How to Become an Architect in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for architects. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering AutoCAD Drafting & Design Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Architect Do?

As an architect, you'd design the interiors and exteriors of buildings where people live, work, shop and play. In accomplishing this objective, architects first discuss the requirements and desires of the job with the client in order to prepare preliminary estimates of costs and feasibility of the project. They then prepare structural specifications and create scaled drawings along with appropriate building contracts. Using the contracts, work contractors are secured. The architect then manges the actual construction to ensure compliance with the architectural plans.

The following chart provides an overview about this career.

Degree Required Professional bachelor's or master's degree typically accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB)
Field of Study Architecture
Training Required Complete Intern Development Program (IDP)
Key Responsibilities Work with clients to determine design requirements; estimate equipment, material, financial and time requirements; draft blueprints and other design documents; oversee construction to ensure compliance with specifications
Licensure or Certification All states require architects to be licensed, voluntary certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) may permit reciprocity with state licensing requirements
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7%*
Median Salary (2015) $76,100 (Except Landscape and Naval Architects)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is an Architect?

As an architect, your designs must balance competing needs for functionality, safety, aesthetic value and cost efficiency. From initial client discussions to final delivery, you'll be involved in every phase of a project, and you'd therefore need knowledge of engineering along with solid communication, management and supervisory skills.

Architecture degree programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Architects typically earn both a bachelor's and master's degree before beginning their professional careers, but you have some flexibility in how you can proceed. With an associate's degree or bachelor's degree you are able to work entry-level positions, such as a drafter. To become a licensed architect, you'll need a professional degree accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Professional degrees include the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) and the Master of Architecture (M.Arch.). A doctoral degree qualifies you for research and postsecondary teaching positions.

Step 1: Start Preparing in High School

If possible, start preparing for your architecture education in high school. Courses in geometry, algebra, pre-calculus and physics develop your skills with mathematical precision. Courses in the arts and humanities may develop your aesthetic sensibility. Much of modern architecture is designed using computer-aided design (CAD) programs, so familiarity with technology and computers will be helpful.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor's degree programs in architecture survey the history of the discipline, introduce you to fundamental design concepts and acquaint you with the properties of materials. Courses examine interior space and proportions, structural systems, environmental systems and building technology. Professional B.Arch. programs are typically completed in five years. You could also pursue a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree in architecture, but these degrees are considered to be pre-professional, and they don't qualify you for state licensure. Some schools offer 5-year combined bachelor's and master's degree programs.

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree

Master's degree programs in architecture integrate theoretical, technological, historical and cultural factors into your design process as well as exploring how to engage in a community's cultural conversation by shaping its built environment. Ecologically sustainable building practices, historic preservation and urban planning are other possible areas of interest and exploration. Some schools have separate academic tracks depending on whether your bachelor's degree is in architecture or in an unrelated subject. For example, if you earned a pre-professional degree in architecture, it may only take you two years to earn your M.Arch. If your degree is in an area other than architecture, you'll likely enroll on a 3-year track.

Step 4: Complete an Internship

Before you're eligible for state licensing, you'll need to complete a training period under the supervision of a licensed architect. Most training periods last three years, and most architecture program graduates meet the obligation by working an internship. As of 2014, a majority of architects worked for architectural and engineering services firms, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), so you could look to one of these firms for internship opportunities.

Step 5: Become Certified and Licensed

All architects must have state licenses to offer professional services. Apart from earning a degree and completing an internship, you must pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). The ARE consists of nine divisions containing either graphical questions or multiple choice questions.

The NCARB also offers national certification to architects who can provide verification of their educational history, employment record and professional references. Certification isn't required, but having it could make applying for licensing across states easier for you. According to the BLS, around 33% of licensed architects were also certified as of 2014.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The occupation of urban or regional planner is closely related to that of architect, though as of 2015, according to the BLS, only New Jersey required planners to be licensed. The job of urban or regional planner deals with the creation of programs and plans that develop and/or revitalize communities. This is done with an eye toward population growth and the accommodation of the needs and requirements of the town, city, county or metropolitan area involved. Prior work experience as an architect may be required.

With only an associate's degree, drafters play an integral part in the accomplishment of an architect's job. Working closely with architects and structural engineers, drafters use their specialized training on computer-aided design (CAD) software to convert architectural and engineering designs into technical drawings. These drawings act as the pattern for the construction project.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools