Step by step guide to becoming an architect

The most basic definition of an architect is a professional who is qualified to design and provide advice – both aesthetic and technical – on built objects in our public and private landscapes. But this definition barely scratches the surface of an architect’s role. Architects serve as trusted advisors, their role is holistic, blending diverse requirements and disciplines in a creative process, while serving the public interest and addressing health and safety matters.

What does an architect do?

Architects are not just involved in the design of a building. As a licensed professional they are also responsible for public safety and overseeing of projects. Their role is important in every stage of the building’s construction, from the initial concept to the opening ceremony when the building is complete. Beyond completion, an architect often remains involved in a project as buildings evolve to incorporate new surroundings and ideas.

The aspects of work can be split into three main roles or phases- the design, documentation, and construction roles.

In the design role, an architect is hired by a client to produce detailed designs of a concept or idea that the client wants to bring to reality. As well as needing creative design ideas, this part of the role involves a great deal of technical knowledge and responsibility. There is a need to comply with building and safety regulations, local planning regulations and restrictions. Depending on the project, there may be laws surrounding the preservation of the local environment or any historic parts of a building. Regular client meetings are important to establish requirements and discuss detailed design proposals. Also important is heading up the team of professionals who will work on this stage of the project including engineers, designers and financiers.

During the documentation phase, the responsibilities are to capture the design on paper, producing detailed drawings and using technology such as CAD to test the feasibility of the design. This stage can involve continual revision and redrawing to incorporate changes based on the client’s requirements, budget and regulations. Once the design documents are complete, there are then a second set of documents that need to be produced.

These are the construction documents, which translate the design into instructions and technical specifications for contractors and construction experts. Once the project reaches the construction stage, the architect will be involved in site visits and meetings, overseeing the construction and signing off on various pieces of work, negotiating with contractors and dealing with and resolving any problems that arise.

What kind of skills are required?

Perhaps, it would be best to describe architects as conductors who orchestrate and take the lead in reconciling all the goals for a building or other structure. Architects do this by providing solutions through the use of:

  • artistic imagination and creative vision to design spaces where their ideas and techniques-represented through form, light, textures, materials, and colors-combine to fulfill our aesthetic, spiritual, and cultural needs;
  • practical and technical knowledge to create spaces that are safe, efficient, sustainable, and meet economic needs; and
  • interpersonal skills, psychological understanding and ethical practice to craft spaces that fulfill the complex, and sometimes conflicting, needs of clients, users, and the community.

The steps to becoming an architect

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
  2. Attend an internship program
  3. Obtain state license
  4. Earn professional certification
  5. Consider a Master’s Degree
  6. Specialize and gain experience to advance career