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Overview for Starting a Career in Residential Architecture

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a residential architect. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and training and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Architects design and plan all sorts of structures and buildings. Many focus their work on a particular type of structure, such as residences, but all architects must complete the same steps in order to begin work, including earning a degree and passing a professional exam.

Essential Information

Residential architects create living spaces for individuals and families. Architects must obtain a professional degree in architecture and complete a supervised training period before they can secure a license. After the prospective architect fulfills the requirements they are qualified to create public, private, residential and commercial buildings.

Required Education Bachelor of Architecture
Other Requirements Complete a training period and pass the Architect Registration Exam
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 7%*
Median Salary (2015) $76,100*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Graduate High School

The road to becoming an architect starts with completing a high school education. Students can start learning some fundamental concepts by taking courses in drafting, drawing, business and computers. High school students can also join the American Institute of Architecture Students and take advantage of networking, competitions and mentoring opportunities (www.aias.org).

Step 2: Complete an Architecture Degree Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most prospective architects earn a professional Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree, which typically takes five years of full-time study to complete (www.bls.gov). Students take classes that teach architectural design techniques, ideas and issues, building systems, architecture history, design communication and technology. Some programs offer electives that are specific to housing architecture, such as modern housing, great city houses and urban housing. The program culminates with professional design studio coursework that requires students to apply their skills and knowledge by creating blueprints and constructing 3-dimensional models of their designs.

Individuals who have a Bachelor of Science in Architecture or a bachelor's degree in a different subject can earn a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree in order to become an architect. Master's degrees are also beneficial for individuals interested in teaching, research or specialty positions. While the M.Arch. is a professional degree, the Master of Science in Architecture is geared towards architectural research. The M.Arch. allows for more in-depth study in professional practice, structures, materials, design methods, architectural history and studio work than the Master of Science degree program.

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Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Before architecture graduates can become licensed and begin practicing, they must complete a training period. The American Institute of Architects and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) created the Intern Development Program (IDP), which is a training program that ensures all participants acquire the necessary skills to practice architecture independently (www.ncarb.org). They acquire this knowledge while working under the guidance of a licensed architect, typically for a 3-year period. Many participants fulfill this requirement by working as interns at architectural companies; prospective house architects may want to complete this internship at a residential architecture firm.

Individuals can begin IDP training while they are completing an approved architecture degree program. To meet the IDP requirements, participants must gain 5,600 training hours. They must gain experience in design and building documents, contract administration and management. Professional and community service hours are also required.

Step 4: Obtain Licensure

All U.S. architects must be licensed in order to practice architecture without supervision, according to the BLS. The licensing examination, called the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), is administered by the NCARB. Before taking the ARE, applicants must ensure they meet their state boards' requirements for licensure. The ARE includes sections on programming, site planning and design, building designs and construction systems, schematic design, structural systems, building systems and construction documents.

Step 5: Acquire Certification

The NCARB also offers voluntary certifications, which is one of the most efficient means for obtaining licensure to practice across other jurisdictions. Certification is typically awarded to applicants who have earned a degree from an approved architecture program, completed the IDP and passed the ARE.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an annual median salary of $76,100 for architects. The BLS predicted faster than average job growth for these professionals of 7% from 2014-2024.

Modern residential architects must be trained in the features and building requirements of the buildings they design. They also learn through their B.Arch. education how to use design software and use mathematical concepts to ensure structure soundness. Architects must also be licensed through completion of the ARE.

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