About 1 in 4 architects was self-employed—more than three
times the proportion for all professional and related occupations.
Licensing requirements include a professional degree in
architecture, 3 years of practical work training, and passing all
divisions of the Architect Registration Examination.
Architecture graduates may face competition, especially for
jobs in the most prestigious firms; opportunities will be best for
those with experience working for a firm while still in school and
for those with knowledge of computer-aided design and drafting
People need places in which to live, work, play, learn, worship,
meet, govern, shop, and eat. These places may be private or public;
indoors or outdoors; or rooms, buildings, or complexes, and
together, they make up neighborhoods, towns, suburbs, and cities.
Architects—licensed professionals trained in the art and
science of building design—transform these needs into concepts and
then develop the concepts into images and plans of buildings that
can be constructed by others.
Architects design the overall aesthetic and look of buildings and
other structures, but the design of a building involves far more
than its appearance. Buildings also must be functional, safe, and
economical and must suit the needs of the people who use them.
Architects consider all these factors when they design buildings and
Architects provide professional services to individuals and
organizations planning a construction project. They may be involved
in all phases of development, from the initial discussion with the
client through the entire construction process. Their duties require
specific skills—designing, engineering, managing, supervising, and
communicating with clients and builders. Architects spend a great
deal of time explaining their ideas to clients, construction
contractors, and others. Successful architects must be able to
communicate their unique vision persuasively.
The architect and client discuss the objectives, requirements,
and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide various
predesign services—conducting feasibility and environmental impact
studies, selecting a site, or specifying the requirements the design
must meet. For example, they may determine space requirements by
researching the numbers and types of potential users of a building.
The architect then prepares drawings and a report presenting ideas
for the client to review.
After discussing and agreeing on the initial proposal, architects
develop final construction plans that show the building’s appearance
and details for its construction. Accompanying these plans are
drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and
ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems;
plumbing; and, possibly, site and landscape plans. The plans also
specify the building materials and, in some cases, the interior
furnishings. In developing designs, architects follow building
codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as
those requiring easy access by disabled persons. Throughout the
planning stage, they make necessary changes. Computer-aided design
and drafting (CADD) technology has replaced traditional paper and
pencil as the most common method for creating design and
construction drawings. Continual revision of plans on the basis of
client needs and budget constraints is often necessary.
Architects may also assist clients in obtaining construction
bids, selecting contractors, and negotiating construction contracts.
As construction proceeds, they may visit building sites to make sure
that contractors follow the design, adhere to the schedule, use the
specified materials, and meet work quality standards. The job is not
complete until all construction is finished, required tests are
conducted, and construction costs are paid. Sometimes, architects
also provide postconstruction services, such as facilities
management. They advise on energy efficiency measures, evaluate how
well the building design adapts to the needs of occupants, and make
Architects design a wide variety of buildings, such as office and
apartment buildings, schools, churches, factories, hospitals,
houses, and airport terminals. They also design complexes such as
urban centers, college campuses, industrial parks, and entire
communities. In addition, they may advise on the selection of
building sites, prepare cost analysis and land-use studies, and do
long-range planning for land development.
Architects sometimes specialize in one phase of work. Some
specialize in the design of one type of building—for example,
hospitals, schools, or housing. Others focus on planning and
predesign services or construction management and do minimal design
work. They often work with engineers, urban planners, interior
designers, landscape architects, and other professionals. In fact,
architects spend a great deal of their time coordinating information
from, and the work of, others engaged in the same project. Many
architects—particularly at larger firms—use the Internet and e-mail
to update designs and communicate changes efficiently. Architects
also use the Internet to research product specifications and
Architects usually work in a comfortable environment. Most of
their time is spent in offices consulting with clients, developing
reports and drawings, and working with other architects and
engineers. However, they often visit construction sites to review
the progress of projects. Although most architects work
approximately 40 hours per week, they often have to work nights and
weekends to meet
All States and the District of Columbia require individuals to be
licensed (registered) before they may call themselves architects and
contract to provide architectural services. During this time between
graduation and becoming licensed, architecture school graduates
generally work in the field under supervision of a licensed
architect who takes legal responsibility for all work. Licensing
requirements include a professional degree in architecture, a period
of practical training or internship, and a passing score on all
divisions of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).
