Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CAREER PATHS / AUG. 31, 2016
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How to Become an Architect in the UK


So, are you thinking of becoming an architect? Here is what you need to know if you want to become the next Gaudi or Hadid of the twenty-first century.

Architecture is a popular subject to study at university. It combines Science, technology and art, and can help you develop communication and personal skills as well as several professional qualities.

Architects are responsible for designing and overseeing the construction of homes, commercial buildings and other structures. They have to be highly educated and licensed individuals to ensure the functionality and safety of all the projects they take on. This article will provide you with a deeper look at the profession, as well as the educational and licensure requirements if you want to become a successful architect.

Understanding the Profession

Contrary to popular belief, being a successful architect requires more than just an ability to draw. An architect is involved in the entire process of constructing a new building or structure; from envisioning the idea to communicating all the plans to potential clients to overseeing the construction and making sure the final result is fit for purpose. Architects usually have the following skills and talents.

  • They are creative: have original ideas to build a well designed and functional structure to fit their surroundings.
  • They are excellent communicators: It is not enough just having a vision; they must also be able to communicate effectively and share their ideas, visions and presentations with potential clients.
  • They are science-minded: Architecture is not just a creative subject- it combines both science and art. When designing a building that is beautiful and elegant, they must also know how to make a building look beautiful, safe and sturdy; therefore, knowledge of physics and mathematics is required.

Different Types of Architects

young architect working in architect studio Shutterstock

As mentioned earlier, there are several types of architects out there with some of them working for firms who oversee the entire project from the start until finish whereas others use their skills in various parts of their industry.

  • Construction firms hiring architects to oversee the construction of their projects - work as project managers.
  • Some architects may work on certain type of buildings such as hospitals, high-security facilities or schools. They could also be responsible for the restoration of old buildings.
  • Landscape architects are focused on the spaces outside buildings and usually have a background in plant sciences as well.
  • Other architects focus on design while also making sure they meet building codes to satisfy their clients.

Becoming an Architect in the U.K

We all know that becoming an architect is a slow and long process; it takes at least 7 years of full-time study and work to qualify as an architect. The entire process is regulated by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The process is split into three parts: the first and most important part is obtaining a bachelor’s degree (BA or BSc) which usually takes three years of full-time study, giving you a free student membership of RIBA upon your graduation.

As soon as you graduate you can start working on the second part of your educational journey to become an architect, the part where you develop stronger and deeper architectural skills. But people typically take a take a year out for practical experience before moving on to the second part. This year is monitored by a Professional Studies Advisor and gives you a first glance at the architectural world.

Part 2 usually consists of two-years full-time postgraduate study to enhance your key skills and ideas by undertaking project work throughout the entire course.

The final stage of your architectural training requires you to complete a total of 2 years practical training before taking the final exams. If you chose the typical route towards qualification, then you already have one of the two years completed. You need to make sure that a minimum of 12 months is completed in an EEA country, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

So, once you have completed all your professional training, you can undertake the final course at a RIBA validated institution and take the final examination.

After 7 years of hard work, sleepless nights and dedication you will be able to graduate and register as an Architect with the Architects Registration Board.

Studying Architecture

architects shutterstock

Studying architecture, whether it is at an undergraduate or a postgraduate level, is very different to other courses, for example, design modules are taught in a studio and critiques are an important aspect of your course. You have to present your work constantly to your tutors and mentors for feedback as well as attend seminars, tutorials and lectures - when you are not visiting important buildings or attending field trips, that is.

Several universities offer work-based modules to help their students gain professional experience whereas other universities offer specialist subjects such as sustainability or town planning. Therefore, all universities have their own teaching styles, and which one you choose depends on the architectural education you want to gain. The wise thing for you to do would be to research all potential universities and find out what they offer. You can also attend their open days and get a clearer view of what their course will be like.

Entry Requirements

Architecture is a subject rarely studied before university and therefore, many people believe that your previous knowledge and experience does not matter. But, this is not the case, architecture is linked to several subjects - most importantly science, maths and art. Most universities require a portfolio of your design work where you can demonstrate your abilities to create 3D models as well as draw freehand. Some people even say that the portfolio is the most important thing about your university application.

For an undergraduate degree you will need:

  • At least 5 GCSEs (A-C) including physics or chemistry, maths and English.
  • 3 A levels - most universities prefer maths or a science subject.
  • Most universities require a portfolio of sketches and drawings.
  • Some universities offer places based on an Access or Higher Education course.
  • International Baccalaureate with a minimum of 32 points.

Currently, most UK institutions give offers based on A-levels results, but they also look at GCSE and AS levels - especially maths and English results. There are also some architecture schools that recognise Further Education and work experience - this especially applies to mature students who do not have GCSEs or A levels. Also, the majority of prospective students are called in for an interview before they are given an offer.

When applying for a “part 2” (postgraduate course), you need to at least hold a bachelor's degree in architecture (and RIBA 1). Again, successful applicants will be required to attend an interview as well as present their portfolio from their undergraduate degree and work experience.

Best Places to Study Architecture

woman architect shutterstock

These universities offer the best architecture courses in the UK based on the Guardian 2016 University Guide rankings below:

  1. University College London
  2. Cardiff University
  3. University of Kent
  4. University of Bath
  5. University of Huddersfield
  6. University of Sheffield
  7. University for the Creative Arts
  8. Coventry University
  9. Queen’s University Belfast
  10. Northumbria University

Working Hours, Conditions and Income

An architect in the UK usually works from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Sometimes, you may need to work for longer hours depending on the projects and deadlines you have. You will usually be based in an office. However, you will need to spend time visiting sites or having meetings with clients, builders and planning departments. Some jobs may even require you to work an on-call rota.

While salaries depend on your role and location, the highest salaries can be found in the south-east and London.

Registered architects typically earn from £30,000 to £34,000 a year. With a couple of years experience, this salary can easily rise to between £35,000 and £43,000.

Becoming an architect may be a long and arduous process, however, it can also be incredibly rewarding. You just have to be very patient, determined and work hard to eventually become one of the most aspiring professionals in the world.

Are you interested in becoming an architect? Share your views below…

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