Building a Career in Architecture

Learn About Being an Architect

Two architects discussing project at high table in modern studio
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Architects design structures including houses, apartment complexes, shopping centers, office buildings, and factories. In addition to considering their physical appearance, they also make sure these structures are functional, safe, and economical, and suit the needs of the people who use them.

If you choose an architecture career, you will work in an office most of the time, but you will also have to visit construction sites to check the progress of projects and make sure contractors are building them according to your plans.

While in your office you will meet with clients, draft plans, work on cost estimates, file permit applications with municipal building departments, and help clients set up agreements with contractors.

Quick Facts

  • Architects, in 2015, earned a median annual salary of $76,100.
  • Almost 113,000 people worked in this occupation in 2014.
  • Most jobs are in architectural and engineering firms.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field will grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2024.

Roles and Responsibilities

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for architect jobs we found on

  • "Lead and develop projects from early concept through design development"
  • "Prepare drawings, specifications and construction documents"
  • "Design and document commercial and industrial building projects"
  • "Consult with client to determine client's needs and wants"
  • "Coordinate preliminary architectural studies for major new structures and alterations to existing structures and site development"
  • "Organize and manage permit documents"
  • "Work with teams across business lines, in remote locations, and coordinate with subcontractors"
  • "Resolve complex design issues with innovative and practical solutions"
  • "Modify existing plans and elevations to fit client and sales needs"

Education and Licensing Requirements

If you want to become an architect, you will have to earn a professional degree in architecture. You can complete one of the following programs offered at many colleges and universities:

  • 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) program intended for students entering programs from high school or with no previous architectural training
  • 2-year Master of Architecture (MArch) program for students with pre-professional undergraduate degrees in architecture or a related area
  • 3 or 4-year Master of Architecture program offered to students with degrees in other disciplines

In most states in the U.S., you must earn a professional degree in architecture from a school of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). You can search for a program on the NAAB website.

In the United States, you will have to get a professional license from the state or municipality in which you want to provide your services. To become a licensed architect, you must first earn a professional degree in architecture, complete a period of practical training or internship, and pass all divisions of the ARE (Architect Registration Examination).

In most states, continuing education is required to maintain licensure. To find out what the requirements are in the state in which you want to work you can use the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop

What Soft Skills Will Help You Succeed in This Career?

While meeting your education and licensing requirements are essential, you also need certain personal qualities, known as soft skills, to succeed as an architect. These are some of them:

  • Creativity: You must be able to create designs for buildings and other structures.
  • Visualization: You need to be able to see, in your mind's eye, what those structures will look like once they are built.
  • Verbal Communication: This skill will allow you to describe your ideas to your clients and colleagues.
  • Active Listening: In addition to clearly communicating information to others, you must be able to understand what others are sharing with you.
  • Problem Solving: Problems will inevitably arise during most building projects. You must be able to quickly identify and then solve them to keep the project moving forward.
  • Critical Thinking: Good problem solving requires the ability to evaluate possible solutions before choosing the most promising one.

The Truth About Being an Architect

  • If you become an architect, you will likely have to work overtime (more than 40 hours per week), at least occasionally, to meet deadlines.
  • Approximately 20% of architects are self employed.
  • While you will spend most of your time working in an office, you can also expect to travel to construction sites, which may not be nearby.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on

  • "Strong written and verbal skills, fluency and grammar"
  • "Ability to perform duties at other than normal working hours and days as required by projects or tasks"
  • "Ability to produce 2D & 3D design drawings for meeting presentations"
  • "Must be knowledgeable in the applicable building codes"
  • "Team player with a positive attitude"
  • "Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

Occupations With Related Tasks and Activities


Median Annual Wage


Minimum Required Education/Training

Landscape Architect

Designs shopping centers, college campuses, residential areas and golf courses to make them both beautiful and functional$63,810Bachelor of Landscape Architecture or Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture
Architectural DrafterTurns architects' designs into technical drawings using special software$50,710Associate Degree or Certificate in Drafting
Environmental EngineerUses knowledge of engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry to solve environmental problems$84,560Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Engineering
Agricultural EngineerDesigns machinery, processes, and structures that are used in agriculture$75,090Bachelor's Degree in Engineering With a Concentration in Agricultural Engineering


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited February 18, 2017).
  • Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited February 18, 2017).