Architectural Designer: Career & Education Info

Apr 02, 2021

Earning a bachelor's degree can land you your first job as an architectural designer, which is typically a paid internship. To become an architect, you must become licensed, which entails completing your educational requirements, your internship or training period and sitting for the nationally-accepted Architect Registration Examination.

Essential Information

Architectural designers are entry-level positions for aspiring architects who have received their Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch). This is often a paid internship for those who have yet to take the Architect Registration Exam which is required for all architects in the United States. Architectural designers perform many of the job duties of a drafter, working with CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) programs to make sure that building designs are feasible. Those hoping to enter the architectural field should be confident in their math and science abilities and should be comfortable working on a computer for many hours every day.

Required Education Bachelor of Architecture
Other Requirements Licensure not typically required, although it is necessary for advancement for professional architects
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) -3% (for civil and architectural drafters)*
Median Salary (2020) $57,500 (for civil and architectural drafters)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


The path to becoming an architectural designer starts with enrolling in a college program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board or another qualified organization, such as the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board. Some architectural design programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Majors include architecture, architectural engineering, landscape architecture and crossovers such as environmental design/architecture.

Typical Coursework

Coursework varies from one specialty to another, but in general, students take classes in architectural design and theory, building methods, construction technology, structural design, math, science and art. Computer-assisted drafting is an important component of most programs. Depending on the university attended and program completed, an architectural designer candidate may obtain a Bachelor of Architecture, which takes five years to complete. Four-year bachelor's degree programs are also available, but graduates need to complete further education to become a licensed architect. Other programs may lead to a Master of Architecture degree.

Licensing Requirements

Architectural designers typically do not need an architect's license. Since this is an entry-level position often held by new graduates of professional architecture programs, candidates may use the job to gain the work experience needed for eventual architect licensure. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, architects need a license to practice in all states. Specific prerequisites vary from one state to the next.

In most states, licensure involves first obtaining a degree in architecture or a closely related field and completing relevant training experience, such as working as a junior associate for a specified length of time. They must also earn a passing score on the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Certain architectural design specialties require taking a related exam instead. For example, landscape architects must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE). Since an architectural designer can specialize in one of several possibilities, it's important to complete the right program and take the right exam for the specialty of choice.

Professional Internship

The training portion of the licensing requirement involves completing a professional three-year internship. During this period, the architectural design candidate earns a salary while working in an architectural field under close supervision of a licensed or registered architect. In all, completing one's education, doing an internship and passing a professional exam is a process that will take 8-10 years to achieve.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean salary for architectural and civil drafters in 2019 was $59,120. Between 2019 and 2029, the BLS predicted that employment levels for the same position would decline. This may be explained by the fact that many architectural designers go on to become architects. During the same period, employment for architects, except naval and landscape architects, is predicted to increase by 1%. In 2020, the BLS reported an annual median salary of $82,320 for architects, except naval and landscape.

Licensure is not required to become an architectural designer, but is need to practice as a professional architect, and the process can take up to 10 years to complete. Employment opportunities for architectural designers, such as civil and architectural drafters, are expected to decline through 2029, while opportunities for architects are projected to increase slower than the national average for all occupations over the same time period.

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