length of time.

Leadership and teamwork

Architects often work with many different building professionals, in a project team. They must be able to lead that team and work well with other people.

Mathematics and logic

Good maths skills are needed to work out exact measurements when designing buildings. Architects need to think carefully about whether their designs are practical.

Architecture degree pathways for international students

Bellerbys College prepares students from overseas with all the support they need to access an undergraduate architecture degree in the UK.

International students can begin their studies with one of the following programmes:

The architecture career path

The pathway to becoming an architect in the UK is set by the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA). It involves the following steps:

These steps are being reviewed by the RIBA and may change from September 2018.

Step 1

Study for an architecture degree, which takes three to four years to complete.

Step 2

Complete one year of supervised professional experience.

Step 3

Study for a diploma, further degree or Masters degree in architecture.

Step 4

Complete a further year of supervised professional experience.

Step 5

Take an exam in professional practice and management.

Step 6

Register as an architect with the ARB and apply to become a chartered member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Continuing professional development

The RIBA requires chartered architects to complete at least 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) every year. This allows architects in the UK to keep their chartered status. CPD study subjects cover a wide range of topics, which includes health and safety, sustainable architecture and inclusive design.

Salary

How much do architects make?

The National Careers Service gives guidance on salaries. A newly qualified architect can expect to earn from £27,500 to £35,500. A more experienced (senior) architect will be paid between £34,750 and £44,000 per year.

Associates, partners and directors are highly experienced professionals. They may earn up to £90,000 per year. Salaries in London are usually higher than in the rest of the UK.

Qualifications and training

It takes a minimum of seven years to qualify as an architect in the UK. You can’t call yourself an ‘architect’ without a degree that’s recognised by the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

Not all universities that offer architecture as a degree are ARB recognised. Applicants are advised to check with the university they are looking to apply to.

Architecture careers 

Becoming a chartered member of the RIBA and completing CPD studies are important for career development. This makes it easier to move up to more senior positions.

Progression opportunities on the architect career path depend on the type of organisation. You may work at a private or public firm, set up your own business or perhaps look for opportunities overseas. 

Private firms

Architects who work for private firms may be promoted to partner or associate.

Public sector

Working in the public sector comes with the opportunity to move up to being lead architect.

Freelance consultancy

Those who want to work for themselves may progress to setting up their own business.

International opportunities

It may be possible to find work overseas.