How To Become an Architect (With Types and Skills)

Updated June 7, 2023

Image description

An individual looks over blueprints for a proposed new house.

Architects design residential and commercial buildings and other structures, ensuring the end results are functional and visually appealing. If this interests you, consider gaining the credentials and expertise to become an architect. Understanding the daily duties and job requirements may help determine if this role is right for you and your career goals.

In this article, we discuss what an architect does, six steps you can take to become an architect, common types of architects and the typical salary.

What does an architect do?

Architects are licensed design experts who receive training in the science and art of building design, mainly focusing on form and function. They're responsible for designing and constructing buildings and other structures, like bridges and tunnels. While there are several types of architects in many industries, they all plan and design all structure components. Choosing this career path might be a good idea for you if you're seeking a lucrative job where you can apply your creative and mathematical skills to create structures that improve the place where you live.

Architects oversee a structure's aesthetic appeal, safety and functionality. They also consider the economic aspects of buildings and ensure they meet the needs of the individuals using them. An architect may also:

  • Oversee the production of blueprints, typically by a draftsperson

  • Compose pre-design figures that may include cost analysis, land studies and the environmental impact of a structure

  • Research and follow zoning laws, building codes, city ordinances and other regulations that affect an architectural project

  • Use advanced computer technology, like computer-aided design (CAD) software, to draft scaled models of structures and explore different construction approaches

  • Find and obtain construction contracts to coordinate with construction workers

  • Create and manage contracts with clients and building contractors

  • Mentor architecture students through internship programs

  • Write construction specification documents

Read more: Learn About Being an Architect

How to become a licensed architect

Here are six steps on how to become an architect:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Many companies require architects to have a high school diploma or GED before they start working. While each state's requirements vary, many states ask students who are aspiring architects to obtain a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree through a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

There are currently 173 NAAB-accredited programs throughout the world at 137 different institutions. Typical courses in an accredited architect bachelor's degree program include:

  • Project management

  • Building systems

  • Environmental planning

  • Impact analysis

2. Participate in an internship program

Every state requires future architects to participate in an internship program to be eligible for licensure. Most internship programs last three years and provide valuable experience that prepares individuals for a career as an architect. Many states provide internship opportunities through the Intern Development Program (IDP) offered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Internships completed through the IDP may consist of 5,600 internship hours of work experience in architectural areas, including:

  • Practice management

  • Design

  • Project management

  • Pre-design

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

3. Become licensed

To become a practicing architect in your state, obtain licensure by passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Many states require a bachelor's degree and the completion of an internship to be eligible to take the exam. The NCARB offers this exam, and it's a seven-part pass-or-fail exam.

Be sure to meet additional jurisdictional requirements based on your state. If you plan on moving, you can have your NCARB record transferred to your new jurisdiction.

Read more: Architecture Licenses by State

4. Apply for an architect position

After you've passed the ARE and become licensed, you can apply to work as an architect. You may choose to work for an architectural firm or private practice. You can also work for state agencies and design-build companies. 

The workplaces where you can find open positions may vary, depending on your location. For example, there may be more opportunities to work in commercial architecture in an urban area than a rural one.

5. Earn professional certifications

In addition to the Architect Registration Examination, the NCARB also offers additional national certification. While not required, this certification can make applying for architecture jobs in various states easier and demonstrate your abilities and experience. You can also find certifications for specific subspecialties in architecture. If you earn a certification, renew it before it expires to experience minimal disruption to your credentials. 

6. Consider a master's degree

Some architects choose to further their careers by obtaining a graduate degree in an architecture-related field. There are several Master of Architecture programs available accredited by the NAAB.

Pursuing a master's degree may be a good choice for individuals who want to work in a research or teaching capacity. Pursuing this graduate degree may also benefit those seeking to switch to an architecture career who don't have an architecture-related bachelor's degree.

