Career Information for Architecture Students

Architectural Schools

Interior Design Schools

Construction Management Schools
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Architecture, Interior Design, Construction Management, Landscape Architecture and Product Design Career information from the CDCC (Consortium for Design and Construction Careers)

The building of a career is quite as difficult a problem as the building of a house, yet few ever sit down with pencil and paper, with expert information and counsel, to plan a working career and deal with the life problem scientifically, as they would deal with the problem of building a house, taking the advice of an architect to help them.

Arch Careers site

   Click here for U.S. Labor Department statistics on careers in architecture

   Click here for U.S. Labor Department statistics on careers in interior design

   Click here for U.S. Labor Department statistics on careers in construction management

What is architecture?

Architecture (in Greek arch = "first" and tecnh = "craftsmanship") is the imaginative blend of art and science used in the design of buildings. A wider definition would include within its scope the design of the total built environment, from the macrolevel of town planning, urban design, and landscape architecture to the microlevel of furniture. Problem solving, decision-making, team leadership, and creativity are key elements in making architecture and lead to the tremendous excitement that comes from seeing a design idea become a physical reality.

What is an architect?

Architects design buildings, and as part of that activity they create drawings, build scale models, write specifications, letters and other documents, supervise or manage architectural projects. They also may teach architecture, carry out research, or give advice to building owners.

Most architects do not actually carry out the construction of the buildings they design. That is usually done by construction contractors.  However, some architects do construction in a design-build company.  Others may normally build smaller projects such as houses.

Architects also may develop projects on their own, alone or in conjunction with financial advisors, real-estate developers or others.

Architects can do more than design buildings.  Some serve as consultants on a broad range of clients' needs such as long-term business planning, relocation planning, interior design, human resources and space-use planning, facility maintenance programming and hundreds of other services.

The practice of architecture is enriched by the cultural and ethnic diversity of the men and women who join the profession.

What other professionals work with architects?

Other professionals work for architects on a building project such as structural engineers, civil engineers, electrical and mechanical engineers, landscape architects, cost experts, acoustical specialists, lighting designers, interior designers, artists, photographers, city planners, facility managers, regional planners, land developers, real-estate firms, sociologists, demographers and many more.

How do architects become involved in projects?

In many cases, architects respond to requests for proposals published by private or public clients. This is one way that clients let interested professionals know that a project is pending so that they can try to be selected to design it.

Sometimes architects are invited to present their qualifications. This is usually followed by interviews and a presentation of past work in their portfolio.

Some architects participate in design competitions and then are hired to do a project when a jury, a group of people assembled by the client to evaluate architects, likes their preliminary design for a building selects them.

Many people are motivated to become architects because they want to literally make a better world. This is also why some architects try to become a visible and helpful part of their community; it is an important part of their outlook on life. This kind of involvement can also help clients see an architect as an agent for positive change.

Architects even make "cold calls" on potential clients to seek work.  They also may be the initiators of projects themselves, especially if they are also the developer and client.

What makes the profession worth practicing?

For some architects, the excitement of architectural work comes from the mix of intellectual stimulation, technical challenges, making things, and "getting your boots muddy" at a construction site. For others, the ability to be one's own boss and to make a living doing what one loves to do provides "psychic income". Since architectural practice options cover such a broad range of possibilities, from teaching and writing to construction supervision and management, you can define your own niche in the profession and satisfy your particular emotional needs.

Whatever the reason, most architects do what they do because they love it. Architecture is one of those professions where you may find yourself amazed that you can actually get paid to do something that you enjoy so much. While there are often more routine tasks that architects also have to wade through ÷ ask an architect about "shop drawings", for example - the positives usually far outweigh the more difficult challenges.

Besides, anyone who watches TV or movies knows what Hollywood knows; architecture is an inherently glamorous, stylish activity that attracts an interesting, diverse and talented group of professionals. There are as many ways to define Ńarchitectureń as there are architects; the potential is always there to make the profession your own.

The Process of Becoming an Architect

How do I become an architect?

To become a licensed architect in the United States, you must meet three requirements: Education, Experience, and Exam.  First, you will need to gain a degree in architecture from an architectural program in college; second, after graduation you will need to complete an internship working for an architectural firm and getting experience in 16 specific areas of practice; and third, you will need to pass the nine-division national Architect Registration Exam. After completing the three "E's," you are a eligible to apply for registration or licensure in any one state.  Once that state has issued you a license, you can refer to yourself as an "Architect."  Now you can start your own firm, if you wish, and offer architectural services to the public in the state in which you are licensed.  The entire process of obtaining a license to practice architecture typically requires eight to ten years after high school to complete.


