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Posted on 3rd september 2018 by Natasha Moore

Architecture is a highly respectable career, perfectly intertwining the threads of  science and art to bring aesthetically pleasing abstractions to the real world. The structural masterpieces are almost so surreal they seem to have been summoned up from the Earth they lay upon by some sort of sorcery. But fear not, there is infact a route into this wonderful world of geometric beauty, and it doesn't involve Hogwarts.

Image credit: Giphy

Image credit: Giphy

1. Where To Start?

GCSE's & A-Levels

According to UCAS (the organisation that handles British university applications), decisions for this careerpath are made at a GCSE level, emphasising the need for 5 GCSE's graded A* - C. Leading on from this it is advisable to pursue A-Level subjects which focus on science, maths and perhaps art and design. As making any subject choices can be a difficult one, it would be highly recommendable to gain advice from the Architects Registration Board (ARB). I would encourage this because I have known friends who haven't been misinformed or they themselves didn't do their research right and made foolish decisions with their subject choices and realised that they couldn't go on to study medicine at university. It can happen.  So definitely do your research and contact the right people. Other architect resources I would recommend are: Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), specifically the RIBA section on becoming an architect and the ARB Student Handbook.  This may seem like overkill but it's better to do your research early and know of this is the right career for you and what steps you need to put in place than jump into a career blind only later to realize you don't have the qualifications for it or don't actually want to do the job. And by this stage your 50 with two kids to feed!!!


Unlike you're flatmates you'll have the privilege of having your nose stuck in £40 textbooks for 5 years as oppose to 3-4 years. And the fun's not over there, following on from this is two years of practical learning as an architectural assistant or similar work experience.


These also exist for routes into architecture.

All in all the road to becoming a fully fledged architect is broken down into 3 parts by RIBA as discussed in the salary section of this article.

2. You're a Pro

So you got the certificate (5 yrs at Uni + 2 yrs work experience/ Apprenticeship), now you've got the job. What happens next? Do you just get out your crayons  and start colouring in the shard? Oh no my friend ,think more along the lines of swallowing shards of glass, for the mental and physical agony you will have to endure  in feeble attempts to get the correct overhang of the new apartment block at Southbank will be almost unbearable at times! But push through it and you will gain the status of  architectural God/Goddess! But before you peak to these ultimate ranks know that the learning never stops.

**Fun Fact: to legally use the title 'architect' in the UK you must register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB).  

3. Which Employer Is Right For Me?

As important as it is to emphasise to your employer why they should pick you it is just as equally important to know just what you would want to expect from them.

Large vs. Small

It's worth noting that generally there are more opportunities for progression in larger architectural firms than smaller or start - up firms. Other areas you could be covering in larger companies include: project management and urban design.

Private vs. Public

If you're thinking of private vs. public note that private practises may potentially offer the opportunity for you to become an associate partner once your qualification levels permit this.  In the public sector, career progression is much more heavily influenced by the influences of public organisations.

Chartered vs. Non-Chartered

A primary decision once you have been accredited the status of 'professional' is whether you would like to follow the route of becoming a chartered architect or not. It must be noted that the chartered status is available through membership with this organisation although it is not a legal requirement to be registered with RIBA in order to practise.

As with many careers there is a pyramid system in architecture, with those at the apex normally being the most qualified and experienced. So what exactly do we mean by qualifications, haven't you done all the learning? Well, not exactly.

If you do decide to become chartered then it's common practice for those architects who do so  to complete at least 35 hours of 'continuing professional development' (cpd) annually. This will involve atleast 2 hours of study in 10 areas of the RIBA's schedule. Examples of which include: climate - sustainable architecture, being safe - health and safety and context - the historic environment and its context.

Although as mentioned earlier it's not mandatory to become chartered, doing so will enable your progression into more senior roles more easily.

Chartered Membership Experience

'Fellow of RIBA' status or 'Friba' for short, is an awarded title to architects who have been chartered for more than 5 years and have displayed distinguishable achievement in the field.

4. Salary


Chartered usually results in a higher average wage than non-chartered. (I'm not doing those hours of extra study for the bants!)


As 2 years of practical experience are compulsory in order to gain a  professional architectural qualification you can expect to get paid during this hard graft! Wages at this 'work experience level can be divided into 3 levels (part I, part ll and part lll).

Part l: £18,000 - £22,000 - Typically the practical aspect is 1 year in duration, here you source a workplace, Professional Studies Advisor and an employment mentor. You're working on site but still very must dependent on guides as you learn the ropes.
Part ll: £22,000 - £35,000 - Architectural Assistant, once you've gained adequate experience.
Part lll: £32,000 - £45,000 - Fully qualified architect. On completion of part lll the world's your oyster! Nest step could even be director and a wage of £45,000+.


Size, credibility, sector (public/private) will all influence your salary.

5. Expectations of the Job

So the title sounds good but what use is a title if you're living in misery?!

The Working Hours

Don't worry, you'll most likely get to keep your social life, with working hours being 9 - 5pm, 5 days a week.  Although with many project oriented roles you may be expected to work longer hours when in the thick of it.

Primarily Office Based

If you thought you'd be off travelling the world while closing one eye and sticking a licked finger in the air for wind direction, think again. This may be the life of the big shots, but in your architectural infancy atleast learn how to crawl before you try and walk. Visits on-site will probably be a given but for the most part this will be a sedentary  role.

Freelance Work

This can be a feasible career option for experienced architects, perhaps you would like to be your own boss or keep more of your profits (I'm not judging), either way working freelance isn't uncommon. Additionally the opportunity of experienced architects starting up their own firms is available too.  

Being an Architect is no easy goal but nothing in life worth having is easy to get.  If it's your goal then there's no reason you can't achieve it when you combine passion with perseverance. I can't wait to see your building someday!!!!


Written by Natasha Moore

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