Choosing Architecture as a Profession

Architecture is a blend of both science and art, used to design structures and buildings. In a much wider scope, architecture includes the design of a complete environment, from landscape architecture at the small scale, to the complete planning of a town. Decision making, problem solving, creativity, and team leadership are all extremely important in the process of taking an original design idea and developing it into a physical reality.

Architects are responsible for the design of buildings. Part of that activity includes the creation of drawings, scale models, writing specifications, letters and other documents. Architects may also manage or supervise architectural projects as well. In most cases, architects respond to requests for proposals that are published by public and private clients.

This is one way in which clients can advise professionals that a project is pending so they can join the selection process. In other instances, architects may be invited to present their qualifications for a pending project. This may be followed up by interviews as well as a presentation of prior work through the architect’s portfolio.

There can be many reasons why someone chooses to become an architect. Many people enter this field because they have a desire to make the world a better place. Others enjoy the ability of being a beneficial part of their community. This type of involvement can assist clients in making a positive change.

Benefits of the Architectural Profession

For many architects, the excitement of the work comes from a blend of technical challenges, intellectual stimulation and creating designs. For others, it is the ability to be their own boss and to earn a living doing what they love that inspires them to enter this field. Architectural practice options can cover a broad range of different possibilities. For instance, architects may also choose to teach, write, supervise and manage. As a result, it is possible for architects to discover their own niche within the profession.

Regardless of their initial reason for entering this field, most architects find they love it. This is a profession where many people find they are actually surprised to be paid for doing something they love so much. Although there are always routine tasks, as is the case with any profession, the benefits usually far outweigh the negatives.

Becoming an Architect

In order to become an architect within the United States, you will first need to meet three requirements. They are education, experience and passing an exam. The first step requires interested individuals to obtain a degree in architecture from a college. Following graduation, it is necessary to complete an internship with an architectural firm. This will make it possible to obtain experience within 16 different practice areas.

Finally, it is necessary to pass a national Architect Registration Exam. Upon completing these three requirements, you then become eligible to apply for licensure or registration within any state. After the state has issued a license to you, you may then refer to yourself officilly as an architect. At this point you can choose to start your own firm or apply to join an established practice. From start to finish, the process of becoming a licensed architect typically involves between eight to ten years.

Preparing for an Architectural Career in High School

Students in high school, who wnat to follow a career in the architectural profession, should know that it is important to begin preparing early. The environment in which you live is an excellent place to begin studying spaces, buildings and their relationships. Make an effort to notice the varied effects of texture, color, shape and light. These are all tools that are used in architecture. Consider the way in which spaces feel when you are within them. Try to analyze your reactions and determine if you can connect those reactions to design elements.

Necessary Skills for an Architectural Career

While in high school, it is important to prepare a college prep program that is strong in history, English, math, physics, social studies, and foreign languages. When possible, try to add courses in computer science and business. You might be surprised to learn that freehand drawing skills can actually be more beneficial in an architectural career than having a drafting ability. In addition, computer literacy is also essential to this field. Some of the most important characteristics you can have as an architect are the ability to write and speak effectively, listen well, and organize your activites and thoughts.

Paths to Becoming an Architect

There are a number of different educational paths that can be taken in order to become a professional and licensed architect. All degrees that are outside the field of architecture are known as non-architecture degrees. This generally refers to degrees in fields such as biology, philosophy and engineering as well as any undesignated Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees. Such undesignated BS or BA degrees can offer opportunities for a minor or major in architectural studies.

Pre-Professional Architecture Degree

This term refers to a four year degree that is architecturally focused but is not a professional degree. Therefore, it cannot be accredited. Such degrees include:

  • BS in Architecture
  • BS in Architectural Studies
  • BA in Architecture
  • Bachelor of Environmental Design
  • Bachelor of Architectural Studies

The amount of architectural work in the program varies and will the amount of time that will be required for completing any further professional architectural studies.

