views updated May 18 2018


Education and Training: College plus training; license

Salary: Median—$60,300 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Architects design, plan, and supervise the construction of buildings. They are responsible for the safety, usefulness, and aesthetics of their buildings. They must design structures that satisfy their clients' needs while conforming to the laws and regulations of the areas in which the structures will be built.

Architects work with engineers, urban planners, contractors, and landscape architects. They may work for large architectural firms, or they may be self-employed. Some architects work for engineers or builders. Others work for federal, state, or local governments. They may work on a variety of projects. Some architects specialize in certain kinds of architecture, such as designing school campuses, health facilities, shopping centers, or dwellings for urban renewal projects.

When a client hires an architect to design a building, the client and architect discuss the purpose of the building, the type of building wanted, and the budget. Then the architect inspects the building site to see what the land looks like. Sometimes the architect works with the builder to find the right piece of land for a structure. The architect has to consider what kind of design the building should have in relation to the site. The architect must also consider the climate, the surrounding buildings, and the slope of the site. Next the architect creates preliminary sketches, usually using computer-assisted design and drafting (CADD) software. These first drawings suggest the general shape and appearance of the building, the method of construction, where it will be placed on the site, and how the inside will look. The architect might have to revise the plans to meet the client's expectations.

Once the client approves these preliminary plans, the architect prepares more detailed plans, which show exactly how the structure is to be built. They indicate the dimensions and placement of each wall and window. They offer diagrams for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning ducts and indicate the paths for plumbing pipes and electrical wiring. They include technical information, or specifications, of the materials to be used and the methods of installation. At this point, the plans go to contractors. The contractors examine the plans and submit bids on labor and material costs. When the bids are received, the client and the architect decide who will get the work. Considerations in selecting the contractor include the price submitted and the quality of past work. The contractor who is chosen uses the plans and specifications to direct the actual construction work.

Once construction begins, the architect visits the site frequently to check that the plans are being followed. The architect must also approve the materials being used. The architect checks the interior hardware and fixtures and works with the landscape planner and other workers and engineers on the building site. The architect's final duty is to decide whether the contract between the client and the contractor has been satisfied.

The amount of detail that the architects handle themselves depends on the size of their firms. In large offices, many of the smaller details are the responsibility of other staff members. Architects who work in small companies handle most of the details personally. Architects must be artists, businesspeople, organizers, planners, and coordinators. They should be aware of their clients' needs, as well as the needs of those who will use the buildings they design. They must know how to communicate their ideas and be persuasive. Architects must consider the effect their buildings will have on the natural and artificial surroundings. They must understand building codes. An extensive knowledge of design and construction coupled with creative ability is the best combination of qualities for an architect.

Education and Training Requirements

Architects must have a degree from a college of architecture and must serve an apprenticeship. In addition, all fifty states and the District of Columbia require that architects be licensed. Each jurisdiction has different requirements for admission to the licensing exam. Generally, in addition to a bachelor's degree, an applicant must have had three years of practical experience in an architect's office.

Planning for a career as an architect should start in high school. Courses in mechanical drawing, art, history, physics, and mathematics are very helpful. Part-time work in an architectural firm can be valuable. Many large companies recruit students from high school. These companies help pay the students' college tuition while the students work for them part time.

High school graduates should apply to one of the architectural colleges accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). These schools offer five-year programs that lead to a bachelor of architecture degree. Students attend classes in engineering, architectural design, building construction, structural theory, professional administration, and graphic representation. State architectural registration boards set their own standards, so it may be possible to graduate from a program not accredited by the NAAB and still meet education requirements for licensing in some states. Some schools offer master's degrees in architecture. The length of these programs varies.

After graduation students can begin their apprenticeships with architectural firms. They start as junior drafters, most likely with the use of CADD. Sometimes they make models based on the architect's designs. As interns gain experience, their duties become more complex. They can become senior drafters, who are responsible for the details in working drawings. After working in architecture for about three years, trainees may take state licensing examinations. These tests include the theory and history of architecture, construction, engineering, design, and professional practice.

