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Become an Architectural Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an architectural designer. Research the education requirements, licensure information and experience required for starting a career in architectural design.

Should I Become an Architectural Designer?

An architectural designer designs buildings or landscapes, participating in the process from the idea phase to construction completion. They also produce models and 3-dimensional renderings to present to clients and other members of the design team, and meet with clients to discuss ideas, needs and the project's budget. Other duties might include estimating project costs, preparing scaled drawings, preparing and managing construction contracts and visiting worksites to make sure construction is consistent with the design plans. Architectural designers may need to work long hours to meet deadlines.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Civil Drafting and Civil Engineering, Architecture
Key Skills Critical thinking, organizational communication, creative and analytical skills, problem-solving
Salary (2016) $49,495 per year*

*Source: PayScale.com

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

At minimum, aspiring architectural designers must earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Students have some flexibility when it comes to choosing a major, but they should look for programs that provide education and experience in topics related to engineering. Possible majors include civil drafting and engineering and, of course, architecture. Many prospective architectural designers also choose to complete a master's program in a field such as architecture, which generally takes 2-3 years to finish.

Step 2: Get an Internship

Prior to finding a full-time position, aspiring architectural designers can acquire valuable hands-on experience through an internship. Architectural interns provide assistance with all aspects of architectural design, including presentations to clients and coordination with construction teams. These opportunities often include hands-on work experience, such as 3D modeling and drafting, as well as managing project files. Interns may also be tasked with conducting on-site research and ensuring compliance with zoning laws and rules.

Step 3: Consider Becoming an Architect

Students looking to advance their careers can build on their knowledge and become full-fledged architects. Depending on a student's prior education, further coursework may be required to qualify for these positions. Architects enjoy better pay and solid job prospects; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed a median salary of $76,100 as of 2015 and predicted average job growth of 7% for professionals in the field from 2014-2024.

Success Tip:

  • Improve your job prospects by getting certified. All states, as well as the District of Columbia, mandate licensure for architects. Licensing requirements vary, but most require the completion of a professional degree in architecture and an internship, as well as successful passing of the Architect Registration Examination.

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