Architectural designers are artistic, technically driven individuals who apply their skills to the design of buildings. Architects need specific education and practical training, as well as licensure, to work in the field. Read on to determine if a career in architecture design is for you.
Architecture design is concerned with the visually creative process as it applies to the built environment. Designers in the field have different responsibilities from architects, as they are only responsible for creating building designs, and not for overseeing construction plans. As an architectural designer, you might work on residential, commercial, industrial, governmental and other building designs. You would strive to create stimulating, pleasing spaces that serve both aesthetic and functional purposes. Some architecture design programs combine architectural design elements with engineering technology to prepare you for careers designing and managing innovative and sustainable construction projects. You will likely use specialized software like computer-aided design and drafting to create plans and specifications for new projects.
To become an architectural designer, you should possess artistic sensibilities and be able to think in terms of spatial relationships. A business sense and technical know-how are also important qualities in this line of work. As an architecture design major, you will likely take courses in technology, materials, building regulations, design methods, architecture history and architectural culture, as well as seminars and practical design studio courses. You might also have additional learning opportunities through internships and workshops, completing design projects under the supervision of faculty. Online architectural drafting and design courses are also available in some schools.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer statistics for architectural designers, but did predict that employment of architects in general would grow faster than the national average over the 2008-2018 decade (www.bls.gov). The greatest demand will come from population growth, as well as the need for healthcare facilities, nursing homes and other senior housing for an aging population. You may find jobs working in architecture, engineering or construction firms, or you may become self-employed. As of May 2010, the median annual wages for architects were $72,550, as per the BLS.
The first step towards becoming an architectural designer is to earn a degree in architecture design. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees are available, typically within design or architecture schools. Professional degree programs prepare students for professional architecture practice, while academic degrees are geared for careers in teaching and research. You may earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architectural Design, Bachelor of Architecture and a first or post-professional Master of Architecture. Professional degree programs can take anywhere from 1-5 years to complete and should be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. An accredited Doctor of Architecture degree is rare, though several schools offer a Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture.
Architects in most states are required to obtain licensure before they can enter professional employment. State licensure involves passing the Architect Registration Exam administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), with an accredited professional degree and work experience as prerequisites (www.ncarb.org). Practical work experience is generally obtained through an internship under the direct supervision of a licensed architect.
Once you pass the exam, you are qualified to work as a professional architectural designer in your jurisdiction. Most states have continuing education requirements to maintain licensure on an ongoing basis. State requirements can vary, however, so it is important to check your state's requirements first. Many licensed architects pursue voluntary certification through the NCARB, which can make continuing education and registration in other jurisdictions more feasible (www.ncarb.org).