Do you have an interest in building design? Then perhaps you might want to consider a career as an architect. As you are probably aware, architects are able to design and oversee the construction of buildings including homes and other structures. Architects are highly educated, licensed professionals that ensure the safety and function of their design.
It helps if you know something about being an architect before enrolling in coursework. It helps if you have an aptitude for drawing and basic carpentry but that isn’t sufficient. An architect will be involved in every phase of creating a new structure starting from an idea for the structure, being able to communicate the plans, overseeing the actual construction process itself and making sure the final product is okay. You’ll need to be creative, science minded and good with communications.
As there are many different types of architects, you’ll need to decide what area is best for you. You can work for a firm where you observe projects from start to finish (buildings) while others become landscape architects and need to know a lot about plants. Some architects work only with design and are responsible for following building codes and the wishes of some client. Some architects are specialized on the type of building they design such as hospitals, schools or high-security buildings. Some will work on restoring older buildings. You have many areas to choose from depending on your particular interests.
If you’re not sure what area interests you, speak with some licensed architects in your area or perhaps on the internet. If you can find individuals in your area, try to set up an interview. See what programs they went through and see what they recommend. See if you can get an internship or part-time position with a local firm so that you can see what architects do on a daily basis. This should help you decide whether becoming an architect is right for you and possibly what field you want to go into.
Look for colleges that offer coursework in architecture at the bachelors and masters level. Quite often colleges offer a combined program that will allow you to finish faster. These tend to be five year programs and can save a lot of time and money.
Make sure that the college you choose is properly accredited. They should be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) if you are in the United States. Look for similar credentials in other countries.
If you didn’t enter a 5 year master’s degree program, then you’ll need a bachelor’s degree (undergraduate degree) first and then apply to the master’s program. Make sure to look at the curriculum offered as this can vary. Some colleges offer environmentally-friendly designs, restoration or modern design. Determine what your interests are first to make sure you don’t get into the wrong program and waste time trying to get into another program.
An internship is required to provide hands-on experience. In the U.S. this is known as the Internship Development Program (IDP) and is provided by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). This is required for your licensure. In general, these programs take around three years to complete. Keep in mind that you don’t need to graduate your program to get into an internship and in fact it is better to start before you graduate. Also keep in mind that you may work on school projects or work in an architectural firm while in school and this will count towards your IDP.
You’ll need to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). This exam has many sections to it and assesses whether you have the knowledge and skills to become an architect. Since there are a number of sections, you’ll need to schedule a day for each component. It is heavily suggested that you take coursework that will help you pass this exam. Do not walk into this exam cold!
The next step is to get your license. Check with your state requirements as your state may require more then the IDP (internship) and ARE exams.
Now that you are licensed, you’ll need to get NCARB certification. This is a matter of filling out some paper work. You’ll now ready to seek employment. You can work for any number of firms that can make use of your specific background or you can work as a consultant for starters. As a consultant, this allows you to get your feet wet.