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A Career as an Architect

If you are creative, enjoy variety, want to solve real-world problems and think inventing structures like houses, office buildings and hospitals sounds like fun, consider a career as an architect.

The median pay for architects is $78,470 per year and the occupation is growing at a 4 percent rate. One in five architects is self-employed, and if you choose to work for yourself, you may increase your options as you move to new assignments.

As an architect, you may plan and design houses or offices, work on public or private projects and focus on one room or an entire building complex. Some of your duties may include the following:

  • Meeting with clients to determine objectives and requirements for structures
  • Estimating required materials, equipment and construction time
  • Preparing structure specifications
  • Directing workers who prepare drawings and documents
  • Preparing scaled drawings with computer software and by hand
  • Creating contract documents for building contractors
  • Managing construction contracts
  • Visiting work sites to ensure that construction follows architectural plans
  • Seeking new opportunities by marketing and giving presentations

You will need good communication skills to collaborate with others in related occupations, such as civil engineers, urban and regional planners, interior designers and landscape architects. Other attributes that will make you a successful architect include the following:

  • Strong drawing and sketching skills
  • Excellent computer skills and technical abilities
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Business expertise
  • Vision and follow-through
  • Passion for your work
  • Awareness of new standards and methods
  • Meeting customer needs and budget

Education and training

To become an architect, you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Acquire a bachelor's degree in architecture.
  2. Obtain relevant experience through a paid internship, a requirement of most states. The Intern Development Program, or IDP, is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, or NCARB, and is a tool that aids architecture interns in gaining appropriate experience while working with a firm.
  3. Pass the Architect Registration Exam, or ARE.

Currently, 35 states require architects to hold a professional degree in architecture from one of 122 schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Find state licensing requirements on the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards or use the CareerOneStop License Finder tool. You can also visit the Department of Labor Military Spouse License Recognition Map for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state.

If you move due to a PCS, your service branch can now help reimburse licensure and certification costs up to $500. Learn more

Once you have made the decision to pursue a career as an architect, you can explore the many tools and resources on MySECO to assist with education planning. College Scorecard is a great starting point for researching and selecting an education institution. When you visit College Scorecard, search by program/degree, location, size and more to find a program of study near you. You can also use the Scholarship Finder to locate funding relevant to the military community to help pay for classes. See if you are eligible for the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship to help with education or licensure costs.

High school graduates may enroll in a Bachelor of Architecture program, typically a five-year program. Many will then earn a master’s degree in architecture, which can take between one and five years. 

If time to earn a degree and money to pay for your education are concerns, think about completing a two-year associate degree, possibly in drafting and design or architectural engineering technology through a community college, technical school or university, particularly if you are eligible for My Career Advancement Account assistance. Try to find a program where the credits you earn will transfer toward your bachelor's degree. With an associate degree, you may find employment as a drafter — median salary of $54,170 — or an estimator — median salary $63,110, earn income and start gaining experience until you're ready to complete your bachelor's degree. Many employers offer education benefits, and you may find additional funding assistance on the Scholarship Finder.

Finding employment

Employment opportunities for architects are increasing in the following areas:

  • Construction and renovation of homes, offices, retail stores and other structures
  • New facilities for school districts and universities
  • Health care facilities as the baby-boomer population ages
  • Green design or sustainable design for efficient use of resources

Look for architectural job openings on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search, where hundreds of partner employers, including Black & Veatch, have made the commitment to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers. You can also search for federal government positions on USAJOBS. 

Consider volunteering, if possible, or doing an internship and proactively networking to build your contacts and experience. Tell family, friends, co-workers and all others that you are hoping for a career as an architect and ask for contacts they might have who can help you build and expand your network.

Professional organizations and networking

You may wish to consider joining a professional organization in your career field to gain a better understanding of current industry trends in architecture. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Networking with other professionals will give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to obtain an interview or restart your career at your new location. They may provide important information about available internships and jobs, additional learning opportunities, seminars, networking events, hiring fairs and more. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Next steps

To learn more about architectural careers, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO and investigate your options. Take self-assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with your career choice. Talk to others in the field and get their feedback. Call 800-342-9647 and speak with a career coach to discuss career or education choices, searching for a job or overcoming challenges. Coaches are available to review your resume, practice interviewing, discuss networking or assist you in understanding employer requirements for this field.

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