Architecture Career Paths to Explore

Planning Your Architecture Career Path

For individuals considering a career in architecture or getting an architecture degree, the options are diverse in this burgeoning industry. With no signs of stopping, those who wish to pursue a future in the architecture and design fields can expect a rewarding career path that blends a great deal of responsibility with an opportunity to innovate interior and exterior landscapes across the globe. Depending on your areas of expertise, level of education whether you have a bachelor’s degree, and practical experience, your earning potential and ability for advancement as architecture graduates can increase exponentially.

The most successful architecture major candidates in this area will possess a comprehensive amalgam of skill sets, including analytical, mathematical, creative, organizational, visual, technical, and communicative capabilities. Because you’ll be responsible for designing the overall look and aesthetic of a residential or corporate structure, you must have the ability to create buildings and designs that are both ergonomic and attractive, as well as complementary to the existing surrounding architecture, particularly in instances of urban design development.

Blending form with function is only the beginning – an architect must also have the ability to grasp certain core elements, such as the engineering principles and analytical mindset needed to comprehend the content of blueprints and the context in which they were fabricated.

Additionally, having a keen sense of spatial relations is necessary in order to conceptualize and mastermind the working parts and how those structures will relate to each other, as well as the ability to visualize the completed structure at the onset of each project. Architects must have a broad knowledge of technical aptitude, including CADD technology and other software applications to create plans and blueprints required in the building information modeling (BIM) process.

Having a thorough understanding of the locations of mechanical systems and how those systems will affect building operations is only a fraction of the work entailed in this fast-paced industry. An ability to stay on-budget and work within the parameters of your firm or client’s budgetary restrictions is essential. Therefore, staying organized and keeping detailed records (including project costs, materials utilized, and tracking progress) is of utmost importance, since your work will most likely require the management of contracts as you progress in your career.

Finally, due to the collaborative nature of the work entailed, excellent communication skills will get you far in your career – with responsibilities that include oral presentations and shared ideas between clients, other architects, design teams and other professionals, having the ability to clearly express yourself is crucial to your career development and success.

Job Forecast for Architects: What to Expect

Thanks to an economic upswing, the job market for architects is on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there is a projected growth of 7% from 2014 to 2024, which is about as fast as the average medium for all occupations in the US.

Along with these current industry projections, there is also the benefit of a low unemployment rate (about 5.1%), making the job outlook for architects even more promising. In addition, the BLS statistics also state the Median Salary for this architecture career path is around $76K with a 1.9% unemployment rate.

As an architect, your job duties may comprise a number of different plan and design elements, including, but not limited to, the renovation and/or construction of residential dwellings (including private homes and apartment buildings), and commercial offices, with a heavy focus on new retail establishments (i.e., independently-owned stores and chain retailers), along with other types of similar structures.

There is also growth expected in school districts and universities nationwide, from building new facilities to the renovation or upgrading of existing buildings. The healthcare industry is also on the rise, with a subsequent need for facility expansion; this is not only due to the population’s increased utilization of healthcare services, but a steady demand for healthcare facilities to house the aging baby-boomer demographic.

Another element of architecture that has garnered an increase in visibility worldwide is the concept known as “green design” or “green architect“, a terminology that describes eco-friendly or sustainable design principles which you will learn as an architecture student. With an emphasis on an efficient usage of resources – such as water and energy conservation, a reduction in waste and pollution, and utilizing environmentally friendly materials and designs – it’s no wonder green design continues to grow in popularity across multiple platforms.

With an ever-increasing concern for the environment, rising energy costs and a need to seek green resources while decreasing our carbon footprint, architects are met with new and innovative challenges to fabricate sustainable designs worldwide.

Due to the recent technological developments and improvements in software, architects can also expect an increase in productivity while enjoying a more streamlined workflow. New and improved applications such as BIM and the latest versions of CADD allow architects to rely less heavily upon drafters, making it easier to share work and other collaborative efforts with contractors, engineers and clients.

For those seeking advancement in their architecture career paths, you may find an architecture firm that is willing to cover the expenses required for employees to return to school, including tuition fees and other tangential costs required for continuing education.

What Does an Architect Do?

Places are essential for people to live, work, play, learn, shop, and eat. Architects are responsible for designing both indoor and outdoor spaces for either public or private projects.  They have the opportunity to be commissioned to design anything as small as a single room to as big as an entire complex or buildings. 

Architects discuss the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project or multiple projects with a client before developing the final construction plans.  In certain cases architects may provide an assortment of pre-design services. This can include feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses, and architectural design requirements. 

Architects will then develop the final construction plans after discussing and agree to the initial proposal with the client. The plans will include the structural system – anything from the air-conditioning system to communication systems. It is possible for landscape design plans to be included in these plans as well. Architects must follow state and local building codes, zoning laws, and other ordinances while developing the final construction plan.

