How to Become an Architect

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

Does your interest lie in designing homes, landscapes, and buildings? Then a career in architecture may appeal to you. Find out how to become an architect through this essential guide. It takes years of study and a licensure exam to become an architect, so you need to be ready to commit.

Learn the educational background and skills needed to excel as an architect. We will also cover the resources that you will need throughout the process. Once you graduate and pass the board exam, you also need to be prepared to find a job in the field.

What Is an Architect?

An architect is a designer who creates plans and designs for different infrastructures such as homes, buildings, factories, museums, and more. Your career as an architect includes meeting with all types of clients and getting to know their wants and needs for a project.

You are expected to know how to draw by hand or use computer software. Aside from this, you have to make sure that your plans are well within the budget. A lot of responsibilities fall on an architect’s shoulders.

Architect Salary and Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an architect earns a median pay of $82,320 per year. BLS data also shows that the job growth for an architect career is slower than average. Job opportunities for architects are supposed to only grow by one percent by 2029.

One of the reasons for this slowdown is its reliance on the construction industry. In a report by BLS, if unemployment continues in the construction industry, the architectural field may suffer. Nonetheless, there is still a chance for architects to bounce back.


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Entry-Level Architect Job Requirements

An entry-level architecture designer earns $58,092 on average, according to Salary.com. This would vary depending on your education, experience, skills, and certifications. As for job requirements, you will need to get a license to practice architecture.

The National Council of Architectural Review Boards (NCARB) oversees the regulation of architecture practice in the United States. You need to pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) to obtain a license.

How to Ace Your Architect Job Interview

Many architects work in freelance positions. However, if you want to get a job at a company, you should prepare for a job interview. Aside from being able to demonstrate your knowledge, personality, and work ethic, you need to show a professional portfolio. You should also practice questions beforehand so you can feel more confident.

Common Architect Job Interview Questions

  • What software or programs do you commonly use to create and plan designs?
  • Describe a project you worked on and tell us about its outcome.
  • Tell us about your strengths and weaknesses and how they could affect your role as an architect.
  • Do you follow a specific style, or are you flexible to adjust to client demands?

What Degree Should I Get to Become an Architect?

To become an architect, you will need to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree. You also need to pass the board exams to get a license in order to practice architecture. A bachelor’s degree is necessary to ensure that you are equipped with the right knowledge to get your license.

Associate Degree in Architectural Design

An Associate Degree in Architectural Design is beneficial as an introductory program to help you learn the basics of sketching and drawing models. The programs teach both drawing by hand and by computer software. You will also learn how to build 3D models. You can use your associate credits to transfer to a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture

A Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture is a minimum requirement for the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). You need to complete a minimum of five years in an institution accredited by the National Council of Architectural boards.

Master’s Degree in Architecture

A master’s degree is a viable option if you want to expand your project scope or choose a niche area in architecture. If you’re looking to teach architecture instead of practicing it, a master’s degree is also a step in the right direction. You can also pursue this even if you graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a different field.

Doctor of Architecture

A PhD in architecture is mostly research-based. This is usually taken by students who intend to teach architecture professionally. If you are also interested in research, then you can use a PhD as an advantage no matter where you work.

What Does an Architect Do?

An architect creates and plans designs that attend to the needs of the clients, such as shelters, buildings, factories, and other infrastructures. They are responsible for designing buildings that take into account both aesthetics and functional purposes.

Creates, Plans, and Prepares Designs

You create, plan, and prepare designs based on the needs and scale of the project. A design can either be sketched out by hand or prepared using computer software. You must be able to explain this design to relevant team members so that the outcome will be successful.

Meets and Communicates With Clients

You must constantly meet and communicate with clients to explain the plan and update them on any progress. The clients’ needs must be taken into consideration, and your job is to make them happen. You must also provide an alternative if their demands are not realistic.

Manages Contracts and Costs

You are responsible for drafting up construction contracts and making sure that your design aligns with the laws of a city or state. It is also part of your responsibility to connect with contractors and provide the necessary documentation so they can begin the construction process.

