What’s an Architect and is the Career Outlook Any Good?


What’s an architect?

An architect uses principles of art, engineering, and physics to design residential and commercial buildings (e.g., houses, apartment complexes, universities, offices, etc.)

If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like a structural engineer, you’d be right. Structural engineers also design buildings; however, the biggest difference is that architects focus more on the building’s aesthetic, while structural engineers hold more responsibility for a building’s safety and efficacy.

Oftentimes, architects and structural engineers will work together. It’s also important to note that architects almost exclusively design buildings, but structural engineers can design other types of infrastructure like bridges and dams.

What does an architect do?

We reviewed several open architecture job postings on LinkedIn to compile the most common roles and responsibilities architects perform day-to-day:

  • Coordinate preliminary architectural studies for new structures.
  • Coordinate architectural studies for existing structures.
  • Manage projects from concept to creation.
  • Effectively communicate with clients and deliver on their vision.
  • Understand, apply for, and manage building permit documents.
  • Create drawings, specifications, and construction documents.

How do you become an architect?

There are a few different paths you can take to become an architect.

To become an architectural drafter, most employers require you to earn your associate degree in a related field like drafting or engineering graphics. For full-time students, that’s about two years post-high school. However, sometimes employers will hire architectural drafters right out of high school if you’re enrolled in a comprehensive CTE program at your district.

Becoming a licensed architect will take longer. You’ll need to attend an undergraduate or graduate school that’s accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). If your school has an architecture program, they’re likely accredited — but it never hurts to double-check. Depending on the program’s requirement and whether you’re in undergrad or graduate school, it will take you between three to five years to earn your degree.

Once you have your degree, you’ll need to get experience before you can sit for your licensure exam. You can learn more about it at the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB)’s Architectural Experience Program (AXP).

Finally, when you’ve gained enough experience through apprenticeships, you can take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) to become licensed. This is a difficult exam. NCARB reports roughly half of test-takers pass the exam. But don’t worry, you can always retake it!

What software does an architect use?

Architecture software has evolved beyond 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) drawings.

Now, the best architecture software uses building information modeling (BIM) to help architects and the engineers they’re working with collaborate on design, labor, materials, and specifications of any given project. BIM tools allow architects to see what a building will look like when it’s complete.

Here are some of the most popular architecture software available today:

  • AutoCAD
  • Autodesk Revit
  • Autodesk 3D Student Max
  • SketchUp
  • Rhino
  • Archicad

How much does an architect make?

The average architect salary in the U.S. is $89,820, according to Indeed.

Source: indeed.com

The average base pay of an architect in the U.S. is $89,820. These roles can require anywhere from 0-10+ years of experience.

The average base pay of an architectural drafter in the U.S. is $21.46 per hour, which equates to about $44,636 per year. These roles require 0-2 years of experience.

The average base pay of a junior architect in the U.S. is $57,048. These roles required 0-1 year of experience.

Architecture design careers can take you as far as you want them to. Although there isn’t a lot of hierarchy in job titles, more years of experience will result in a higher salary.

Keep in mind, much like any job, salaries vary depending on several factors including

  • where you live,
  • which industry you work in (e.g., naval vs. landscaping),
  • what company you work for, and
  • years of experience.

Is architecture a good career path?

Although the average rate of job growth for all occupations between the years 2020-2030 in the United States is projected to grow at 8%, architecture design careers are expected to grow at just 3%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With that said, the field is still growing!

If salary is important to you, a career in architecture is a safe choice. The BLS reports the median salary across all occupations is $41,950, but the median salary for an architect is double that.

Job satisfaction for architects is the same or better compared to any other profession. Most notably, architects report their stress levels are low, according to U.S. News.

Online architecture courses to explore

SolidProfessor is the leading platform in online courses for engineering, architecture, and manufacturing design. We work with individual learners, schools, and businesses to educate beginners and advanced professionals to teach real skills and inspire innovation.

Here are our most popular online courses for architectural design:

Interested in exploring other careers in CAD, CAM, and BIM?

Explore other engineering career articles just like this one.

Madie Norris Forcier
About the Author

SolidProfessor content writer and self-appointed World’s Greatest Dog Mom