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Job Description: Architect.

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Architects work in the construction industry designing new buildings and the spaces in and around them. They also help restore and conserve old buildings, and develop new ways of using existing buildings. They are involved in construction projects from the earliest stages right through to completion.

Job Description, salaries and benefits

Architects work in the construction industry designing new buildings, restoring and conserving old buildings and developing new ways of using existing buildings. They are involved in construction projects from the earliest stages right through to completion.

Their work includes:

  • preparing and presenting design proposals to clients
  • advising clients
  • producing detailed drawings
  • negotiating with contractors and other professionals
  • attending regular meetings with clients, contractors and other specialists
  • co-ordinating the work of contractors
  • making site visits to check on progress
  • dealing with problems that might come up during building.

Architects usually work 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday. Most architects' work is office-based, although some time is spent visiting clients and sites.

Salaries may range from around £25,000 a year up to £100,000 or more for partners and directors.

An architect should:

  • have strong visual awareness and an eye for detail
  • have good drawing skills, with the ability to work in three dimensions (3D)
  • be inventive and imaginative
  • be passionate about buildings and the built environment
  • care about people and the environment.

Architects work in private architectural practices across the UK. Other employers include government, construction companies and organisations such as retailers and manufacturers.

To become a qualified architect it is necessary to complete a degree at a school of architecture, followed by experience in an architect's office. Mature applicants may be accepted for courses without the usual qualifications. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) offers an alternate training route for office-based candidates.

To practise and use the title 'architect', individuals must register with the Architects Registration Board. This means spending at least seven years in training and higher education.

In the private sector, a newly-qualified architect would generally join a practice as a salaried employee. With experience, they might become an associate, and eventually a partner. In the public sector, architects may progress to senior or principal architect. Experienced architects in any sector can set up their own architectural practice.

 

What is the work like?

Their work involves:

  • preparing and presenting design proposals to clients
  • preparing tender and planning applications and presentations
  • advising clients on the practicality of their project
  • producing detailed drawings from which costings are made
  • negotiating with contractors and other professionals
  • attending regular meetings with clients, contractors and other specialists
  • co-ordinating the work of contractors
  • making site visits to check on progress
  • making sure that the project is running within the agreed time frame
  • dealing with problems that might come up during building.

The design process begins with developing initial ideas with the client. The architect asks detailed questions to find out exactly what the client wants and how much money is available for the project. The needs of people who will use the building, and the impact of the building on the local community and the environment must also be taken into account.

The architect then produces designs using computer-aided design (CAD), showing how the spaces in the building will be organised, what the building will look like in its environment and how it will be built. On a large project, a team of architects produce the designs.

Most designs need approval from bodies such as local planning and building control departments, as well as from the client. Once the designs have been accepted, the architect produces detailed drawings for the builder to use. When building is under way, the architect visits the site to check progress and inspect the work.

Architects work closely with other professionals on every project, including engineers, surveyors, architectural technicians and technologists, to make sure that their buildings meet the necessary standards. They also work closely with construction specialists on site and oversee the project from beginning to end.

Starting salaries for registered architects may be around £25,000 a year.

 

Hours and environment

Architects usually work 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday. However, they may also have to work extra hours in the evenings or at weekends to meet deadlines. Overtime may not always be paid. There are a few opportunities for part-time work.

Most architects' work is office-based, although some time is spent visiting clients and sites. Protective clothing, such as a hard hat and boots, is worn on building sites.

Some jobs involve travel and periods away from home, both in the UK and overseas. A driving licence is useful.

 

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Newly-qualified architects (with Royal Institute of British Architects Part 3) may earn approximately £25,000 a year.
  • Average salaries are between £30,000 and £40,000.
  • Partners and directors can earn up to £100,000 or more.

 

Skills and personal qualities

An architect should:

  • have strong visual awareness and an eye for detail
  • have good drawing skills, with the ability to work in three dimensions (3D)
  • be inventive and imaginative
  • have reasonable mathematical skills
  • have computer skills
  • have excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • have presentation skills
  • be able to organise projects
  • have a logical, analytical and creative approach to problem solving
  • have time management skills
  • be self-confident and able to cope with criticism of their work
  • be able to manage others.

 

Interests

It is important to:

  • be passionate about buildings and the built environment
  • enjoy art and design
  • care about people and the environment.

 

Getting in

There are over 30,000 architects in the UK and 2,500 of these are in Scotland. About 80 per cent of architects work in private architectural practices, most of which are small to medium-sized firms.

Other employers include central and local government, construction companies, and commercial and industrial organisations such as retailers and manufacturers.

There are more jobs for architects in London and south-east England where most of the larger practices are based, but it is possible to work in smaller practices anywhere in the UK.

The professional bodies for architecture include job vacancies on their websites. There are also vacancies in the trade magazines and journals such as Architects' Journal, which has teamed up with Careers in Construction, the UK's largest specialist construction recruitment website.

 

Entry for young people

To become a qualified architect it is necessary to complete a degree at one of 38 schools of architecture recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

Students need at least two A levels/three H grades, with at least five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3). GCSE/S grade subjects should include maths, English language and a separate science or a double science award. A levels/H grades should generally be in academic subjects. Maths, physics and art are useful subjects at A level, AS level or H grade, although a very wide range of subjects can be accepted.

Equivalent qualifications, such as a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Construction, may be acceptable.

Most schools of architecture also ask to see a portfolio of freehand drawings and sketches at interview.

People without the usual qualifications may be able to take a foundation year at a school of architecture to prepare for the course.

 

Entry for adults

Mature applicants may be accepted for courses without the usual qualifications. Relevant study or work in areas like surveying or construction is usually considered. Foundation courses are also suitable for mature entrants without the usual entry qualifications.

The RIBA Examination in Architecture for Office-based Candidates is a way of qualifying for people who cannot attend courses at schools of architecture. It takes at least four years to obtain RIBA Part 1 and two years to obtain Part 2 through this route.

 

Training

To practise and use the title 'architect', individuals must register with the Architects Registration Board. This means spending at least seven years in training and higher education. This involves:

  • a five-year study programme on a recognised course: this is usually divided into two parts - a three-year course (RIBA Part 1), and a further two-year course (RIBA Part 2)
  • at least two years' training in an architect's office - one year is normally taken after Part 1, the second year after Part 2
  • the RIBA Part 3 Examination in Professional Practice and Management.

Qualified architects keep up to date by doing short courses.

 

Getting on

Promotion depends on the individual's skill, competence and experience. In the private sector, a newly-qualified architect would generally join a practice as a salaried employee. With experience, they might become an associate and, eventually, a partner.

In the public sector, architects may progress to senior or principal architect. Further promotion could lead to a management post.

Experienced architects in any sector can set up their own architectural practice.

There are also opportunities to move into specialist fields such as project management, planning or landscape architecture. Many qualified architects also move into related areas such as interior design or graphic design.

It may also be possible to work on projects overseas.

 

Further information

 

Further reading

  • Shaping the future: Careers in Architecture - RIBA
  • TARGET 16+ Construction - GTI Specialist Publishers
  • TARGET Construction and Building Services - GTI Specialist Publishers
  • Working in building & construction - Lifeskills

 

Magazines/journals

  • Architects' Journal
  • Architectural Review
  • Building
  • Building Design (BD)
  • Public Sector Building
  • RIAS Prospect
  • RIBA Journal
  • RSAW Touchstone
  • RSUA Perspective

 

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