A Guide to Becoming an Architect

July 4, 2023
Natalie Thorburn

Architects are responsible for designing residential, commercial and other structures. They ensure that the final results are both functional and attractive. Consider becoming an architect if this is something that interests you. Understanding the job duties and requirements can help you decide if it is the proper role for your career.

This article discusses what an architect is, how to become one, the types of architects, and their typical salaries.

What is the role of an architect?

Architects receive formal training to become design experts. They are trained in the science and the art of designing buildings, focusing on form and functionality. They are responsible for developing and constructing buildings, bridges and tunnels. There are many types of architects, but they all design and plan a structure's components. If you are looking for a rewarding career where you can use your creativity and math skills to improve the area where you live, this could be a great choice.

Architects are responsible for a building's safety, aesthetics and functionality. They consider the economics of building and ensure they meet their users' requirements. An architect can also:

Overseeing the production of blueprints is usually done by a draftsperson.

Compile pre-design figures, including land studies, cost analyses and the environmental impact.

Follow zoning laws, building codes, city ordinances, and any other regulations that may affect your architectural project.

Create scale models of structures using advanced computer software such as computer-aided designing (CAD) to explore different construction methods.

Construction workers can coordinate their work by obtaining construction contracts.

Contracts with clients and contractors

Mentoring architecture students through internships

Write construction specification documents.

How to become an architect?

Here are six steps to becoming an architect.

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Most companies require that architects have a GED or high school diploma before they can start working. Although each state has its requirements, most states require that aspiring architects obtain a Bachelor of Architecture through a program accredited by the National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB).

There are 173 NAAB-accredited programs in 137 institutions around the world. The typical courses of an accredited bachelor's program in architecture include:

Project Management

Building systems

Environmental planning

Impact Analysis

2. Take part in an internship program

Every state requires that future architects participate in an internship to be eligible for licensing. Most internship programs are three-year programs that provide valuable experience to prepare individuals for a future as an architect. Internships are available in many states through the Intern Development Program offered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and the American Institute of Architects.

The IDP allows for internships of up to 5,600 hours in the architectural fields, including:

Practice Management

You can also Design Your Own

Project Management


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3. Become licensed

You must pass the Architect Registration Examination to become a licensed architect in your state. Most states require that you have a bachelor's and complete an internship before taking the exam. The NCARB offers this seven-part exam that's pass or fail.

Make sure you meet any additional requirements for your state. You can transfer your NCARB records to your new jurisdiction if you move.

Start your architectural career in Missouri

Missouri, known as the Show-Me State, offers a captivating blend of scenic beauty, vibrant cities, and a thriving business environment. Situated in the heart of the United States, this diverse state boasts picturesque landscapes ranging from the rolling Ozark Mountains to the mighty Mississippi River. Missouri's rich history is reflected in its charming small towns and iconic landmarks like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Beyond its natural and cultural attractions, Missouri is a hub for business and innovation. The state is home to various industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, transportation, and technology. With a central location, excellent infrastructure, and a skilled workforce, Missouri provides a conducive environment for companies to thrive. Supported by business-friendly policies and a commitment to fostering entrepreneurship, Missouri is an ideal destination for businesses seeking growth and success. Whether exploring its natural wonders or delving into its vibrant business landscape, Missouri offers a welcoming and prosperous environment for residents and entrepreneurs alike.

To effectively mitigate potential risks and ensure the protection of your business, acquiring errors and omissions insurance is paramount in Missouri. This vital coverage safeguards your business operations and provides crucial protection for you as an individual.

4. Apply for an architect job

You can work as an architect after you have passed the ARE. You can choose to work in an architectural firm or a private practice. You can work for design-build firms and state agencies.

The workplaces with open positions can vary depending on where you live. There may be more job opportunities in urban areas than in rural ones.

5. Professional certifications are available

The NCARB offers additional certifications in addition to the Architect Registration Examination. This certification is not mandatory, but it can help you apply for architecture jobs nationwide and show your skills and experience. There are also certifications available for subspecialties within architecture. Renewal of a certificate is essential to maintain your credentials.

6. Consider a master's degree

Some architects advance their careers by earning a graduate degree in architecture. The NAAB has accredited several Master of Architecture Programs.

A master's may be the best choice for those pursuing a research or education career. This graduate degree can also benefit those who want to change careers and still need a bachelor's in architecture.

Architects of different types

Here are some of the most common types of architects working today.

Industrial architect

Industrial architects design structures in industrial settings, like factories or industrial parks. These professionals consider their clients' industry and the materials they use in the building when developing a design. These professionals also view their clients' space, machinery and access needs.

Planning architect

A planning architect may be involved in a project, advising on the project's compliance with local and national regulations and requirements. For example, they may outline a site's legal restrictions or submit a proposal to a local or regional authority.

Site architect

Site architects supervise all activities on a building site, from the beginning to the end. These architects can assign tasks to workers in the construction industry, secure the construction contract and ensure safety and quality throughout the project.

Design Architect

A design architect is responsible for a construction's design and overall structure. This architect can create the initial outline of the system, develop blueprints, and adapt the design to the client's preference. They may also be responsible for selecting the materials to build a structure and supervising the design and construction team during the entire building process. Most design architects specialise in a different area, such as residential or commercial design, manufacturing, or both.

Conservation architect

Conservation architects often work with historic and old buildings. They are usually tasked with preserving existing structures, implementing changes to meet safety standards and maintaining the original design while maintaining the original fixtures.

Interior architect

The interior architect is responsible for the design of the building's interior. It may involve designing specific rooms or spaces to maximise space. An interior architect can help decide if a house should have an open floor plan or create rooms by erecting walls.

Landscape architect

Landscape architects create areas and structures in public places. These include public parks, colleges, residential areas, and gardens. These architects can then choose what type of building, pathway and greenery to use outside.


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