In most States, the professional degree in architecture must be
from one of the 113 schools of architecture that have degree
programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board
(NAAB). However, State architectural registration boards set their
own standards, so graduation from a non-NAAB-accredited program may
meet the educational requirement for licensing in a few States.
Three types of professional degrees in architecture are available
through colleges and universities. The majority of all architectural
degrees are from 5-year Bachelor of Architecture programs, intended
for students entering university-level studies from high school or
with no previous architectural training. In addition, a number of
schools offer a 2-year Master of Architecture program for students
with a preprofessional undergraduate degree in architecture or a
related area, or a 3- or 4-year Master of Architecture program for
students with a degree in another discipline.
The choice of degree depends upon each individual’s preference
and educational background. Prospective architecture students should
consider the available options before committing to a program. For
example, although the 5-year Bachelor of Architecture program offers
the fastest route to the professional degree, courses are
specialized, and if the student does not complete the program,
transferring to a program offered by another discipline may be
difficult. A typical program includes courses in architectural
history and theory, building design, structures, technology,
construction methods, professional practice, math, physical
sciences, and liberal arts. Central to most architectural programs
is the design studio, where students put into practice the skills
and concepts learned in the classroom. During the final semester of
many programs, students devote their studio time to creating an
architectural project from beginning to end, culminating in a
three-dimensional model of their design.
Many schools of architecture also offer postprofessional degrees
for those who already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in
architecture or other areas. Although graduate education beyond the
professional degree is not required for practicing architects, it
may be for research, teaching, and certain specialties.
Architects must be able to communicate their ideas visually to
their clients. Artistic and drawing ability is helpful, but not
essential, to such communication. More important are a visual
orientation and the ability to conceptualize and understand spatial
relationships. Good communication skills, the ability to work
independently or as part of a team, and creativity are important
qualities for anyone interested in becoming an architect. Computer
literacy also is required for writing specifications, for two- and
three-dimensional drafting, and for financial management. Knowledge
of CADD is essential and has become a critical tool for architects.
Most schools now teach students CADD programs and methods that
adhere to the National CAD Standards.
All State architectural registration boards require architecture
graduates to complete a training period—usually 3 years—before they
may sit for the ARE, the third and final requirement for becoming
licensed. Every State, with the exception of Arizona, has adopted
the training standards established by the Intern Development
Program, a branch of the American Institute of Architects and the
National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). These
standards stipulate broad and diversified training under the
supervision of a licensed architect over a 3-year period. Most new
graduates complete their training period by working as interns at
architectural firms. Some States allow a portion of the training to
occur in the offices of related professionals, such as engineers or
general contractors. Architecture students who complete internships
in architectural firms while still in school can count some of that
time toward the required 3-year training period.
Interns in architectural firms may assist in the design of one
part of a project, help prepare architectural documents or drawings,
build models, or prepare construction drawings on CADD. Interns also
may research building codes and materials or write specifications
for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of
finishes, and other, related details.
After completing their on-the-job training period, interns are
eligible to sit for the ARE. The examination tests a candidate’s
knowledge, skills, and ability to provide the various services
required in the design and construction of buildings. The test is
broken down into 9 divisions consisting of either multiple choice or
graphical questions; States give candidates an eligibility period
for completion of all divisions of the exam that varies by State.
Candidates who pass the ARE and meet all standards established by
their State Board become licensed to practice in that State.
Most States require some form of continuing education to maintain
a license, and many others are expected to adopt mandatory
continuing education. Requirements vary by State, but usually
involve the completion of a certain number of credits annually or
biennially through workshops, formal university classes,
conferences, self-study courses, or other sources.
