Architect: job description

Architect: job description

Architects design new buildings and suggest alterations to existing buildings.
It takes around seven years of study and training to qualify as an architect.

What does an architect do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Architects create designs for new projects, alterations and redevelopments. They use their specialist construction knowledge and high level drawing skills to design buildings that are functional, safe, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.

Architects stay involved throughout the construction process, adapting their plans according to budget constraints, environmental factors or client needs. As such, they operate as part of an overall project team; they work closely with a range of construction professionals from quantity surveyors to building services engineers.

Typical work activities include:

  • creating building designs and highly detailed drawings both by hand and by using specialist computer-aided design (CAD) applications
  • liaising with construction professionals about the feasibility of potential projects
  • working around constraining factors such as town planning legislation, environmental impact and project budget
  • working closely with a team of other professionals such as building service engineers, construction managers, quantity surveyors and architectural technologists
  • applying for planning permission and advice from governmental new build and legal departments
  • writing and presenting reports, proposals, applications and contracts
  • choosing the materials to be used and specifying the requirements for the project
  • adapting plans according to circumstances and resolving any problems that may arise during construction
  • making sure the project is running according to schedule and budget
  • playing a part in project and team management
  • travelling regularly to building sites, proposed locations and client meetings

For the most part an architect’s working day will be office based. However, site visits and meetings with clients are frequent, so travel can figure prominently.

Working hours are typically 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday, but architects may also have to work extra hours, evenings and weekends to meet tight deadlines.

Most architects work for private firms, but chartered architects often set up their own practice.

For information on salaries see our construction salary guide.

Training and continual professional development are key features of the work. Career progression is possible through partnership or specialisation.

Vacancies are advertised online, by careers services, specialist recruitment agencies and in local and national newspapers. Relevant career publications such as the RIBA Journal, Design, Architects' Journal and their online equivalents also carry advertisements.

It can be a lucrative career but a flexible approach is key; the amount of work available is closely tied up with the state of the property market and the economy.

Typical employers of architects

  • Private architect practices
  • Large construction companies
  • Public sector bodies
  • Large industry organisations (such as large retailers)

Qualifications and training required

‘Architect’ is a protected title that only qualified professionals registered with the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB) may use. Qualification requires at least seven years of combined study and practical experience, accomplished in three parts as dictated by the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA). All three parts are vital steps in the qualification process.

Part one is a RIBA-accredited undergraduate course of three to four years, followed by a year gaining professional experience in a practice. A further two years of advanced study is required for part two followed by a further year of professional experience. Part three involves an examination that draws on the experience gained from parts one and two. On achieving part three an architect can register with the ARB and apply for chartered membership with the RIBA.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is widely encouraged and chartered architects are required to carry out a minimum of 35 hours of CPD every year. Most of your further training will take place in-house with the firm you work for.

There are no conversion courses in architecture; all prospective students must start with an accredited undergraduate degree (RIBA part 1).

Key skills for architects

  • Excellent communication skills, both written and oral
  • High levels of creativity, imagination and vision
  • A keen interest in the built environment and the dedication to see projects to their conclusion
  • Willingness to work long hours, under time and budget pressure
  • Excellent design and drafting skills and proficiency with computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Strong mathematical skills
  • A keen eye for the detail of specific tasks, combined with an understanding of how such specifics fit in with the project as a whole
  • Organisational, project management and planning skills, including the ability to juggle multiple tasks
  • An analytical mind with excellent problem-solving ability
  • Leadership skills as well as the ability to work well within a team of other professionals

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