Architecture Careers

by Genevieve Carlton
• 6 min read
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Architecture blends design with engineering to create homes, high-rise buildings, and public spaces. This career requires creativity, technical skills, and an eye for aesthetics.

From modern homes to skyscrapers, architects design the spaces people inhabit. Architecture careers require a college degree like a bachelor of architecture. Students earning architecture degrees study building materials, architectural theory, and building design.

Architecture careers go far beyond basic architecture. Related majors, like urban and regional design or civil engineering, also prepare graduates for careers as surveyors, drafters, urban planners, and civil engineers.

Many professionals contribute to building projects, from drafters and surveyors to landscape architects and building inspectors. This page introduces several architecture careers and lists the educational requirements and job duties for each.

Is Architecture the Right Career Path for Me?

Architects have a creative approach to building. They create engaging and functional designs for private homes, office spaces, public buildings, and large-scale structures. Like other art and design careers, architects increasingly rely on software programs to complete their daily tasks. Architects require certain characteristics and strengths, including an attention to detail, organizational skills, and teamwork.

You Might Enjoy an Architecture Career if You…

Enjoy analyzing structures and understanding how they work. Have a creative eye and like solving problems. Want to work with teams to complete projects. Excel at software programs, such as computer-aided design (CAD). Want a career that moves from an office to a construction site.

Types of Architecture Careers

Within the field of architecture, professionals pursue a variety of career paths. While some careers require a graduate degree or multiple years of professional experience, others offer entry-level roles to graduates with an associate or bachelor's degree. Each career path provides different advancement opportunities.

This section introduces architecture careers. Outside of architect roles, related careers include surveyor, drafter, urban planner, and landscape architect.

Architects

Degree Required: Bachelor's or Master's

Architects design structures, including private homes, offices, manufacturing facilities, and public buildings. They meet with clients to understand their needs, create sketches and models, and estimate the cost and time required for a project. After the client approves the plan, architects work with building contractors to create the structure. They conduct site visits to make sure the project follows the plan.

Architects must hold a bachelor of architecture or higher. They must take specific architecture classes and complete an internship.

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Degree Required: Bachelor's or Master's

Architectural and engineering managers oversee projects in architectural and engineering organizations. They create plans depending on a project's needs, assign staff to oversee different parts of the project, and create a budget. Architectural and engineering managers also review the work of architects and engineers to make sure they follow the best practices.

Management-level roles in architecture and engineering typically require several years of experience as an architect or engineer.

Construction and Building Inspectors

Degree Required: High School Diploma, Associate, or Bachelor's

Construction and building inspectors review blueprints and building plans to make sure they follow building codes, zoning laws, and local ordinances. They conduct site inspections to make sure construction projects comply with the law. When conducting an inspection, they use a variety of devices, such as electrical testers and moisture meters.

The role requires knowledge of electrical systems, plumbing, building materials, and building codes. Construction and building inspectors play a critical role in creating safe buildings.

Construction Managers

Degree Required: Bachelor's

Construction managers oversee construction projects. Early in the project, they create cost estimates and timetables to complete the work. They work closely with architects to understand the project's needs and hire subcontractors to complete the work. Construction managers read technical blueprints to make sure projects follow building codes.

During the construction process, construction managers oversee the project and handle any emergencies or delays. They make sure every project meets legal requirements for safety.

Drafters

Degree Required: Associate

Drafters transform architectural and engineering designs into technical drawings. They work in several fields, including architectural drafting, civil drafting, mechanical drafting, and electrical drafting.

Drafters use CAD software to transform sketches and instructions from architects and engineers into a technical document. They mark materials, dimensions, and manufacturing processes on the drawing. Drafters then work with architects and engineers to refine the finished product so builders can use it to create anything from a skyscraper to an electrical distribution system.

Landscape Architects

Degree Required: Bachelor's or Master's

Landscape architects design outdoor spaces, including parks, private properties, and college campuses. They coordinate with engineers and architects to understand each project and draw up site plans according to what clients want. Landscape architects ensure that structures on the property work well with proposed landscaping.

After creating plans and models, landscape architects review environmental reports and identify landscaping materials. They also oversee progress on the project and monitor cost estimates.

