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Education Needed to Become an Architect

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

Architects

Architects are licensed professionals who design and plan structures that are attractive, functional and safe. They can be involved in every phase of a building's development from conception to construction. Architects must complete a professional bachelor's or master's degree in architecture that has been accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board and qualify for a state licensure.

In addition to fulfilling education and licensing requirements, architects should also be analytical, creative, organized, and have good communication, technical, and visualization skills.

Education Requirements

High school graduates who want to become an architect can pursue a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) program, which typically takes five years to complete. Pre-professional bachelor's degree programs in architectural studies or construction management take four years to complete. Undergraduate courses will include topics in architectural history and theory, building and construction, and computer-aided design and drafting (CADD). Students also participate in design studios where they draw and create 3D models.

Aspiring architects who have already earned a bachelor's degree in another field, like architectural history or construction management, can apply to a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) program. These advanced programs are also open to applicants who have professional B.Arch. degrees and want to specialize in historic preservation, design theory, solar design, or another related field.

Depending upon prior education and experience, an M.Arch. degree can be earned in one to five years. For example, students with a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture can earn their M.Arch. degrees in two years, or three years if they have a bachelor's degree in another field. Students who have already completed a B.Arch. program can usually complete an M.Arch. program in one year.

Students seeking admission to professional M.Arch. programs may have an advantage if they have design experience and an undergraduate education in humanities or art. Some schools require a portfolio featuring the applicant's best sketches and models. Once enrolled, M.Arch. students may have to complete certain prerequisites, such as classes in architectural theory, before proceeding with professional coursework.

Licensing

In order to be licensed, prospective architects must complete a three-year paid internship administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). Under the supervision of a licensed architect, interns may assist with designing a project, build models, prepare CADD drawings and write specs.

To maintain their licenses, architects in most states must pursue continuing education through classes, conferences and workshops. Some architects can become licensed in more than one state by obtaining a voluntary certification through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Employment and Salary

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), architects can expect a seven percent, or average, growth in job opportunities between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, architects earned a median annual wage of $74,110, also according to the BLS.

Just to recap, architects must have a professional bachelor's or master's degree in architecture from a program that has been accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, and a state license. The median annual salary for an architect in May 2015 was $74,110.

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