How Do I Become an Architect?

Research what it takes to become an architect. Learn about educational requirements, licensure, salary and job outlook info to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering AutoCAD Drafting & Design Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Architect?

Architects design buildings ranging from residential homes and movie theaters to churches and office complexes. They work closely with clients to assess their requirements and desires for the project, and then begin preparing documents and scaled drawings of the design. Architects may use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) software to create their schematics, or they may draw by hand. They also prepare the cost estimates for the client, as well as a construction timeline. They often visit the construction site to make sure that the building process is adhering to the design and specifications. Architects need to be willing to collaborate with other professionals, including civil engineers, building contractors and drafters, to complete a project. The table below outlines the facts you need to know about becoming an architect.

Degree Required Professional bachelor's or master's degree
Education Field of Study Architecture (from an accredited architecture program)
Training Required Internship (varies by state)
Licensure Required License is required in all states; candidates must pass the Architect Registration Examination
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% (not including landscape and naval architects)*
Average Salary (2015) $82,850 (not including landscape and naval architects)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Explore Degree Options for Becoming an Architect

In most states, you must obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited school of architecture to become an architect. You'll find this is different from a bachelor's degree in architectural history or building design. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 123 professional schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

If you have no previous education in architecture you may participate in a 5-year professional architectural program that will allow you to become an architect. If you have already earned a bachelor's degree in another major, you may enroll in a master's degree architectural program. The BLS states these graduate programs may take up to five years to complete depending on your previous experience and training in architecture.

Some of the courses offered in architectural programs include construction methods, physical sciences, mathematics, architectural history, structures and professional practice.

Complete a Professional Internship

After earning a professional architecture degree from an accredited National Architectural Accrediting Board program, you must undergo a state-mandated period of internship before you can obtain your architecture license. Many states participate in the Intern Development Program created by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Your internship program may last up to three years, depending on your state's requirements. This portion of an architect's education is important because it will offer you experience working in all aspects of the industry. You'll be under the direct supervision of a licensed architect who will be legally responsible for your work. You'll assist with design projects, research building codes and perform other duties. The internship is designed to give you a clear understanding of your career options and to help you develop a sense of professionalism for your occupation.

Take the Architect Registration Examination

The final step before you can become a professional architect is to pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). This intensive test covers every area of architectural practice and emphasizes the importance of being knowledgeable in all areas of this occupation. For example, you'll need to know about topics such as site planning, lateral forces, general structures and building design. Your state may require continuing education to maintain or renew your license.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A couple of similar careers that require at least a bachelor's degree are those of civil engineers and construction managers. Architects will often work with these professionals on projects. Civil engineers develop and maintain various construction projects, some of which include public transportation structures like roads and bridges. Construction managers oversee construction of a project from beginning to end. Urban and regional planners are additional alternatives that require a master's degree. These professionals help communities expand and plan for additional population growth.

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:

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