The road to becoming an architect is longer than other undergraduate programs. The undergraduate degree program is generally five years. You then complete an intensive internship program before becoming fully licensed. While some of the internships can be completed while still in school, most must be completed post-graduation. The length of time that it takes to become fully licensed means smart financial choices are very important. Taking out student loans to pay for some or all of your undergraduate degrees allows you to focus on school and compete for internships which can reduce the amount of time you must wait for full licensure. Because architecture is a specialized field, it can be difficult to know if it is the right choice for you. Job shadowing during high school can be a good way to get a feel for the job, and interning at different places during college can help you learn more about different specialties within the field.
How to Know if This is Right for You
Regardless of where you work in the United States, you must pass your Architect Registration Examination. This requires the completion of a degree program as well as a paid internship before sitting for the examination. This is a field very difficult to break into without a specialized degree. While many fields are open to new hires with an adjacent degree, this is not one of those careers.
What to Expect
You may think that your career will involve putting a pencil to paper and creating designs. This is only a small part of the job. You must be comfortable meeting with clients, preparing estimates of both time and costs for projects, ensuring that designs meet safety, environmental, and aesthetic specifications, handle contracts and documentation for projects, and many more small skills that make up the design process. The longer you are in the field, the more responsibilities you will take on. After several years you may find that your job includes much less design and much more management of people and projects than you had originally assumed. While much of the work involved in design and management has moved into computer-aided projects, architecture is still a very hands-on career.
In addition to designing homes and buildings, you can work as an urban planner, building inspector, structural manager, or construction manager. Many people envision a career in architecture as one that involves working for a firm and designing homes, but you can also work for the government and provide large-scale planning and design services for infrastructure projects. If you don’t have a clear idea of how you would like to use your degree, interning at various types of employment can give you valuable hands-on experience in what is expected at different types of jobs.
Earning Your Master’s
Earning a master’s degree can provide additional opportunities for the young architect. You have more opportunities to intern, you can expand your exposure to different fields. Whether you are interested in a particular specialization, or are not sure where your future may take you, earning your master’s can provide a leg up.