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Degree Required: High School Diploma

Surveying and mapping technicians assist surveyors and mapmakers by collecting data. They visit sites to measure buildings, natural features, and roads. Surveying and mapping technicians use tools like electronic distance-measuring equipment to gather data. They may also create physical markers at sites.

On a survey party, technicians collect and process data. They may also create databases and maps based on surveys. Surveying and mapping technicians must ensure surveyors and mapmakers use accurate data.

Surveyors

Degree Required: Bachelor's

Surveyors conduct measurements to identify property boundaries, complete construction projects, and map communities. They measure the dimensions of different properties, conduct site surveys, and research surveying documents like land records. Surveyors also verify data on land titles and survey records.

After surveying, surveyors create reports and plot maps to record the boundaries between different properties. They also provide information for legal documents. Surveyors work for government agencies and private businesses.

Urban and Regional Planners

Degree Required: Master's

Urban and regional planners create plans to expand cities, revitalize urban communities, and build public spaces. They work closely with local officials, developers, and their community to determine land use plans. Urban and regional planners also assess community needs through data and field investigations.

As part of their responsibilities, urban and regional planners review site plans, identify issues in plans, and approve proposals. This career path requires licensure in most states.

Architecture Careers Salary Overview

The salaries for architecture careers vary depending on the career path. For example, architectural and engineering managers report the highest median salary, while drafters and building inspectors earn lower salaries. Each of these careers requires licensure or certification. The process and requirements vary by state.

Salaries for Architecture Careers
Career Median Annual Salary (2020)
Architectural and Engineering Managers $149,530
Construction Managers $97,180
Architects $82,320
Urban and Regional Planners $75,950
Landscape Architects $70,630
Surveyors $65,590
Construction and Building Inspectors $62,860
Drafters $57,960
Surveying and Mapping Technicians $46,200
Source: BLS

Architecture Career Skills

Architects draw on several skills to complete their job duties. Soft skills like communication and visualization help architects work on teams and keep projects on schedule. Similarly, hard skills like being familiar with architectural design software, analyzing blueprints, and knowledge of building codes are also necessary.

Human Skills

  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity
  • Organization
  • Visualization

Hard Skills

  • Blueprint analysis
  • Design abilities
  • CAD software
  • Model-making
  • Building code training

Architecture Professional Organizations

Founded in 1857, AIA counts over 95,000 members today. The institute operates 200 chapters and offers resources on getting licensed, finding architecture jobs, and meeting continuing education requirements. ASLA represents over 15,000 landscape architects. ASLA connects landscape architects with advocacy and educational tools. The society also offers fellowships, career resources, and awards. ALA offers educational programs, networking opportunities, and awards for licensed architects. The association hosts speakers and events to keep architects' knowledge up-to-date. ALA also provides programs on code, best practices, and continuing education opportunities. NOMA represents minority architects and showcases their creativity in the field. The organization publishes architectural work, hosts conferences, and organizes regional chapters to connect architects. NOMA also has student chapters.

Common Questions About Architecture Careers

How Many Years Does It Take to Be an Architect?

Architects spend at least five years earning an architecture degree. After earning their degrees, architects typically complete a three-year internship to receive a license.

What Can You Do With an Architecture Degree?

An architecture degree prepares graduates for careers as architects, architectural managers, and landscape architects. The degree also leads to opportunities as a surveyor, construction manager, or drafter.

Is a Bachelor of Architecture Hard?

Yes, it requires hard work. A bachelor of architecture degree typically takes five years to complete and includes courses on building design, materials, architectural theory, and structural safety.

Do Architects Use a Lot of Math?

Architects rely on geometry, algebra, and trigonometry in their work. A bachelor of architecture program also includes math courses.

Do Architects Need to Be Good at Drawing?

In the past, architects relied on their drawing skills to create blueprints and design structures. Today, architects increasingly use CAD software instead of drawing.

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. After earning her doctorate in early modern European history, Carlton worked as an assistant professor of history at the University of Louisville, where she developed new courses on the history of science, Renaissance Italy, and the witch trials. Carlton has published five peer-reviewed articles in top presses and a monograph with the University of Chicago Press. She also earned tenure with a unanimous vote before relocating to Seattle. Learn more about Carlton's work at genevievecarlton.com.

Header Image Credit: jacoblund | Getty Images

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