what is an architect?

Architecture isn't simply about building physical surroundings. Architects shape us. They tell our stories. Their work identifies a region and distinguishes the values of society by building our structures. Architects design cultural nuances that define how we choose to present ourselves. They use science and art while drawing on sociology, psychology and economics. Architects spend their time understanding our communities and – with an emotional, technological and intellectual understanding – create spaces that connect and unify people.

An architect is a trained and licensed professional, qualified to design and advise on the unique aesthetic planning and execution of structures. But there is far more to an architect than just designing buildings. Interested in how to become an architect? Read on for information on how to get into the industry and its future prospects.

role of an architect

Where would we be without architects? Architects fire the starting pistol for every home, office building, restaurant, park, school and plenty else. In addition to designing, generally as part of a team, they often help to supervise the construction process. The architect must blend diverse disciplines to create functional designs. And they must do all of this while addressing health and safety protocols as well as building regulations.

architect roles

average salary of an architect

An experienced architect's average annual wage is £40,000, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Use our architect's salary checker to find out how much you could earn in this industry across the country.


is architecture a good career for the future?

The future outlook for the architecture industry is somewhat unclear. Projects must now navigate additional regulations and paperwork since Brexit came into effect in the United Kingdom, while a shortage of construction professionals and the rising cost of many building materials also makes developments trickier to manage. However, this also means that experienced and highly qualified architects are in demand – potentially giving the right candidate their pick of great jobs.

Close up - Smiling male looking away.
Close up - Smiling male looking away.

types of architect

There are unique fields of architecture. Furthermore, architects can enter alternative occupations. In any of these professions, an architect can be self-employed or work with a practice. Before going into the specifics, it's worth understanding the types of jobs in architecture and design and the job descriptions for which potential employers are hiring.

residential architects

Residential architects utilise artistic skill and design programs to create, shape and remodel homes. These include houses, residential towers and other structures. They design and draw out plans and may even be responsible for developing a budget for the build.

commercial architects

Commercial architects design office buildings and other structures for business. These professionals may work on:

  • Government buildings
  • Schools
  • Hotels
  • Bridges
  • Multi-unit residential buildings
  • Museums
  • Office buildings/skyscrapers
  • Public buildings

landscape architects

If you're ever sitting in a park or playground or using a local sports facility, you can trace its existence to a landscape architect. They're trained in the development of outdoor spaces. The landscape architect's scope ranges from sprawling university campuses to minimalistic public gardens. They must use their creativity to implement safe spaces for their communities. This is a big responsibility as an outdoor project can require a lot more design than even the tallest skyscraper. Architects need to have an understanding of plants, pathways, trees and more. Every feature of the layout is their responsibility, from where to place entrances and toilets to where benches go.

interior design architects

In this role, professionals are responsible for ensuring that interior elements of a building are comfortable and safe – as well as that they please the eye. Interior architects (and designers) handle everything from making certain that a new building's individual floors meet regulations to remodelling kitchens in a private home. Take into account that not all interior designers are architects. Some professionals use their eye for detail to manage colours and fabrics with an artistic sensibility. They research and compare varying elements to form cohesive wholes.

urban design architects

Like landscape architects, urban design architects are tasked with creating large-scale designs. The difference is that urban design architects use their training to build neighbourhoods. They lay out an entire block or blocks of landscape to achieve a desired aesthetic. Depending on the project, they may have to consider specific structures and where to place shrubbery and trees.

green design architects

This is a growing field that will likely continue to expand alongside eco-friendly concerns. Green design architects develop plans while focusing on the impact that their designs will have on the ecosystem. These architects must understand the complexity of environmentally sound plans. Whether it's energy conservation or management of clean water, green design architects have to apply the best practices and materials to achieve results that are desirable to the client and safe for the environment. This is the architectural field most likely to grow as eco-friendly solutions become more desirable.

industrial architects

An architect approaching an industrial build will be expected to develop a building that facilitates the smooth running of business operations. They must consider the unique properties of all varying business needs – an automobile manufacturer does not need the facilities of a dairy producer, for example. Even companies in the same industry may require different processes. Overall, an industrial architect has to have a deep level of understanding of these facilities to create designs that meet exacting specifications.

alternative responsibilities of an architect

There are many things that an architect can do in construction projects, aside from the tasks initially expected of them.

architectural technologist

An architectural technologist uses their technical skill to help architects design buildings. Their talent is usually deployed in alteration and refurbishment.

building surveyor

A building surveyor is a professional advisor on property and construction projects. They may be involved in modest repairs or a complete redesign of a megastructure.

development surveyor

Development surveyors plan and advise on projects, helping clients to make smart decisions related to their investments.

construction project manager

Construction project managers work on building sites leading production from beginning to end. Working closely with site supervisors and other builders, architects and surveyors, they see that projects finish safely and within budget.

structural engineer

Structural engineers must consider the impacts of environmental conditions and human use to design structures that are exposed to potential stress. This includes structures at risk of rotation, collapse or vibration.

town planner

This specialised field is instrumental in the management of cities, villages, towns and countryside areas. This can include economic, societal and environmental matters as well as the construction of buildings, parks and utilities.


