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What Does It Take to Become an Architect?

How does one become an architect? Besides needing certain characteristics that make them suitable for the profession, such as attention to detail, interest in the science of structures and buildings, and concern for safety and sound practices, becoming an architect requires students learning and becoming certified in a set of skills that enable them to perform the job on a professional level. Becoming an architect is a multi-year process that begins post-high school graduation:

  1. Obtain a professional degree – The first step to becoming an architect is earning a degree. In the U.S., potential architects must attend and graduate a program accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB). There are several different ways to obtain a professional degree in architecture, and choosing the right path depends on one’s educational background:
  • Bachelor of Architecture – The Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) degree is earned by attending a five-year architecture school. This is the path for would-be architects who do not have an undergraduate degree and who do not plan to attend a regular four-year university. The BArch path includes general education in math, social science, humanities, and the sciences, in addition to the professional architecture coursework.
  • Masters of Architecture (with a non-architecture bachelor’s degree) – Students who want to become architects, but who have a bachelor’s degree, can enter a masters program and receive professional training. These programs can usually be completed in three years.
  • Masters of Architecture (with a pre-professional bachelor’s degree) – This is the Master of Architecture (MArch) path for students whose bachelor degree is related to architecture, such as a BS or a BA in Architecture or Architecture History. Because this path is for students who already have a working knowledge of and experience in architectural learning, these programs can usually be completed in two years.
  • Post-Graduate Degrees – Students who want to study highly specialized disciplines such as ecology, urban studies, and other advanced branches of architecture will need to obtain a post-professional masters degree or PhD in their chosen subject.
  1. Become certified in your jurisdiction – After obtaining a degree, future architects need to become certified by the architectural review board in their jurisdiction, i.e., the state or U.S. territory in which they will be working. This involves not only having a BArch, MArch, or post-professional degree, but also gaining practical experience. This usually means working in an internship supervised by licensed architects, and also passing the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE). The certification process is managed by The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
  2. Build a portfolio and references – Over the course of a would-be architect’s education and certification process, they should be building a portfolio of work that shows off their skills, as well as building a contact list of professors and supervisors who can act as references during their job search. Architecture firms want candidates who not only know the basics of architecture, but who also demonstrate certain skills such as time management, communication, working with and managing staff, and computer and spreadsheet skills. To prove that they have these skills, aspiring architects need to be able to show it, in the work they have done during their years learning the craft, and to have past supervisors who will vouch for their talents and character.

Once an architect has obtained their degree and their certification, and found their first job, they will have officially entered the field of professional architecture. One of the places trained and certified architects find a home is Q-Cad, which relies on their skills to create the high quality work we deliver to our clients. If you’re interested in working for Q-Cad, or wish to speak with one of our professional designers, we can be reached at 800-700-3305.

Become an architect