Common types of architects

Here are some common types of architects practicing today:

Industrial architect

An industrial architect designs structures for industrial use, such as factories or industrial parks. When developing a design, these professionals consider their client's industry and the materials the client manufactures in the building. They also consider the client's needs regarding space, access and machinery. 

Planning architect

A planning architect can join a project to help advise on a project's adherence to local and national requirements and regulations. For example, they may outline a site's legal restrictions or submit a project to the local or regional authority for approval.

Site architect

A site architect oversees all activity on a construction site from start to finish. These architects may assign tasks to construction workers, procure the construction contract and ensure quality and safety throughout the project's duration.

Design architect

A design architect works on the overall design and structure of a building. This architect may create the initial structure outline, formulate blueprints and adjust the building design to suit the client's preferences. These specialists may also have a role in selecting the materials used to build the structure and overseeing the construction and design team throughout the building process. Design architects typically choose a further subspecialty, such as manufacturing, residential, or commercial design.

Conservation architect

A conservation architect often works with old and historical buildings. Their primary goal is typically to preserve existing structures and implement changes that help them meet safety standards while maintaining the original structure or fixtures.

Interior architect

An interior architect focuses on developing the interior of a building. This can involve creating design plans for specific rooms and spaces to optimize space. For example, an interior architect may help decide whether a home can use an open concept for the main floor or erect walls to create rooms.

Landscape architect

Landscape architects design areas and structures for public places. This includes public parks, college campuses, residential areas and gardens. When doing so, these architects can choose the types of buildings, pathways and greenery a space uses outside.

Related: 19 Types of Architects (Plus Related Careers to Consider)

Skills needed to be a successful architect

Here are the skills often required to be a successful architect:

Math and engineering

While architects are primarily involved in building design, they're also familiar with math and engineering as it relates to architecture. An architect may use measurements and scales with the engineering principles that apply to a project.


Many architects oversee the construction of the buildings they design. This requires good leadership skills, as managing the construction of a building can involve guiding teams and ensuring all employees understand and implement the project's objectives.


An architect can communicate their vision and interpret the expectations for architectural projects to various individuals, like project managers. Architects also know how to communicate with clients in a way that ensures the project understands and meets the client's needs.

Related: Essential Business Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples


Professional networking is essential as an architect because it allows you to develop meaningful relationships with other industry experts and clients. You can connect with others using career networking sites or attend architectural events, like state or national conferences. Additionally, if you're seeking to open your own architectural firm, having strong relationships with others may help you build your client list and find success in your entrepreneurial path.


Architects also use skills that help them visualize design ideas as a whole and in detail. This involves thinking creatively and problem-solving by visualizing solutions and translating them into computerized drawings. For example, visualizing a project's entire process may help an architect determine which construction materials to use.

Architecture internships

Interning is typically part of a student's requirements for becoming an architect. These internships are essential because you can apply what you learned in the classroom of your undergraduate program to the real world. Some schools and programs may allow this architectural practice to count toward your credit hours. During your time at an internship, you usually have a guide or mentor from experienced architects who can provide helpful feedback and advice to apply to your future career.

As an architect learning and participating in an internship, your primary would be assisting a lead architect with their work. Additional tasks in this internship program can include:

  • Maintaining project files and documents

  • Researching construction sites

  • Understanding and informing others about zoning regulations and laws

  • Creating, preparing and presenting information to clients and colleagues

Salary and job outlook for architects

The national average salary for architects is $92,963 per year. Your potential earnings can vary based on your employer, location, education, experience and skills. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects this occupation to grow by 3% between 2021 and 2031. Despite this small percentage, you can expect about 9,100 job openings annually.

Read more: How Much Do Architects Make?

Jobs similar to an architect

If you're thinking of becoming an architect, you may also find it worthwhile to consider related careers. Here's a list of some jobs similar to an architect:

  • Civil engineer

  • Industrial designer

  • CAD designer

  • Urban planner

  • Architectural drafter

  • Structural designer

  • Architectural historian

  • Structural engineer

  • Lighting consultant

  • Interior designer

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