The Job and What's Involved

Architects work in the construction industry designing new buildings and the spaces in and around them. They also help restore and conserve old buildings, and develop new ways of using existing buildings. They are involved in construction projects from the earliest stages right through to completion.

Their work involves:

  • Preparing and presenting design proposals to clients.
  • Preparing tender and planning applications and presentations.
  • Advising clients on the practicality of their project.
  • Producing detailed drawings from which costings are made.
  • Negotiating with contractors and other professionals.
  • Attending regular meetings with clients, contractors and other specialists.
  • Co-ordinating the work of contractors.
  • Making site visits to check on progress.
  • Making sure that the project is running within the agreed time frame.
  • Dealing with problems that might come up during building.

The design process begins with developing initial ideas with the client. The architect asks detailed questions to find out exactly what the client wants and how much money is available for the project. The needs of people who will use the building, and the impact of the building on the local community and the environment must also be taken into account.

The architect then produces designs using computer-aided design (CAD), showing how the spaces in the building will be organised, what the building will look like in its environment and how it will be built. On a large project, a team of architects produce the designs.

Most designs need approval from bodies such as local planning and building control departments, as well as from the client. Once the designs have been accepted, the architect produces detailed drawings for the builder to use. When building is under way, the architect visits the site to check progress and inspect the work.

Architects work closely with other professionals on every project, including engineers, surveyors, architectural technicians and technologists, to make sure that their buildings meet the necessary standards. They also work closely with construction specialists on site and oversee the project from beginning to end.

Architects usually work 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday. However, they may also have to work extra hours in the evenings or at weekends to meet deadlines. Overtime may not always be paid. There are a few opportunities for part-time work.

Most architects' work is office-based, although some time is spent visiting clients and sites. Protective clothing, such as a hard hat and boots, is worn on building sites.

Some jobs involve travel and periods away from home, both in the UK and overseas. A driving licence is useful.

Starting salaries for registered architects may be around £25,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are over 30,000 architects in the UK and 2,500 of these are in Scotland. About 80 per cent of architects work in private architectural practices, most of which are small to medium-sized firms.

Other employers include central and local government, construction companies, and commercial and industrial organisations such as retailers and manufacturers.

There are more jobs for architects in London and south-east England where most of the larger practices are based, but it is possible to work in smaller practices anywhere in the UK.

The professional bodies for architecture include job vacancies on their websites. There are also vacancies in the trade magazines and journals such as Architects' Journal, which has teamed up with Careers in Construction, the UK's largest specialist construction recruitment website.

Education and Training

To become a qualified architect it is necessary to complete a degree at one of 38 schools of architecture recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

Most schools of architecture also ask to see a portfolio of freehand drawings and sketches at interview.

People without the usual qualifications may be able to take a foundation year at a school of architecture to prepare for the course.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Students need at least two A levels/three H grades, with at least five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). GCSE/S grade subjects should include maths, English language and a separate science or a double science award. A levels/H grades should generally be in academic subjects. Maths, physics and art are useful subjects at A level, AS level or H grade, although a very wide range of subjects can be accepted.

Equivalent qualifications, such as a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Construction, may be acceptable.

To practise and use the title 'architect', individuals must register with the Architects Registration Board. This means spending at least seven years in training and higher education. This involves:

  • A five-year study programme on a recognised course: this is usually divided into two parts - a three-year course (RIBA Part 1), and a further two-year course (RIBA Part 2).
  • At least two years' training in an architect's office - one year is normally taken after Part 1, the second year after Part 2.
  • The RIBA Part 3 Examination in Professional Practice and Management.

Qualified architects keep up to date by doing short courses.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An architect should:

Have strong visual awareness and an eye for detail.

  • Have good drawing skills, with the ability to work in three dimensions (3D).
  • Be inventive and imaginative.
  • Have reasonable mathematical skills.
  • Have computer skills.
  • Have excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Have presentation skills.
  • Be able to organise projects.
  • Have a logical, analytical and creative approach to problem solving.
  • Have time management skills.
  • Be self-confident and able to cope with criticism of their work.
  • Be able to manage others.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion depends on the individual's skill, competence and experience. In the private sector, a newly-qualified architect would generally join a practice as a salaried employee. With experience, they might become an associate and, eventually, a partner.

In the public sector, architects may progress to senior or principal architect. Further promotion could lead to a management post.

Experienced architects in any sector can set up their own architectural practice.

There are also opportunities to move into specialist fields such as project management, planning or landscape architecture. Many qualified architects also move into related areas such as interior design or graphic design.

It may also be possible to work on projects overseas.

Get Further Information

Architects Registration Board (ARB),
8 Weymouth Street, London W1W 5BU
Tel: 020 7580 5861

Bircham Newton, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites:, and

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS),
15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BE
Tel: 0131 229 7545

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA),
66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
Tel: 020 7580 5533

Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA),
2 Mount Charles, Belfast BT7 1NZ
Tel: 028 9032 3760

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