Architects design a huge range of buildings, both residential and commercial. However, it’s not just the aesthetics that an Architect has in mind, they need to keep functionality, safety and practicality in mind as well.
It’s every architect’s dream to be commissioned to design an iconic building. One that gets mentioned in the same breath as the Petronas Towers, the Sydney Opera House or even the Empire State Building. However, it’s not just grand buildings that an architect is tasked with building.
An Architect can be commissioned to design anything from a single room to a towering skyscraper. They will design interiors along with the outdoor spaces.
A love of design is essential for an Architect and the ability to stick with and see future design trends. Many buildings that we count as some of the most magnificent now, were well before their time when they were built.
Not only this, but architects are continually looking for new and better ways to build. It is this innovation that has allowed buildings to be made taller, or to sit on top of some pretty unique foundations.
Being an Architect is a fantastic job, but it’s important to remember that, as in any career, it takes time and patience to build up to creating your own unique visions. At the beginning, you will be working on lots of projects that won’t be that exciting. But with every draft and blueprint, you’re one step closer to creating a building to be remembered.
Education & Training
In terms of the education path for becoming an architect, it’s pretty straightforward compared to a lot of careers. There are 3 stages:
- Attain a professional degree in architecture
- Gain relevant experience through an internship (paid or unpaid)
- Passing the Architect Registration Exam.
In terms of completing your degree, there are a huge amount of Colleges and Universities to choose from. There are also an increasing amount of these institutions that allow part-time study, or in some cases, online study. 35 States require that your degree is supplied by one of the 123 architecture schools accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. If you’re in one of these states, or can see yourself working in one in the future, check the list to make sure the course you’re looking at is listed.
Once the degree has been completed, the experience you gain afterwards will be essential in both receiving your Architectural license and securing employment. Keep in mind that this training can take up to 3 years in duration.
Your education won’t stop at degree level either. Architects are required to earn continuing education credits in order to have their licenses renewed. This is a requirement in almost every state.
The NCARB offer licensed architects a range of courses to choose from. These range in topics from architectural acoustics, energy-conscious architecture and fire safety. These courses are also useful for keeping up to date with the latest trends and technological innovations.
Whereas traditional drafting paper and pencil were the norms amongst architects, they have now been replaced by more modern tools like Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM). It’s important to develop these skills and keep them well honed. You’ll spend a lot of time in your degree working in the design studio but it’s important to use your continuing education habits on keeping these skills sharp as well as focussing on other areas.
An architect will spend most of their time in the office whether it’s meeting with clients or drafting designs. Some of the duties they can expect to carry out here include;
- Meeting with clients to discover requirements for projects and structures
- Estimate the amount of required materials, equipment, and construction time
- Prepare structure specifications
- Direct workers who prepare drawings and documents
- Prepare scaled drawings
- Create contract documents for contractors
- Manage construction contracts
- Create new business by networking, marketing and giving presentations
As construction proceeds, architects will also visit their building sites to make sure that the work being carried out is in line with their designs. They’ll also want to keep a close eye on the materials being used and how close they are to the schedule. Their job doesn’t finish until construction has been finished and signed off.
Architects will also work closely with civil engineers, urban and regional planners, interior designers, and landscape architects.
There are roughly 105,000 architects based in the US, with 1 in 5 being self-employed. All though most architects will go into the profession dreaming of building the next Taj Mahal, the reality is that it can be a struggle to get any kind of work at all.
There is a lot of pitching and competing for new business. There is also be a lot of working on less exciting jobs. However, it’s all part of the process of building your reputation.
Most architects will try to branch into specific areas where they find it easier to make a name for themselves.
Architects who are also Mechanical Engineers are highly sought after in the design of industrial buildings, particularly factories. If you think about it, these buildings aren’t as much about their external beauty as much as they are about getting the inner workings absolutely right. Many architects choose to branch into this area and many mechanical engineers have also trained to become architects in order to utilise both skill sets.
Another interesting point to consider is how rapidly changing technologies present unique opportunities for architects. Smart buildings and green energy are quickly becoming more and more sought after in building designs. Architects can establish themselves as sustainable designers who specialise in green design. They can also specialise in bringing technology to buildings, becoming a sort of smart designer.
With the focus on the Internet of Things and the push for more Environmentally friendly building approaches, these two specialisations can lead to huge career potential.