Getting the Job

A good way to enter this field is to get a part-time job in an architectural firm while attending high school or college. After college graduation, the school's placement office can provide leads on internship openings with architectural firms. Other sources of job information are professional journals, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Licensed architects can start their own businesses. Nearly one-fourth are self-employed. There are many possibilities for advancement in architectural firms. Architects can become supervisors and project managers. They can go into construction management and government service.

The employment outlook for architects is mixed. About 129,000 architects work in the United States. Although the growth of employment for architects is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014, their workload depends on the level of activity in the construction industry, which depends on the strength of the economy as a whole. Most employment growth will be in the Sunbelt states, where population is rising, and in urban centers where old buildings need renovation. Demand for schools and health-care facilities is also expected to rise throughout the United States.

Working Conditions

Architects spend most of their time in offices that are well lighted and well ventilated. However, architects work outdoors when they visit construction sites. Many architects work standard forty-hour weeks. Very often, however, they must change their schedules to meet deadlines. They may also work nights and weekends. Self-employed architects generally work longer hours and often meet clients during the evening. Architectural work is challenging and offers a great deal of personal satisfaction.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for architects vary widely, depending on experience, talent, and location. The median income for all architects in 2004 was $60,300 per year. The highest ten percent of architects earned more than $99,800 per year. Graduates just starting their internships can expect to earn considerably less.

Where to Go for More Information

American Institute of Architects
1735 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006-5292
(202) 626-7300

American Institute of Architecture Students
1735 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 626-7472

Society of American Registered Architects
305 E. Forty-sixth St.
New York, NY 10017

National Architectural Accrediting Board
1735 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 783-2007

Many architectural firms offer such benefits as life and health insurance plans, profit-sharing plans, and retirement funds. Most companies provide paid holidays and vacations.


views updated Jun 27 2018


A person who prepares the plan and design of a building or other structure and sometimes super-vises its construction.

A landscape architect is responsible for the arrangement of scenery over a tract of land for natural or aesthetic purposes in order to enhance or preserve the property.


The practice of planning and designing a building requires the application of specialized skill and knowledge. Because the product of an architect's work is used by members of the general public, the legislature of a state may regulate the practice of those engaged in the profession. Regulatory statutes designed to protect public health and safety are created under the inherent authority of a state to protect the welfare of its citizens. As a general rule, regulatory statutes are valid, provided they are not unreasonable.

Statutes requiring that architects must be registered and licensed are based on public policy aimed at protecting citizens from unqualified practitioners. In many states, statutes call for the revocation of a license for such conduct as fraud, dishonesty, recklessness, incompetence, or misrepresentation when an architect acts in his or her professional capacity.

The power to revoke a license is commonly given by the legislature to a state board of architects who must act in a manner prescribed by statute. Generally, an architect is entitled to notice and a hearing when the board seeks to revoke his or her license. The architect can appeal a revocation.


Statutes setting forth the requirements for obtaining a license or registration generally require that the applicants be of legal age and of good moral character, have completed a certain course of study, and have a certain amount of practical experience. Many states have an additional requirement that applicants must pass an examination. A legislature may provide that certain persons who have practiced architecture for a period of time prior to legislation requiring an examination may register as architects without an examination. Such a statutory provision is called a grandfather clause.

Persons who present themselves to the public as architects must comply with the statutory registration and licensing requirements. The failure to do so is unlawful. In most states, persons who falsely hold themselves out as licensed architects are guilty of a misdemeanor, and contracts rendered by them with others are void and unenforceable.


The terms and conditions of an architect's employment are designated in a contract and are governed by general rules of contract law. Ordinarily, the person who employs the architect becomes the owner of the plans, unless the employment contract states otherwise. Custom-arily, the architect retains the plans after they have been paid for and the builder may possess and use them while constructing the building.

Authority and Powers

The power and authority of architects are determined by general rules of agency law. In most cases, unless the employment contract states otherwise, architects are held to be agents with limited authority. An employer is liable for acts of an architect when they are within the scope of the architect's agency, although the contracting parties may further restrict the powers if they so desire.

Architects have a duty to exercise their personal skill and judgment in the performance of their work, and they may not delegate this duty without express authority to do so. They may, however, delegate responsibility to subordinates while performing their duties as agents.