Essential Architect Skills

To be a successful architect, you need to excel at drawing, math, and communication. All of these skills should come together, especially since being an architect is a client-based job. Whether you are working at an architecture firm or independently, you must remain focused on delivering the best service to your client.

Design Programs

While you can still draw and create designs by hand, using a computer program makes the process easier. For instance, if you specialize in residential design, then you can use Chief Architect home design software. Through this program, you can create better 3D models that you cannot always achieve via manual drawings.

Math and Budgeting

Budgeting is important in architecture. Your designs must meet the financial capacity of the client. You are responsible for creating a design and plan that fits within the scope of a budget. In budgeting, you should consider labor, materials, and more. This means you must be comfortable with math to forecast and prepare a practical budget.


Communication with clients, contractors, engineers, and workers is one of your primary skills as an architect. You must be flexible when it comes to feedback about your design and plan. To ensure that a project would reach its fullest potential, talking about it with the parties involved is an important step.

How to Become an Architect:
A Step-by-Step Guide

The best way to become an architect is to follow the steps listed below. You can get the education you need to become an architect and find a great job in the field.


Get a Degree

A professional architect degree is a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Architecture. A career as an architect demands that you are equipped with the right skills, techniques, and knowledge. Through a formal program in a university, you will learn all the basics and more. You can also start with a bachelor’s in a different topic and learn architecture later.


Gain Experience in Architecture

Part of the NCARB’s architecture licensing process is gaining experience in the field. It has a program called Architectural Experience Program (AXP) where you can document your experience as an architect in the real world. The AXP serves as your guide to make sure that your professional experiences are accounted for.

Finding internships and work as an architect is important in establishing your practical skills. Classroom knowledge is not enough because you need to be able to demonstrate your technical abilities by producing actual designs.


Take the Architect Registration Exam

You need to have a license to practice as an architect in the United States. To gain this license, you must review for and take the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). The ARE requires that you pass all of its six divisions that cover the knowledge, skills, and core practices in architecture.

Architecture is not only about design. You must also be knowledgeable in health, safety, and welfare matters. When designing, you have to be able to visualize a completed version of your project and ensure that every aspect matches the needs of the client. Once you pass the exam, then you can start practicing architecture.


Apply for an Architecture Job or Start Your Own Business

There are many architecture firms where you can get a job. If you intend to learn more and grow more within a specific industry, then your natural course should be to look for career opportunities.

On the other hand, you can also build your own firm if you have enough resources and feel confident with your capabilities. Establishing a firm might be difficult because you will need to run a business on top of your work as an architect. Nonetheless, this is a solid option if you prefer working independently and you have the financial capability to see it through.


Continue Learning

If you are interested in teaching or working in the research field, then you should get an architecture PhD. These are usually research-focused, so you can explore new areas in architecture.

You may also enroll in a PhD program even after passing your licensure exam. Furthering your studies is an opportunity to discover more techniques and skills, especially if you want to actively excel in the field beyond servicing clients.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Architect?

It takes around seven years to become a licensed architect. A bachelor’s degree in architecture takes about four years depending on your trajectory as a student. Then, it takes another three years of training to prepare you for the licensure exam. Once you pass the exam, then you can start practicing.

Should You Become an Architect in 2021?

Yes, you should become an architect in 2021. While the job outlook for architects is slightly lower than the average, the industry could still pick up and flourish. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, infrastructure projects continue as businesses and economies slowly open. Now is a great time to become an architect.

Architect FAQ

Is it hard to become an architect?

Yes, becoming an architect can be difficult. Architecture is more than designing houses and buildings. There are other responsibilities such as managing costs, communicating with clients, preparing contracts, and more.

Can I practice architecture without a license?

No, you cannot practice architecture in the US without a license. You will need to pass the Architect Registration Exam.

What are the requirements to take the Architect Registration Exam?

Aside from the minimum requirement of completing a bachelor’s degree, you also need to accomplish three years of training. This could be an internship in a company or an actual job in an architecture firm.

Do architects get paid well?

Yes, architects have fairly high salaries. The median salary of an architect is $82,320, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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