Overview of Architects Key Responsibilities

Architects take on a lot of responsibility and accountability in several areas. Their main responsibilities are as follows:

  • Meet with clients to determine objectives and requirements for structure
  • Provide estimates on cost and construction time 
  • Assemble structure specifications
  • Manage workers who prepare drawings and documents 
  • Develop scaled drawings, either with computer software or by hand 
  • Compose contract documents for building contractors 
  • Supervise construction contracts 
  • Visit worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans 
  • Seek new work opportunities by marketing and giving presentations

Architect Job Prospects: Looking Ahead

Due to the increasing number of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in architecture, design, and related fields, there will be a fair deal of competition in the internship arena and job market: the more prestigious the architectural firm, the greater the level of competition amongst your peers.

Therefore, it is to your benefit to keep your technical skills as up-to-date as possible, including CADD, BIM, and other state-of-the-art architecture programs including but not limited to:

  • Microstation
  • Sketchup
  • Revit Architecture
  • Softplan
  • Autodesk Revit
  • Vectorswork Architecture
  • AutoCad Architecture
  • Punch Software
  • Chief Architect
  • ArchiCAD

As discussed, recent architecture major graduates with experience and a thorough knowledge of sustainable design will have an edge on the competition.

Residential vs. Commercial

Designing for a commercial property is very different than designing for a residential property. Architects should be well versed in both design aspects, so they are able to comply with various client needs.

Residential architecture requires a partnership with an interior designer to ensure the home meets building codes and regulations. The architect and interior designer also work closely together to make sure the home is visually sound and livable. Once the structure has been designed, the rest of the work is left to the interior designer to find the right colors, lighting etc.

Designing for commercial properties is a much bigger operation than residential due to the larger buildings and stricter regulations. Often times the building requires elevators, cafeterias, parking areas, and bathrooms, all of which the architect has to keep in mind when designing for commercial. Commercial architects often work on specialized facilities like hospitals, hotels, and retail buildings. These facilities require a completely different architectural design process for the architect.

Popular Architecture Career Paths to Explore

  1. Architect: Before becoming an architect, it’s important that architect students obtain hands-on experience while they are in school to help launch their architect career. This process begins with internships. Students should complete an entry-level internship and continue on to second-year and third-year internship positions. Once internships are complete and students have graduated, they can move on to become a licensed architect. As licensed architects gain more and more experience, they can move up to senior architect/designer, and then on to project manager, department head, and so on. There is extensive room for growth as an architect/designer.
  2. Landscape Architect: Drawing upon a wealth of knowledge and expertise, this specialized area incorporates aspects of architecture, industrial design, botany, horticulture, fine arts, environmental psychology, geography, ecology, and even soil sciences. A multi-disciplinary field, a career opportunity in landscape architecture may entail designing parks and the outdoor spaces of recreational and commercial facilities, university campuses, private residences, and other open areas within urban, suburban and rural regions while incorporating principles of ecological sustainability.
  3. Interior Architecture: With a penchant for creating interior spaces that seamlessly blend form with functionality, an interior designer’s duties include a broad range of specialized skills. Designing spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing, the best interiors are utilitarian and fabricated to be safe for its inhabitants. Your duties will require a variety of creative and analytical skill sets, from coordinating patterns and selecting color and fabric schemes to reading blueprints and having in-depth knowledge of appropriate design software programs. In addition, a qualified interior designer must be aware of building codes, inspection regulations and universal accessibility standards, among other industry protocols.
  4. Urban and Regional Planner: Urban and regional planners are responsible for developing land use plans and programs that help facilitate the orderly development of communities while accommodating population growth. Although your primary focus will concentrate on the planning of settlements and communities, your tasks may also entail the planning and development of water usage and affiliated resources, rural and agricultural bodies of land and parks, and the conservation of environmentally significant areas. Your duties may also include the revitalization of physical facilities in towns, cities, counties and metropolitan regions.
  5. Civil Engineer: As a civil engineer, your work incorporates a multitude of working parts, including the designing, building, supervision, operation and maintenance of construction projects and systems in the public and private sectors. These jobs may include buildings, roads, airports, railroads, dams, bridges, harbors, tunnels, pipelines, power plants, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. In addition, your responsibilities include protecting public and environment health, as well as upgrading or improving existing infrastructures that may have been neglected or fallen into disrepair. Most civil engineers are specialized in their industry, with specialties including construction engineering, transportation engineering, structural engineering, and environmental engineering, among others. Some civil engineers (especially those working for government agencies) may practice across multiple specializations, particularly if they’re involved in critical infrastructure development or maintenance.
  6. Construction ManagerFor those wishing to seek a career opportunity in construction project management (CM), your day-to-day work will span a broad spectrum of tasks, from planning and coordinating to budgeting and supervising construction drawings and projects from start to finish. CM is a professional service typically reserved for large-scale, lengthy, and high-budget undertakings, such as commercial real estate, military infrastructure, industrial facilities, transportation infrastructure, and other similar endeavors; in the industry, these are known as ‘capital projects’. Ultimately, your responsibility is to efficiently manage and control a project’s time, cost and quality based on demanding and comprehensive client specs. Keeping this information in mind, this is a senior-level position and requires a great deal of career experience and qualifications.
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