ArchCareer: Architecture Career, Salary and Education


Do you want to be an Architect?

ArchEyes will lead you through the steps in becoming an architect. The “Three Es” of architecture will be your guide. They are: Education, Experience and Examination. Whether you are a high school student, a parent, a university student or an intern, these are the three core principles of the architecture profession. You must satisfy all three parts to call yourself an “Architect.”

This section will give you an overview to the varied and diverse paths to a career in architecture and of the requirements for registration. If you cannot find the answers to all of your questions here, you can to us for a personal response.

Much of this information is specific to the requirements and opportunities in the United States but may be applicable in other countries which have similar educational and licensure systems, such as Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Architecture Education

In the United States you should pursue a degree from an architecture program which is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) in order to meet the educational qualifications necessary to take the Architectural Registration Exam or “ARE.” There are other pathways to a license and you can read more about them on the NCARB Web site.

More than 100 architecture programs are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) in the United States. NAAB accredited professional programs in architecture leading to the Doctor of Architecture, Master of Architecture or Bachelor of Architecture degree.  Students may graduate from either a pre-professional architecture degree or undergraduate degree in another discipline and then complete an accredited Master of Architecture program.

The NAAB is the sole agency authorized to accredit U.S. degree programs in architecture. The listing of accredited programs is available on the NAAB Web site.

Information about education in Canada can be found from the Canadian Architectural Certification Board.

Internship & Experience Overview

Experience is the most diverse of the Three E’s of architecture. Interns can gain experience from working in small architecture firms, large firms, engineers, contractors, and other professionals in firms across the country and around the world. The common denominator for most is the Intern Development Program (IDP), and many interns personalize their internship experience within the confines of the program to gain rich professional development opportunities during their early careers.

The IDP is a comprehensive training program created to ensure that interns in the architecture profession gain the knowledge and skills required for the independent practice of architecture upon completion of the program. A typical internship may last three to five years.

One must complete the educational and training requirements to become a licensed architect. In most U.S. states, this training requirement is fulfilled by completing the IDP. The program is designed to take about three years and can begin prior to graduation when the appropriate requirements are fulfilled.

The IDP is offered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Additional resources are also offered by The American Institute of Architects (AIA). To request an IDP information packet or to enroll, please visit the NCARB Web site.

Examination & Licensure

Administered by NCARB, the Architect Registration Examination in (ARE) in the United States is the only part of the Three E’s of architecture that is consistent across all U.S licensing jurisdictions (the states and territories). The ARE is offered electronically at testing centers around the country. Each of the exam’s divisions may be taken in any order at any time by a candidate who has been deemed eligible to test by a jurisdiction. Some jurisdications might have additional requirements (like an additional oral exam/interview).

Interns are required to pass each division of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) to satisfy the examination requirement. The ARE is administered on a year-round basis. The divisions of the exam are as follows:

  • Programming Planning & Practice
  • Site Planning & Design
  • Building Design & Construction Systems
  • Schematic Design
  • Structural Systems
  • Building Systems
  • Construction Documents & Services

The content of the ARE is based on the knowledge and skills required of a newly registered architect, practicing independently, to provide architectural services. The ARE evaluates an applicant’s competence in the provision of architectural services to protect the public health, safety and welfare. For more information about the ARE, refer to NCARB.

Important Qualities for Architects

Analytical skills. Architects must understand the content of designs and the context in which they were created. For example, architects must understand the locations of mechanical systems and how those systems affect building operations.

Communication skills. Architects share their ideas, both in oral presentations and in writing, with clients, other architects, and workers who help prepare drawings. Many also give presentations to explain their ideas and designs.

Creativity. Architects design the overall look of houses, buildings, and other structures. Therefore, the final product should be attractive and functional.

Organizational skills. Architects often manage contracts. Therefore, they must keep records related to the details of a project, including total cost, materials used, and progress.

Technical skills. Architects need to use CADD technology to create plans as part of building information modeling (BIM).

Visualization skills. Architects must be able to see how the parts of a structure relate to each other. They also must be able to visualize how the overall building will look once completed.

Architect Salaries

The median annual wage for architects in the USA was $74,520 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,910.

Some firms pay tuition and fees toward continuing education requirements for their employees.

Most architects work full time and many work additional hours, especially when facing deadlines. Self-employed architects may have more flexible work hours.

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