working as an architect

architect responsibilities

In general, the role of an architect will be to engage in the following activities and procedures regularly:

  • Develop and lead projects from concept to development.
  • Consult with varying parties to determine the requirements of a project.
  • Put together drawings and construction documents that manage the exacting specifications of a build.
  • Coordinate architectural preparation and alterations for new and existing development of structures and sites.
  • Manage and organise permit documentation.
  • Collaborate with teams, contractors or subcontractors across business lines.
  • Resolve complicated design issues with practical and innovative answers.
  • Modify plans to fit client and sale needs.

work environment

Most architects operate from offices working on drafts, filing permit applications and developing cost estimates. Much of this is done at a computer; however, architects may also travel to construction sites to negotiate with site agents, civil engineers, clients and contractors. In other architectural roles, they will have to call or meet up with drafters, engineers, utility professionals and other architects.

work schedule

An architect may work uneven hours to meet deadlines, especially if they're juggling projects. Work performance requires accuracy as an architectural error creates hazards for structures and buildings. An architect's decisions impact communities, and it's a big responsibility to bear. However, they do have a certain amount of freedom for managing tasks and goals on their schedule as long as they don't interfere with their clients' projects.

technological advancements

Today, architects use computer programs like AutoCAD and BIM. There are also a ton of cloud-based technologies to create designs. Furthermore, AI and IoT are replacing a lot of traditional processes and streamlining architectural processes. Big data is changing how architects gather information to design more efficient and unique buildings. Probably the most incredible advances would be Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. VR takes concepts and returns a life-like experience where you actually walk through designs in three-dimensional environments. AR provides 3D touch and sound to 2D plans, aiding hazard detection and allowing designers to burrow into the smallest details of a potential build.

advantages of working for randstad as an architect

Architects shape the world and have the opportunity to make a difference in how people interact and see the world. You'll get to use your passion for creativity and change, channel it through today's technologies and apply it to the buildings society uses.

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I recently completed my internship and joined the firm as a full-time junior architect. Currently, I'm involved in the upgrade of a bridge that's been badly in need of reconstruction. I've been pushing for this since my interview! It'll probably be four years to get the thing completed, but I intend to see it through to the end. I'm working with a group that's going to take me to the next level in my career and I never thought I'd be so excited about getting up and going to work.

Owen Smith

how to become an architect

how long does it take to become an architect?

From the start of university to sitting a final qualifying exam, it could take seven years to become a fully qualified architect.

During their studies, architecture students will explore:

  • Architectural history
  • Architectural engineering
  • Design theory
  • Physical sciences
  • Focus on building design
  • Liberal arts
  • Mathematics
  • Graphic design
  • Design studio experience

Two years of practical experience are also required before sitting the final examinations to be fully qualified with the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

skills & competencies required to be an architect

Being a successful architect requires you to marry together lots of different talents. Being able to work creatively and in more structured ways – being flexible and organised at the same time – is key.

analytical aptitude

An architect must possess comprehensive knowledge of mathematics, science and design elements. Architecture work generally requires precision on all these fronts.


Architects must get across concepts utilising a range of communication channels. The collaborative aspect of the profession requires you to be able to convey clearly your messages to several stakeholders and collaborators.


An artistic flair is critical to design, organise and layout plans. An architect has to seamlessly blend functionality and form. They put environmental impacts into the equation and consider how to best represent a community and its leaders' intent in innovative ways.


Records are an important part of an architect's day-to-day operations. Blueprints, renderings and drawings, contracts, correspondence and more are critical to the management of a project. It's also vital to keep track of material lists, project details, cost analysis and charting progress. An architect needs to realise the importance of tracking all materials regarding their projects in a mannered fashion.

technical expertise

Software and digital technology are changing the game. No architect can afford to not keep track of technological tools and stay competitive. Failing to stay up to date with the latest tools and programs could ultimately make you less attractive to potential clients and employers.

visualisation skills

Architects have to look at every part of a structure, relate it to all other sections and keep a spatial recognition of how all the components work together. They must also be exceptionally skilled at technical drawing.



Here are the most asked questions about working as an architect

how do architect fees work?

It depends on the situation. Self-employed professionals will each have their own base fees and payment procedures. They may charge by the hour for consultancy work or an overall fee based on the scope of the project. If you're working with a contractor or a firm that has its own staff of architects, it will pretty much be the same process except that the architecture fees will likely be included with other fees for services offered by the company.

what's involved in the design process?

Consultation periods will allow major stakeholders to put forward their vision for a project. The architect will make a visual assessment of the site before developing ideas based on concepts covered in the consultation. That will lead to a design concept. If it's part of the contract, the architect will develop construction timelines and budgets. At this point, the architect puts together a detailed design using reliable software like CAD.

what's the best school for an architect?

The term "best" can be misleading. One university's curriculum may lean toward green architecture, another may specialise in skyscraper design. League tables are regularly produced that rank the best establishments for students who want to embark on undergraduate studies in architecture.

where do I find architecture CV, interview and job advice?

You can find further reading on how to become an architect with our expert guides:

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