At what point in high school should I consider the academic options that might prepare me for an architectural career?

If you are interested in a career as an architect, it is best to begin early. Your own environment - at home, in school, and in your community - is a good laboratory for study. By learning to "see" buildings, spaces, and their relationships, you will become sensitive to the things that concern architects. Notice the effects of color, texture, light, and shape - the "tools" of architecture - and consider how spaces and places "feel" when you are in them. Analyze your positive and negative reactions and see if you can connect them to design elements. Look for rhythm and pattern, simplicity and ornament, old and new in your environment, and notice the variety in your community. Think about the values expressed in the design of your house, school and city hall.

What kinds of skills should I have (or develop) in high school (or earlier) that are necessary for an architectural career?

When in high school, you should plan a college preparatory program strong in English, history, social studies, mathematics, physics, and foreign languages. If you can, add courses in business and computer science. It may surprise you to know that freehand drawing skills will be more useful to you than drafting ability. Computer literacy is essential.

Perhaps the best attributes are to be able to listen, to speak and write (communicate) effectively and to be able to organize your thoughts and activities.

Other than courses in high school, what else can I do to develop my interest in architecture?

You are encouraged to visit the design studios of a school of architecture, tour the offices of a local architecture firm and read books and magazines on architecture to gain a broad understanding of the nature of an architect's work and the values of the profession. Many schools of architecture offer summer programs for high-school students.


What college degree should I pursue?

There are five different educational paths that you may take to enter the profession.

1. 2-year undergraduate Associate of Applied Science degree in architecture.  Most states do not allow students with this degree to become registered to practice architecture, although such a degree will lead to employment in an architectural firm. Many 2-year schools have developed an agreement with some 4-year schools to allow seamless transfer after the first two years into the junior year at the 4-year school.

2. 4-year undergraduate B.A. or a B.S. degree in Architectural Studies.  Many states allow graduates of these programs to become registered to practice architecture, but they require a longer internship period.

3. 5-year undergraduate Bachelor of Architecture degree. This degree is called a "professional degree."

4. 4-year undergraduate B.A. or a B.S. degree in Architectural Studies plus 2-year graduate Master of Architecture (M. Arch.) degree.  The M. Arch. degree is called a "professional degree."

5. 4-year undergraduate B.A. or a B.S. degree in any subject plus 3 1/2-year graduate Master of Architecture degree.  This M. Arch. degree is also called a "professional degree."

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) has a list of undergraduate and graduate schools on their web site at  The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) publishes a list of architectural schools in their publication, Guide to Architecture Schools, which can be ordered online at

As you can see, the total number of years in school can be reduced if you commit yourself to architecture early. If you pursue a non-architecture undergraduate degree and then go to graduate school, you could spend as many as eight years in school. There is a trade-off that one must reconcile with this decision. One approach offers fewer years in school but sacrifices some of the liberal arts education central to all professions. The longer path is more expensive but provides for a more well-rounded educational approach.

How do I choose among the various school programs?

Selecting a college or university in which to study architecture can be an overwhelming and daunting task especially when you consider there are over 100 schools that offer architecture degree programs in the U.S. and Canada. However, by understanding which criteria are important to you, the best school for you will emerge as your top choice.

Criteria can reflect your attributes and needs:

1. Your level of confidence in becoming an architect
2. Your personality type
3. Closeness to (or distance from) home
4. Your college budget
5. Location of the school (urban or country)
6. Size of the school
7. Private vs. public school
8. Scholarship opportunities
9. Enrichment programs available at the school
10. School facilities
11. School philosophy
12. School reputation
13. Faculty reputation
14. Post-graduation jobs obtained by recent graduates

Informational resources that may be of help as you select a school include discussion with current students, faculty, and alumni; promotional materials provided by the school including websites, campus visits, and architecture career days held annually in the fall in Boston and Chicago.


What is professional registration? Must I be registered in order to practice architecture?

"Registration" or "Licensing" as a professional architect involves the successful completion of a degree in architecture or architectural studies, the completion of an internship period (working in the field) and passing the national Architect Registration Examination (the "ARE").   In order to take the ARE, you must have a degree in Architecture and have completed an "internship" of three to five years (depending on what kind of degree you have) in architectural offices. The training program called the "Architect Experience Program" (AXP) was created by the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB).  The AXP program assures that you will have experience in all aspects of the architectural profession including design, specifications, cost estimating, working drawings and construction administration. When you pass the national exam, you become eligible to be registered (or licensed) to practice architecture in the state in which you choose to practice. This permits you to sign and seal drawings prepared by you for construction of a building. All states require architects to sign and seal drawings prepared by them, in order to obtain a permit for construction of a building.