Professional Architecture Degree

A professional architecture degree may be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Accredited degrees are required by most areas for licensure as an architect. These degrees may be either a Bachelor of Architecture or Master of Architecture. A minimum of five years of study is typically required for the completion of the Bachelor of Architecture degree, while the Master of Architecture degree usually requires between one and five years for completion, depending on the student’s prior education.

Post-professional Architecture Degree

This degree is a graduate degree that is only offered to students who have already completed a professional degree in architecture. Degrees maybe highly specialized in areas of study such as health care facilities, design theory, solar design, interior design, preservation, etc. This type of degree can be either a master’s degree or in some cases a PhD or doctorate.

Non-professional Graduate Architecture Degree

This type of degree is a graduate degree in architecture that is offered to students who do not have a professional degree and would like to pursue non-professional graduate work in architecture. Such programs vary in degree title and duration.

Paths to Gaining the Professional Degree

There are three typical paths to gaining the professional degree in architecture.

1. Obtaining a Bachelor of Architecture degree.

2. Obtaining a pre-professional degree along with a professional Master of Architecture degree. This program is usually referred to as the ‘four plus two’ route.

3. Obtaining a four year non-architecture degree along with a three or four year professional Master of Architecture degree.

Most students enter the field of architecture through one of the first two routes. The professional bachelor of architecture degree is the fastest method for obtaining the professional degree that is required for licensure. This path typically requires at least five years of study followed up by a three year internship.

While the five year track provides the fastest path for satisfying the academic requirements for licensure, speed is not always best for everyone. Also, programs vary. For instance, some Bachelor of Architecture programs start out with a concentration in architectural courses in a manner that is fairly prescribed. Others elect to begin with a general course. Electives are often not very numerous, and as a result, exposure to other fields can be limited. Consequently, about 50% of students who enter this program and who do not complete it experience difficulty in transferring into another area without the loss of credit. Many Bachelor of Architecture programs have created curriculum structures that make it possible for students to enjoy some flexibility. One of the benefits of this type of program is that it allows for logical entry and exit points from different phases of the full five-year program. Generally, the work of a student will be carefully reviewed prior to a advancing to the next phase. These points make it fairly easy for students to transfer into an architecture program as well as transfer to other institutions.

In the early phases, pre-professional design courses may be mixed with liberal arts courses and provide a common base for different disciplines including landscape architecture, graphic design, industrial design, etc. For the most part, professional degree programs accept transfer students at designated break points. However, transfer credit is typically evaluated on a case by case basis. The pre-professional degree along with the professional master’s degree is the other most common path for obtaining a professional architecture degree. This path typically requires an average of six years to complete. It is followed by a three year internship. The main benefit of this program is the flexibility it provides.

At the conclusion of four years, the student will have a college degree and can choose to continue within architecture and obtain the professional master’s degree or they may choose to spend a year or so working for an architect. They might also elect to change disciplines entirely and pursue study within another design related field or completely change careers and possibly even seek an advanced degree outside the design field. Pre-professional programs are not accredited. They can vary widely in terms of emphasis, title, requirements, electives and even the types of architectural study features that are offered. However, they doprovide an excellent preparatory path for advanced design or architectural fields.

The four year pre-professional program can actually be divided into two different phases. The pre-architecture program may often contain basic introductory courses while the majority of the coursework is focused on the sciences, humanities and the arts. As such, it provides time for students to experience a broader array of subject and also helps to produce a more mature and well-rounded student that is capable of making better informed career choices.

The NAAB has also recognized a 5 ½ year Master of Architecture program that can be entered into directly from high school. With this program, students are able to enroll in a program that will directly lead to a Master of Architecture degree while following a curriculum that is similar in nature to the Bachelor of Architecture program. It should be noted that students must be accepted into the graduate school of the university in order to pursue the final phases of this specific degree.

The non-architecture degree plus the professional master’s degree program is the third path that is available to students. It is the least common route used. This is primarily because it requires 7 ½ years of study, comprised of a four year undergraduate degree along with a 3 ½ year Master of Architecture degree. This is followed by a 3 year internship. Most people who take this path are those who have embarked on a non-architecture career and decided at some point later to study architecture.


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