How to Become a Senior Architect: Career Advancement Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a senior architect. Learn about the job description, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in architecture.

Should I Become a Senior Architect?

Architects design buildings and coordinate with various contractors. They also meet with clients and visit construction sites to make sure projects are completed on-time and according to prepared blueprints. This gives them the opportunity to work in a comfortable office environment most of the time but also gives them the chance to travel.

Senior architects might experience stress associated with meeting deadlines. Still, this could be a good field to get into; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the number of job opportunities for these professionals was expected to increase at the above-average rate of 17% between 2012 and 2022.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Architecture
Licensure/Certification All states require architects to be licensed; voluntary certification is also available
Experience Graduates must complete a 3-year training period before sitting for a licensing exam
Key Skills Analytical, communication, organizational, use of computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) programs and building information modeling (BIM)
Salary (2014) $80,490 yearly (mean for all architects, except landscape and naval)

Source: U.S. Department of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Consider Degree Options

High school graduates may enroll in a Bachelor of Architecture program, which generally lasts five years and includes courses ranging from architectural theory to computer-aided design and drafting (CADD). Students may also receive instruction on construction materials and seismic design. Additionally, most programs require students to take design studios in which they use CADD software to create and develop architectural models.

College graduates who do not have a bachelor's degree in architecture can matriculate to a Master of Architecture program. Students will take courses in specialized topics like conservation and sustainable design, as well as enhance their CADD skills.

Success Tip:

  • Work at an internship. Three years of training are required of all architects before they sit for the licensure examination. The BLS reports that internships completed while in school can count towards those three years.

Step 2: Complete a Training Period

After earning their degree, graduates must complete a training period before they can take the licensing exam. Training is done under a licensed architect's supervision, usually at an architectural firm, and typically lasts three years, according to the BLS. Training duties include helping prepare documents or sketches, constructing models and designing projects. Individuals also conduct research on building codes, building materials and installation standards.

Step 3: Become Licensed

The BLS notes that all states and the District of Columbia require licensing for architects. Licensing requirements vary, but typically include a degree in architecture and a specified duration of practical training. Eligible applicants must then take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), which includes seven sections that cover graphic vignettes on programming, planning and practice, site planning, building design and construction systems, schematic design, structural systems, building systems and construction documents and services. ARE scores are usually administered within 4-6 weeks and are reported as either pass or fail. Individuals who fail the ARE must wait six months before retaking it.

Success Tip:

  • Continue education. The BLS reports that continuing education is required to retain licensure in many states. This is done by achieving annual or biennial credits through workshops, conferences, self-study courses and university-taught classes.

Step 4: Receive Certification

Voluntary certification for architects is available through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and indicates that the architect meets the highest professional standards. To qualify, candidates must have a professional degree from an accredited program, complete the practical training requirements and pass the ARE. The NCARB also evaluates an architect's moral character through professional references before granting certification.

Step 5: Take On More Responsibility

After gaining additional work experience, architects can further prove their capabilities and talents by taking on more difficult projects. Eventually, architects can lead projects and acquire supervisory roles. With 5-10 years of exemplary experience, architects may become senior architects or partners in established firms.

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