A supervising architect does not have implied authority to perform work that has been assigned to a contractor or to employ or discharge workers. The supervising architect does, however, have authority to make decisions concerning proper workmanship, fitness of materials, and the manner of work.

Duties and Liabilities

Although the duties of architects generally depend on what is designated in the employment contract, some duties are carried out as a matter of custom, such as the duty to supervise construction.

Architects are in a fiduciary relationship with their employers, and as such they must exercise good faith and loyalty toward them. As professionals, they are held to a standard of reasonable and ordinary care and skill in applying their knowledge and must conform to accepted architectural practices. The failure to exercise reasonable care and skill can result in liability for damages and the loss of the right to recover compensation for their services.


Architects have a right to compensation for their services unless there is an agreement that they shall work gratuitously. To be entitled to compensation, they must carry out their contract with reasonable skill and care and without any substantial omissions or imperfections in performance. The employment contract usually fixes the amount of compensation. A standard payment scale created by the American Institute of Architects is customarily used to determine the amount of compensation.

In the event that an architect is refused payment for services, he or she may sue for the amount of compensation agreed upon in the employment contract or, in the absence of an agreement, for the reasonable value of the services under the theory of quantum meruit.


views updated May 14 2018


The path to becoming an architect is not an easy one. It begins in high school with good grades, particularly in such subjects as algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and physics. It then requires at least a bachelor's degree, and possibly a master's degree, from an accredited school of architecture. After a three-to five-year internship, aspiring architects must pass a licensing examination in the state they wish to practice. Along the way, an architect will become comfortable with numbers, measurements, and the principles of engineering. In addition, they develop solid computer skills, including the ability to use computer-aided design and drafting programs.

The architect's job begins with a sketch of the building the client wants, though a landscape architect will design natural environments rather than structures. After imagining the building, the architectusually working as part of a teammust turn the concept into detailed drawings with realistic features so that the builder can construct it in the way it was envisioned, while staying within the customer's timeframe and budget.

It is not enough, though, for an architect to be an artist and mathematician; an architect also has to have good communications skills. Under conditions that are often stressful, an architect will have to communicate with builders throughout the design and construction process and make sure that they have the needed information. The architect also must communicate with clients to ensure they are satisfied with the results of the project.

see also Computer-Aided Design; Landscape Architect; Morgan, Julia.

Michael J. O'Neal


Ching, Frank, and Francis D. Ching. Architectural Graphics. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996.

Piper, Robert J., et al. Opportunities in Architecture Careers. Lincolnwood, IL: VGM Career Horizons, 2000.


views updated May 29 2018

architect. Person capable of preparing the plans, elevations, and sections of the design of a sophisticated building with an aesthetic content and to supervise its construction in accordance with the drawings and specifications. Soane described an architect's business as that of making ‘designs and estimates’, directing ‘the works’, and valuing ‘the different parts’: he declared the architect as the ‘intermediate agent between the employer, whose honour and interest he is to study, and the mechanic, whose rights he is to defend’. Soane emphasized the architect's position as implying great trust, being ‘responsible for the mistakes, negligences, and ignorance of those he employs’. Ruskin suggested that one who is neither a sculptor nor painter could not be an architect, but only a builder, and Frank Lloyd Wright stated that an architect cannot bury his mistakes, unlike a physician. With the development of computers and changes in patronage, however, the role of the architect is changing, and indeed many architects are now increasingly concerned with image.


Colvin (1995);
W. Papworth (1852);
Sturgis et al. (1901–2);
Jane Turner (1996);


views updated May 29 2018

ar·chi·tect / ˈärkiˌtekt/ • n. a person who designs buildings and in many cases also supervises their construction. ∎  a person who is responsible for inventing or realizing a particular idea or project: a chief architect of the plan to slash income taxes.• v. [tr.] (usu. be architected) Comput. design and make: few software packages were architected with Ethernet access in mind.


views updated May 29 2018

architect XVI. — F. architecte — It. architetto, or their source, L. architectus — Gr. arkhitéktōn, f. ARCHI- + téktōn builder.
So architectonic XVII. — L. — Gr. architecture XVI. — F. or L.

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