How To Become a Licensed Architect: Degree Requirements

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 22, 2022 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated July 22, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

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An individual looks over blueprints for a proposed new house.

Architects are responsible for designing various buildings, structures and other creative concepts in various industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field looks to be competitive in the near future, with projected employment growth of around 3% between 2020 and 2030.

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

What does an architect do?

Architects are licensed professionals who are trained in the science and art of building design. They are responsible for the design and construction of buildings and other structures that are erected and used in various settings.

Architects oversee not only the aesthetic appeal of a structure but also its safety and functionality. They must also take into consideration the economic aspects of buildings and ensure they meet the needs of the individuals who will be using them.

Common duties of an architect may include:

  • Developing architecture that best aligns with a client's needs

  • Overseeing architectural projects to ensure functional and high-quality design

  • Producing blueprints for a project

  • Composing predesign figures that may include cost analysis, land studies and the environmental impact of a structure

  • Researching and following zoning laws, building codes, city ordinances and other regulations that impact an architectural project

  • Using advanced computer technology to draft models of structures and explore different construction approaches

  • Finding and obtaining construction contracts and coordinating with construction workers

While there are several types of architects in various industries, the primary objective of all architects is to plan and design all components of a structure.

Related: Best Careers for INTP Personalities

4 common types of architects

The following are the most common types of architects practicing today:

1. Technical architect

These professionals are primarily concerned with the technical aspects of a structure, such as its thermal efficiency and water tightness. Technical architects study and modify construction mechanics and details to make sure buildings meet regional and local construction standards and regulations.

2. Planning architect

This type of architect is typically brought into a project to help advise on a project's adherence to local and national requirements and regulations. For example, a planning architect may outline a site's legal restrictions or submit a project to the local or regional authority for approval.

3. Site architect

A site architect is responsible for overseeing all activity on a construction site from start to finish. A site architect may assign instructions to construction workers, procure the construction contract and ensure quality and safety are maintained throughout the project's duration.

4. Design architect

This type of architect works on the overall design and structure of a building. A design architect may create the initial outline of a structure, formulate blueprints and adjust the building design to suit the client's preferences. This professional may also play a role in the selection of the materials used to build the structure as well as oversee the construction and design team throughout the build process.

Read more: 19 Types of Architects (Plus Related Careers To Consider)

How to become an architect

Follow these steps to become a licensed architect:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

While each state varies, most states require 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 176 NAAB-accredited programs throughout the world at 139 different institutions. Typical courses in an accredited architect bachelor's program include project management, building systems, and environmental planning and impact analysis.

2. Participate in an internship program

Every state requires future architectures 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 offered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and the American Institute of Architects.

Internships completed through the IDP will consist of 5,600 hours of work experience in architectural areas, including practice management, design, project management and pre-design.

Read more: What Is the Purpose of an Internship? (Plus Tips)

3. Become licensed

To become a practicing architect in your state, you must obtain licensure by passing the Architect Registration Examination. Most states require a bachelor's degree and the completion of an internship to be eligible to take the exam. This exam is offered through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and is a seven-part pass-or-fail exam.

Read more: Architecture Licenses by State

4. Apply for an architect position

After you have passed the Architect Registration Examination and become licensed, you can apply to work as an architect. You may choose to work for a firm, private practice or in the specialty in which you completed your internship.

5. Earn professional certifications

In addition to the Architect Registration Examination, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards also offers additional national certification. While not required, this certification can make it easier to apply for architecture jobs in various states and demonstrate your professional abilities and experience.

Related: Certificate vs. Certification vs. License Job Requirements

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 that are accredited by the NAAB.

Pursuing a master's degree may be a good choice for individuals wishing to work in a research or teaching capacity as well as those who want to switch to an architecture career and who don't have an architecture-related bachelor's degree.

Related: Should I Get a Master's Degree? 9 Factors To Consider

Skills needed to be a successful architect

Architects are responsible for various aspects of the construction of a structure or building and need a number of hard and soft skills to be effective at their jobs. The following skills are often needed to be a successful architect in any industry:

Math and engineering skills

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

Leadership skills

Many architects not only design structures but also oversee construction of them. This requires good leadership skills, as managing the construction of a building can include heading up teams and ensuring all workers understand and implement the project's objectives.

Communication skills

Being able to communicate well is key to being a successful architect. An architect must be able to effectively communicate their vision as well as interpret the expectations for architectural projects. Architects should also know how to professionally communicate with clients in a way that ensures the clients' needs are understood and met.

Related: 15 Types of Professional Soft Skills (With Definitions)

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 10 jobs similar to an architect:

1. Civil engineer

2. Industrial designer

3. CAD designer

4. Urban planner

5. Architectural drafter

6. Structural designer

7. Architectural historian

8. Structural engineer

9. Lighting consultant

10. Interior designer

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