How to Become an Architect
Do building designs, planning and large-scale projects interest you? A career in architecture could be your vocation.
What does an architect do?
The counterpart to engineers, architects design plans for buildings which are then used in the construction industry. They focus more on the artistry side than the technical side engineers do – though it still involves detailed technical plans and is a well-regulated career path.
Some architects specialise in restoring ancient buildings, while others look to the future and design space-age new buildings.
What qualifications are needed to become an architect?
Path one: gaining an architectural degree
Architecture is one of the longest degree courses. For licensure through this route, you need to complete a five-year degree course – split into a three-year bachelor’s degree and a two-year master’s degree – plus two years of practical work experience.
Architecture degree entry requirements
University entry requirements for architecture can include:
A maths or science A-Level can sometimes be preferred, but it’s not essential. Additionally, an art and design subject helps build up a portfolio.
Architecture degree qualifications
To become chartered, you’ll need to complete the three-part ARB (Architects Registration Board) qualification. The most common option for this is through RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), which can be done alongside studying.
Going the university route through a RIBA-accredited institution means that you’ll automatically gain a RIBA Part 1 qualification when you finish your BArch and a RIBA Part 2 qualification when you complete your master’s degree.
It’s a usual entry requirement for a MArch that you have at least one year of work experience within architecture. This will qualify you for the RIBA Part 1 Professional Experience.
We’ll get into RIBA qualifications in a bit more depth below. Four years in, you’ll start your master’s degree (and Part 2 qualification). By the seventh year, you’ll be finishing another year of practical experience.
To gain the Part 3 qualification, you’ll need to:
Once you’re a master of architecture (MArch) and have your Part 3, you can register as a qualified architect with the ARB.
Path two: directly through a RIBA course
An architecture degree isn’t the only way into the industry. You can study through RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) – though you’ll still need to pass the three-part qualification.
They’ve launched a foundation degree, aimed at people with no experience in architecture or the construction industry.
The Part 1 qualification is often done at the same time as an undergraduate degree but can also be done whilst working, in an architectural field or otherwise. It’s a great way to instigate a career change without giving up your income, though it can also be done full-time.
After Part 1 study, you take a year of practical work to achieve your RIBA Part 1 Professional Experience. This is supervised by an experienced architect and teaches essential communication skills once you’re qualified.
Whilst working, you have to fill in PEDRs – Professional Experience and Development Records – detailing your understanding of the practical architectural work you’re undertaking or any further qualifications you’re getting, like becoming Autodesk certified or CAD certified.
Like Part 1, Parts 2 and 3 can be undertaken whilst working or studying, though you will still need to complete those 24 months of practical experience before you can pass Part 3 and officially register as a chartered architect.
Once you have all three, skip off to the ARB and claim your title as a qualified architect!
Path three: an architecture apprenticeship
Probably the least well-known path into architecture is the apprenticeship.
There are two apprenticeship courses available in the UK:
Entry requirements vary between institutions. Level 6 generally requires a CV and portfolio, 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) and 3 A-Levels (or equivalent). Level 7 requires an ARB-prescribed Part 1 qualification – which can be through a degree, through RIBA, or the Level 6 apprenticeship.
These apprenticeships include practical work experience, generally in an architecture firm, and at least 20% academic training at a university. Once you’ve achieved Level 7, you still have to register with the ARB. And then congratulations! You’re an architect!
How long does it take to qualify as an architect?
The university route can be done in seven years – though many people opt to take more years out between degrees.
Both apprenticeships take on average four years to complete, so you could become qualified in eight years. The RIBA courses are self-taught and can be taken part-time alongside other work. This means that you can complete them at your own pace.
How much does an architect earn?
According to the RIBA salary guide 2021, the average salary for an ARB–qualified architect is £40,000 p/a.
This can go up to £80,000 p/a for Directors at an architectural practice. An Architectural Assistant Part 1 earns on average £22,000 p/a, while one who has completed Part 2 earns an average of £28,000 p/a.
You can also be an Architectural Technologist – especially if you’re looking to gain some work experience before starting an architecture course – whose average salary is £33,000 p/a.