Although both the Architect Experience Program and the Architect Registration Examination are nationally administrated, there is no such thing as a national registration or license to practice architecture.  Every state has its own registration powers.  Once you are registered to practice architecture in one state, you may then apply for registration in other states by paying a fee and usually without taking other examinations.

Owners and partners in architectural firms are registered to practice architecture in at least one state, and many are registered in more than one state. You have to be registered in every state in which you are designing a building.

Most states do not require an architect to sign and seal drawings for construction of houses.  Many houses are not designed by architects, or even graduates of architectural schools. Too bad.  Our residential neighborhoods would undoubtedly be more attractive visually if architects were involved in their design.

Now that I've decided to become an architect, what is it like to work in the field?


Employment of architects is tied to the amount of building going on, particularly office buildings, shopping centers, schools, and healthcare facilities. The overbuilding that took place during the booming 1980s created many empty buildings and a slowdown in this type of construction during the first half of the 1990s. Although architects were in great demand from the mid-1990s on, slower labor force growth, rapid increases in telecommuting and "flexiplace" work, and the 1980s overbuilding are expected to continue to suppress demand for new office space for a few years into the early 2000s. Nevertheless, employment of architects is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations during this period.

How can I improve my chances of getting a good job after I have a professional degree?

If possible, you should attempt to gain experience in an architectural firm while you are in college. Many schools will assist their students in finding jobs; some schools even require such experience as part of their educational program. In particular, the ability to contribute to the production of "contract documents" drawings, almost all of which is done by computer these days, can also increase your ability to get a job after graduation. Firms can help you learn what to draw; few have the time or money to teach you how to draw.

Will it be difficult to find a job after graduating from college? What kind of entry-level salary can I expect?

Architectural job openings change with the state of the national and local economy; when the economy is good, there are more jobs. There can be considerable variations from one region to another, as well as from city to city within a region.

Entry-level jobs often pay in the range of $15 to $20 per hour, and usually involve CAD drafting and model-building. Obviously, this will depend on your skills and experience to date; summertime and part-time job experience are recommended as a way of starting at a higher level upon graduation.

How rapidly does one advance? How often does one change jobs in the early years?

It is not unusual for graduates of architectural schools to change employers three or more times during the first few years after graduation. There is nothing wrong with this.  In fact, it is the rule more than the exception, and you should expect it. This situation has some advantages in that it exposes you to different offices and their varied ways of designing, running projects, doing presentations and succeeding as businesses.

Advancement is usually rather slow; as in other fields, your motivation, willingness to learn by exposure to a range of tasks (especially during your internship) and aggressiveness all will affect the rate at which your responsibilities and salary increase.

What are the income range and benefits I can expect as I gain experience?

Salaries are generally lower than those of other professions with equivalent educational requirements (law, medicine, business). Entry-level jobs for holders of Bachelor of Architecture or Master of Architecture degrees pay from $36,000 to $50,000 (equivalent to $18.00 to $25.00 per hour; annual increases usually include cost-of-living and "merit" increases.

Six to ten years out of graduate school, you may earn $55,000. Generally, the only way to earn substantially more is to own your own firm or become a partner in a large firm. Partner's average income range is $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

Benefits often include health plans, other insurance and sometimes profit-sharing, in addition to the usual holidays, sick-time and vacation. Generally, the larger the firm, the greater are the benefits. However, you should keep in mind that the benefits should be considered as only one issue in the choice of a job. For example, although a smaller firm might have fewer benefits, you are more likely to be given a wider range of tasks and responsibilities than in a larger firm.


How is the practice of architecture affected by regulations and codes?

Architects practice within the boundaries set by myriad national, state and local regulations, such as building codes, fire-prevention codes, zoning ordinances and industry standards. In addition, legislative and regulatory bodies such as historic preservation commissions, community groups, design review boards and public agencies often must review proposed projects during the design process. As one gains experience, one incorporates the basics into one's own "process" and views them as an order-giving part of professional practice, not simply as "obstacles to be overcome".

The architect's greatest responsibility to the public is to preserve the safety of users of the buildings he or she designs. This includes structural stability, protection from the wind and weather and from fire, climate control and comfort for the building users.


