How to Become an Architect

Architecture refers to both the process of designing and building structures as well as the finished structures themselves. The designers that design the structures and often oversee parts of the construction process are architects.

Architects are a special breed of artists. Architects have to possess special skills and knowledge. Many architects are skilled in engineering and mathematics as well as art. These artists must be able to visualize 3-dimensional forms on 2-dimensional surfaces. They often build models from their drawings. Since the final product is the built structure, architects are generally considered 3-dimensional artists. Architects must have a strong understanding of building materials. The aesthetic and structural qualities of the building materials used in an architectural design are important to its success or failure. Architects must also be knowledgable of construction systems such as heating and cooling, electrical, and plumbing. They are also knowledgeable of local and state building codes.

A long-standing philosophy in architecture is “form follows function”. This philosophy centers around the idea that the design of the structure should first be functional. The aesthetics of the design should compliment the function of the structure, instead of taking precedent over it. Successful architects are able to design structures that are functional, aesthetic, and structurally sound.

It is also important for architects to consider the environment that structures are designed for. The goal of most architects is to design structures that will enhance the environment rather than detract from it. Some architects go to great lengths in their designs to make the structures “blend” or “fit” in with the environment. An example of this type of design can be seen in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Falling Water

“Falling Water'” Frank Lloyd Wright. 1939

Architects must also consider the comfort of the individuals that will be using the structures that they build. An architect must have an understanding of ergonomics, which technically refers to working conditions, but can also refer to comfort of use. An architect must be able to design structures that will be comfortable for people to work and live in.

How Do I Become One?

In order to have a career in architecture, you must attend college. A degree in architecture is a five year pursuit. Architecture as a degree is most prevalent at schools that offer a design-oriented approach to art. Most of the classes that you can expect to take include studio classes, where design problems are the focus, materials classes, where the focus is on building materials, and architectural history classes. You can also expect to spend some time in an internship position before becoming licensed as an architect. In order to become a licensed architect, you must register with an organization called “NCARB”. They will track the hours of your internship. When enough hours have been accrued, you are allowed to take the “ARE”, which is a series of exams. Upon passing these tests, you become a licensed architect.

How Much Do They Make?

An architect can expect to make anywhere from $40,000 – $80,000. Those that own their own firms can expect to make more.

Becoming an architect can be a rewarding and challenging career. Plus, it’s a great way to make a living as an artist.

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