Should I become an architect?

Posted 02 November 2020
Student photographs cultural sculpture in Kingston town centre

Architects are professionals trained to use specialist creative and technical skills to design new buildings or extensions to preexisting constructions. Sought-after because of their creative ability paired with practical knowledge, architects benefit from exciting, varied careers. They often have the opportunity to work on individual buildings or on large redevelopment schemes, and sometimes even the design of the surrounding landscape and spaces.

What to expect as an architect

Architecture is a challenging yet rewarding profession, in which you can expect many of the following elements:

High earning potential

Qualified architects, with solid work experience and impressive degree qualifications, will expect to earn between £32,000 and £45,000 per year. Progression is highly coveted in this profession, as the salary can rise up to £70,000 a year for senior associates, partners or directors of architectural practices.

Good career progression

If you work for a larger firm, you can expect decent avenues of professional progression. Private practices employ permanent, salaried architects who can eventually benefit from the opportunity to become a partner or associate. Becoming a chartered architect is important for career development and will assist your job progression.

Competitive work environment

When you graduate and have completed the necessary amount of work experience, you will be primed to enter the industry with the relevant skills and knowledge. This does not mean you won’t face competition though - many candidates with similar qualifications will be trying to get into the more prestigious architectural firms.

Travel through work

Architecture is a globally cultivated art, and has the potential to take you all over the world. Whether you are working on practical structures or designing modern, innovative buildings, your skills as an architect will be coveted by commissioners and employers in many different countries.

Space to be creative

Creative thinking is at the heart of architecture. Architects have to use their creativity to come up with new design ideas and solve structural problems. You will have the freedom to use your imagination in your daily work, which is something few jobs can offer, and be able to take inspiration from all aspects of life.

What skills do I need to become an architect?

As mentioned before, an architect needs to possess a number of skills to make them a strong candidate for the competitive job market. Before undergoing the required training and education, students looking to study architecture should have the following initial qualities to make sure they are a good fit for their future career:

  • Good analytical skills
  • Decent mathematical ability
  • Knowledge of basic physics
  • A great imagination and affinity for creative thinking
  • Solid technical, IT-based skills
  • The ability to be accurate and pay attention to detail
  • Strong teamwork and organisational skills
  • The ability to communicate clearly and effectively
  • An awareness of commercial business and interest in structural design

What qualifications do I need to become an architect?

Degrees

As architecture is a highly-specialised discipline, there are multiple educational options if you want to pursue this as a career. In the UK, the most direct route into the profession is a recognised university degree, which you will have to interview for with a design portfolio to gain a place on. This will need to be followed by a recognised postgraduate degree.

Work experience

The majority of recognised degrees include work placements, designed to help you gain as much valuable experience of working in architecture as possible. Additionally to an undergraduate and postgraduate degree, you will need external work experience too.

Further qualification

Once you have completed this along with your studies, you will need to register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) to become a fully licensed architect. Furthermore, you can choose to become a Chartered Architect, through membership with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

How can I start an architecture degree?

This may seem like a complex route into a career, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. If you are interested in starting your journey into architecture by studying your undergraduate degree in the UK, the International Study Centre offers progressional programmes to prepare you to study at Kingston University London. Our International Foundation Year in Science, Engineering and Computing offers a pathway into BA Architecture at this innovative school, and will give you all the base knowledge and academic skills you need to be a successful student in the UK.

How long does it take to become an architect?

  • Gaining a degree in architecture and completing all the necessary post-graduate qualifications can take up to seven years. This time is made up of:
  • Undergraduate study - an approved first degree in architecture will take three or four years, depending on whether or not the course includes a placement year.
  • First practical experience - graduates will need to spend a year in an official work placement, where they are supervised and recorded by construction professionals.
  • Postgraduate study - usually a Diploma or MArch, this period of further study will take up to two more years.
  • Second practical experience - another year of supervised and recorded professional experience is required to make up the necessary 24 months of work placement.
  • Professional qualification - an exam on architectural practice and management that allows students to register with the ARB and RIBA, which students can take once they have completed all of the above.

Career opportunities

As a fully-qualified architecture graduate, you will benefit from flexibility in the working world. Unlike many other professions that require knowledge of mathematics or science, architects are not bound by a set career structure, and can often find work independently or as part of an architectural firm within many different industries. Once an experienced member of the Board, it is not uncommon for an architect to set up their own practice, which can be rewarding as an entrepreneurial venture. However, if you do desire employment with a more structured career progression, you can seek out larger private practice firms, as they generally offer more opportunities for natural advancement.

To take your first step towards becoming a successful architect, find out more about studying a preparational programme at the International Study Centre and how you can gain the skills and knowledge needed to make the most of studying in the UK.

Find out more about starting your studies or check the latest COVID-19 information.