Everything You Need to Know About Being an Architect

Two architects discussing project at high table in modern studio
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Architects design structures such as houses, apartment complexes, shopping centers, office buildings, and factories. In addition to considering their physical appearance, they also make sure these structures will be functional, safe, economical, and suit the needs of the people who will use them.

The majority of the time, architects work in an office. There, they meet with clients, draft plans, work on cost estimates, file permit applications with municipal building departments, and help clients set up agreements with contractors.

 Architects also have to visit construction sites to check the progress of projects and make sure contractors are building them according to their plans.

Quick Facts

  • Architects, in 2018, earned a median annual salary of $97,522.
  • Almost 110,000 people worked in this occupation.
  • Most jobs are in architectural and engineering firms.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field will grow more slowly than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.

Roles and Responsibilities

According to Indeed.com, these are some typical job duties taken from online ads for architect jobs:

  • "Lead and develop projects from early concept through design development"
  • "Prepare drawings, specifications and construction documents"
  • "Design and document commercial and industrial building projects"
  • "Consult with client to determine client's needs and wants"
  • "Coordinate preliminary architectural studies for major new structures and alterations to existing structures and site development"
  • "Organize and manage permit documents"
  • "Work with teams across business lines, in remote locations, and coordinate with subcontractors"
  • "Resolve complex design issues with innovative and practical solutions"
  • "Modify existing plans and elevations to fit client and sales needs"

Education and Licensing Requirements

If you want to become an architect, you will have to earn a professional degree in architecture.

You can complete one of the following programs offered at many colleges and universities:

  • 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) program intended for students entering college from high school or with no previous architectural training
  • 2-year Master of Architecture (MArch) program for students with pre-professional undergraduate degrees in architecture or a related area
  • 3 or 4-year Master of Architecture program offered to students with degrees in other disciplines

In most states in the U.S., you must earn a professional degree in architecture from a school accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). You can search for a program on the NAAB website.

In the United States, you will have to get a professional license from the state or municipality where you want to provide your services. To become a licensed architect, you must first earn a professional degree in architecture, complete a period of practical training or an internship, and pass all divisions of the ARE (Architect Registration Examination). In most states, continuing education is required to maintain licensure. To find out what the requirements are where you plan to work, use the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop

What Soft Skills Will Help You Succeed in This Career?

While meeting your education and licensing requirements are essential, you also need certain personal qualities, known as soft skills, to succeed as an architect. These are some of them:

  • Creativity: You must be able to create designs for buildings and other structures.
  • Visualization: You need to be able to see, in your mind's eye, what those structures will look like once they are complete.
  • Verbal Communication: This skill will allow you to describe your ideas to your clients and colleagues.
  • Active Listening: In addition to clearly communicating information to others, you must be able to understand what others are sharing with you.
  • Problem Solving: Problems will inevitably arise during most building projects. You must be able to quickly identify and then solve them to keep the project moving forward.
  • Critical Thinking: Good problem solving requires the ability to evaluate possible solutions before choosing the most promising one.

The Truth About Being an Architect

  • If you become an architect, you will likely have to work overtime (more than 40 hours per week), at least occasionally, to meet deadlines.
  • Approximately 20% of architects are self-employed.
  • While you will spend most of your time working in an office, you can also expect to travel, sometimes far away, to construction sites.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

  • "Strong written and verbal skills, fluency and grammar"
  • "Ability to perform duties at other than normal working hours and days as required by projects or tasks"
  • "Ability to produce 2D & 3D design drawings for meeting presentations"
  • "Must be knowledgeable in the applicable building codes"
  • "Team player with a positive attitude"
  • "Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

You should always consider your interestspersonality type, and work-related values when choosing an occupation. If you have the following traits, a career as an architect may be suitable for you:

Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Architect? Take this quiz to find out.

Occupations With Related Tasks and Activities



Median Annual Wage


Minimum Required Education/Training

Landscape Architect

Designs shopping centers, college campuses, residential areas and golf courses to make them both beautiful and functional$63,480Bachelor of Landscape Architecture or Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture
Architectural DrafterTurns architects' designs into technical drawings using special software$51,640Associate Degree or Certificate in Drafting
Environmental EngineerUses knowledge of engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry to solve environmental problems$84,890Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Engineering
Agricultural EngineerDesigns machinery, processes, and structures that are used in agriculture$73,640Bachelor's Degree in Engineering With a Concentration in Agricultural Engineering

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited December 19, 2017).