How to Become an Architect

The number of jobs in the construction sector may have gone down since the economic crash but architecture is still a well-paid career. In fact there is actually a housing shortage in the UK and house prices are rocketing. This means that the area is likely to see a huge amount of growth and should provide quite a bit of work for talented architects. If you have a talent for drawing then this can be a career that you would enjoy. As this area is likely to see quite a bit of growth this guide will try to show you the best way to become an architect.

What Do Architects Do?

Architects have a very varied role, but at the most basic level they are the people who are responsible for the designing stage of construction. Whether it is the design of a house, an extension or a restoration of a historic building, an architect is responsible for all of these tasks. To a large degree they are in control of the project making sure that the people who actually do the manual work stick to their plans which are often in place for safety, aesthetic or even legal reasons. They effectively act as project managers as they are aware of all of the zoning laws and manage all of the paperwork involved. For this work they are very well rewarded financially.

Typical functions that architects may perform are:

  • Discussing the requirements and budget of a project with client and telling them whether or not it is feasible.
  • Designing a project using Computer Aided Design or (CAD) software.
  • Checking local zoning and planning laws to make sure that plans conform to the requirements.
  • Specifying what materials will be needed for the project such as if restoring an old building if specialist paint had to be used for legal purposes.
  • Preparing all of the tender and other documentation is in place for projects to be approved.
  • Making sure that the project runs on time and to budget within set parameters as it is likely to go slightly over or under budget.


It is a good career but with a limited number of jobs available. However, it is a tough course lasting seven years so there are not that many architects. Once you do become a qualified architect the salary is extremely good and with some experience the monetary rewards get extremely enticing.

Trainee Architects Part 1

£14,000 - £20,000

Trainee Architects Part 2

£18,000 - £25,000

Qualified Architect

£26,000 - £40,000 or higher

Experienced Architect

£40,000 - £80,000 or higher


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Of course much the same as most careers, your income is ultimately based on your skills, experience and geographical location. The amount you earn is based on how much your employers are able to pay you. It also depends on whether you choose to work for yourself as many architects do. If you do then the financial rewards can be much higher. Of course the financial risk is also much higher but this is the price you pay.

What Qualifications Are Needed

One of the main aspects of becoming an architect is that even before applying to university you should be quite talented at drawing and have a portfolio of work to show the university. Becoming an architect is not an easy task and in all reality you have to earn a degree from a university plus have two years of practical work experience to even take the final exams. All of this work amounts to a minimum of seven years to become a qualified Royal Institute of British Architects or (RIBA) Architect. This is how the process breaks down:

  • Three-years, full-time undergraduate BA or BSc degree in architecture
  • 12 months’ paid professional experience in an architectural practice Part 1
  • Two-years of full time study for example a BArch, Diploma or MArch
  • 12 months paid experience Stage 2
  • Professional Practice exam (RIBA III)

As the ability to draw and use CAD are extremely important for architects practising both your drawing skills as well as becoming a CAD ninja before going to university could be extremely beneficial. You would be ahead of your class as CAD programs can be quite tricky to learn how to use at first. AutoCAD is probably the most commonly used CAD programme so learning how to use this programme would be a good idea. You could use free trials and free student versions in conjunction with the huge number of free online tutorials available to become quite proficient and put yourself a step ahead of the competition.

Professional Development

There are good prospects for career development as if you choose not to specialise during the second part of your degree you can choose to pursue  a certain area of architecture such as historical restoration which could be quite lucrative but also has much less work than ‘commerical’ or ‘residential’ style architecture.

Of course there is the case of progressing in seniority, which is only really possible when an architect is working within another organisation especially within the public sector where they could become a chief architect. Other options available include lecturing or consulting.

Career Prospects

If you have talent, experience and a passion for the work then you can be extremely successful as an architect. You can earn a huge amount of money and even design yourself a very nice house exactly the way you want. Overall, though it is a lucrative career path to follow, it will take between five to ten years to become a fully qualified and working architect.