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  • The best way to predict the future is to create it. Peter Drucker
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Become an Architect

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Architects plan and develop designs for the construction and renovation of commercial, institutional, industrial and residential buildings. They are highly educated, licensed professionals who are responsible for ensuring the safety and functionality of each project they undertake.

Career Requirements

Architects need strong communication, analytical, critical-thinking, organizational, and visualization skills. They also must be proficient with specialized tools and technology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, architects earned a mean annual salary of $82,850 as of May 2015.

Understand the profession

Architecture involves more than an aptitude for drawing or basic carpentry. Architects are involved in each phase of the process of creating a new structure, from conceiving the idea for the structure's design to communicating the plans to clients to overseeing the construction process and ensuring the final structure is satisfactory. Architects have the following talents and skills:

  1. They are creative. Architects come up with original ideas for creating well-designed structures that complement their surroundings and suit their functional purpose. Every seemingly simple structure we encounter was dreamed up by an architect aiming for the sweet spot of beauty and functionality.

  2. They are science-minded. Architecture is both an art and a science. In addition to designing buildings with elegance and beauty in mind, architects must understand how the different components of a building work together to create a sturdy, safe environment. An understanding of math and physics is essential.

  3. They are good communicators. Architects must effectively share their vision for a structure with the client who will be constructing it. They are excellent at giving presentations, describing their ideas clearly and ensuring client satisfaction.

Decide what type of architect you want to be

Some architects work for firms and see projects through from conception to completion. Others use their talents and skills in different parts of the industry.

  1. Landscape architects have a background in plant sciences as well as architecture, and focus on how spaces outside buildings play a complementary role.

  2. Some architects focus only on design, making sure the plans for a building follow building codes and meet the expectations of the client.

  3. Construction firms often hire architects as project managers who oversee the construction of structures.

  4. Architects may focus on certain types of buildings, such as high-security facilities, hospitals, or schools. They may also work on restoration of old buildings.

Get a graduate degree in architecture from a program accredited by the NAAB

If you did not enter a five-year combined bachelor's and master's program, you will need a master's in architecture after completing your undergraduate degree. Some programs focus on innovative, modern design, some on restoration, and others on environmentally-friendly design. Research programs that meet your needs and personality.

Attend an Internship Program

All states require that architects complete training or internship programs prior to obtaining licensure. Internships typically last three years and enable aspiring architects to gain hands-on experience under the supervision of licensed architects. Most states employ the Intern Development Program (IDP) administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the American Institute of Architects. Completion of the IDP entails 5,600 hours of state- and NCARB-approved work experience. This experience is divided into elective and core hours. The four main experience areas covered in the IDP are pre-design, design, project management and practice management. Interns will learn about a variety of topics, including schematic design, site and building analysis, zoning regulations and contract negotiation.

Obtain State Licensure

Architects must hold licensure from the states in which they practice. While conditions for obtaining licensure vary, most states require completion of an approved bachelor's degree program and an internship. Qualified applicants may sit for the NCARB's Architect Registration Examination (ARE), which is a 7-part pass-or-fail test covering topics in site planning, building systems and construction documents.

Earn Professional Certification

Many architects opt to earn voluntary NCARB certification, which demonstrates professional aptitude and may make it easier to obtain reciprocal licensure from another state. This certification is available to licensed architects who submit transcripts, documentation of ARE passage and proof of acceptable experience. Candidates might be required to sit for an interview or additional testing before being approved for NCARB certification.

Consider a Graduate Degree

Many architects pursue advanced education in master's degree programs, which may last 1-5 years depending on the students' previous architectural education. The NAAB had accredited 95 Master of Architecture degree programs in August 2015. Such degree programs may also be a viable option for students who are interested in a career in architecture and hold bachelor's degrees in an unrelated field. Additionally, some schools offer post-professional degree programs, which are not accredited by the NAAB but may be required for specialty, research or teaching positions. Post-professional programs often result in specialized masters or doctoral degrees.

Specialize and Gain Experience to Advance Career

Rapidly changing technologies and needs are expanding career opportunities for architects. The emergence of green technology has created a demand for architects specializing in sustainable design. Those who specialize in green design will have a career advantage. A more traditional route for career advancement is to gain enough experience within an architectural firm to become a partner.