A growing number of architects voluntarily seek certification by
the NCARB, which can facilitate an individual’s becoming licensed to
practice in additional States. This practice is known as
“reciprocity.” Certification is awarded after independent
verification of the candidate’s educational transcripts, employment
record, and professional references. Certification is the primary
requirement for reciprocity of licensing among State Boards that are
NCARB members. In 2004, approximately one-third of all licensed
architects had NCARB certification.
After becoming licensed and gaining experience, architects take
on increasingly responsible duties, eventually managing entire
projects. In large firms, architects may advance to supervisory or
managerial positions. Some architects become partners in established
firms, while others set up their own practices. Graduates with
degrees in architecture also enter related fields, such as graphic,
interior, or industrial design; urban planning; real estate
development; civil engineering; and construction management.
Architects held about 129,000 jobs in 2004. Approximately 3 out
of 5 jobs were in the architectural, engineering, and related
services industry—mostly in architectural firms with fewer than five
workers. A small number worked for residential and nonresidential
building construction firms and for government agencies responsible
for housing, community planning, or construction of government
buildings, such as the U.S. Departments of Defense and Interior, and
the General Services Administration. About 1 in 4 architects was
Employment of architects is expected to grow about as fast the
average for all occupations through 2014. Besides employment
growth, additional job openings will arise from the need to replace
the many architects who are nearing retirement, and others who
transfer to other occupations or stop working for other reasons.
Internship opportunities for new architectural students are expected
to be good over the next decade, but more students are graduating
with architectural degrees and some competition for entry-level jobs
can be anticipated. Competition will be especially keen for jobs at
the most prestigious architectural firms as prospective architects
try to build their reputation. Prospective architects who have had
internships while in school will have an advantage in obtaining
intern positions after graduation.
Employment of architects is strongly tied to the activity of the
construction industry. Strong growth is expected to come from
nonresidential construction as demand for commercial space
increases. Residential construction, buoyed by low interest rates,
is also expected to grow as more and more people become homeowners.
If interest rates rise significantly, this sector may see a falloff
in home building.
Current demographic trends also support an increase in demand for
architects. As the population of Sunbelt States continues to grow,
the people living there will need new places to live and work. As
the population continues to live longer and baby-boomers begin to
retire there will be a need for more healthcare facilities, nursing
homes, and retirement communities. In education, buildings at all
levels are getting older and class sizes are getting larger. This
will require many school districts and universities to build new
facilities and renovate existing ones.
Some types of construction are sensitive to cyclical changes in
the economy. Architects seeking design projects for office and
retail construction will face especially strong competition for jobs
or clients during recessions, and layoffs may ensue in less
successful firms. Those involved in the design of institutional
buildings, such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and
correctional facilities, will be less affected by fluctuations in
the economy. Residential construction makes up a small portion of
work for architects, so major changes in the housing market would
not be as significant as fluctuations in the nonresidential
Despite good overall job opportunities some architects may not
fare as well as others. The profession is geographically sensitive
and some parts of the Nation may have fewer new building projects
than others. Also, many firms specialize in specific buildings, such
as hospitals or office towers, and demand for these buildings may
vary by region. Architects may find it increasingly necessary to
gain reciprocity in order to compete for the best jobs and projects
in other States.
In recent years, some architecture firms have outsourced to
architecture firms overseas the drafting of construction documents
for large-scale commercial and residential projects. This trend is
expected to continue and may have a negative impact on employment
growth for lower level architects and interns who would normally
gain experience by producing these drawings. However, most firms
will keep design services in-house, and opportunities will be best
for those architects that are able to distinguish themselves from
others with their
Median annual earnings of wage and salary architects were $60,300
in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $46,690 and
$79,230. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,060, and the
highest 10 percent earned more than $99,800. Those just starting
their internships can expect to earn considerably less.
Earnings of partners in established architectural firms may
fluctuate because of changing business conditions. Some architects
may have difficulty establishing their own practices and may go
through a period when their expenses are greater than their income,
requiring substantial financial resources.
Suggested citation: Bureau of
Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook
Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,
Architects, Except Landscape and Naval, on the Internet at
(visited November 24, 2006).