Do firms specialize in one building type or do they work on a broader range of project types?

Although most firms do a variety of work, they often have particular areas of expertise that may represent a large portion of their work. Some firms, however, do specialize in one type of work, usually more complex types such as hospitals, airports or housing.

What is the average size of an architecture firm?
Does size affect the type of work?'

Eighty percent of the firms in the U.S. are composed of six or fewer employees. The largest firms number 1,000 employees, often located in several regional offices.

Although the larger firms are more likely to be doing the largest projects, most firms are capable of handling a range of project sizes. With the increasing use of computers, more and more small-to-medium-size firms are better able to do larger projects than might have been possible for them in the past.

What are the different practice settings for an architect to pursue?

After a few years in the profession, you will soon realize that architects work in numerous practice settings including community design and urban planning firms, public agencies, private community development corporations, construction firms, corporations, institutional, and governmental facilities offices.

What are related careers that architects may pursue?

In addition to "traditional" careers in architecture, an architectural education may lead to a number of other careers. Over 600 career choices have been catalogued by the AIA. Some of them are listed below:

Interior Designer

Drafter (CADD or manual drafter)
for one of the following types of companies:

architecture firm
city planner
facilities manager
interior design firm
engineering firm
construction contractor
steel fabricator
product manufacturer
Structural Designer
Model Builder
Historic Preservationist
Building Researcher
Multi-Media Specialist
Architectural Photographer
Product Designer
Product Manufacturer's Representative
Acoustical Specialist
Lighting Designer
Landscape Architect
Construction Contractor
Construction Manager
Housing Designer
Housing Rehab Specialist
Accessibility Designer
Building Department Plan Examiner
Building Inspector
Energy Conservation Specialist
City Planner
Asbestos Abatement Specialist
Traffic Planner
Material Testing Specialist
Land Surveyor
Geotechnical Specialist
Interior Decorator
Interior Showroom Salesperson or Manager
Kitchen and Bath Designer
Furniture Designer


Click on an item in the list below to link to related sites:


"About Architecture" (Career Web Site)

Occupational Outlook (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Architect Career Profile (Princeton Review)

Architectural Schools

American Institute of Architects (AIA)

American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS)

AIA Chicago

Association of Licensed Architects (ALA)

Society of Architectural Historians

Architect Intern Development Program (Illinois)



Interior designers plan, design, and furnish the interior of private homes, public buildings, and commercial establishments such as offices, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and theaters, either as new construction or renovation. With a client's tastes, needs and budget in mind, interior designers develop designs and prepare working drawings and specifications for interior construction, furnishings, lighting and finishes.

"About Interior Design and Decorating" (Career Web Site)

Council for Interior Design Education (CIDA) (formerly "FIDER")

Interior Design Career Information from ASID

Interior Design Schools Information from ASID

Occupational Outlook for Interior Design (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Interior Design Schools

Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC)

American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)

International Interior Design Association (IIDA)

National Kitchen and Bath Association

National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ)



Landscape architects design the layout, topography and plant materials (the choices of lawns, gardens, ground covers, hedges and trees) of residential areas, public parks and playgrounds, college campuses, shopping centers, golf courses, parkways and industrial parks. They plan the location of buildings, roads and walkways as well as the arrangement of the growing plant forms that can give character and an invaluable connection to nature for a project. They often collaborate with architects, surveyors, engineers, environmental scientists, foresters and other professionals.

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)

Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture



Although they hold a variety of job titles, construction managers plan direct construction processes including the selection, hiring, and oversight of specialty subcontractors.

Construction Education

Association of General Contractors

Construction Management Association of America

American Council for Construction Education (ACCE)

"Construct My Future" Construction Career web site

National Association of Women in Construction

Sources of Additional Information

Waldrep, Lee. Becoming and Architect - a Guide to careers in Design. Wiley, 2006

Camenson, Blythe. Careers in Architecture. 2002, VGM Career Books

American Institute of Architects (AIA). Careers in Architecture. Available from the AIA Bookstore  (800) 242-3837.

Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). Guide to Architecture Schools.  Available from the AIA Bookstore  (800) 242-3837.

Lewis, R. (MIT Press, 1998). Architect? A Candid Guide to the Profession. Available from the AIA Bookstore  (800) 242-3837.

O'Gorman, J. F. ABC of Architecture. Available from the AIA Bookstore  (800) 242-3837.

Piper, R. Opportunities in Architecture Today. 1975, VGM Career Books. Available from the AIA Bookstore  (800) 242-3837.