Background and Overview
Architecture is a complex and challenging field, and those looking to become architects must have extensive educational preparation. In the United States, aspiring architects must first obtain a four-year undergraduate degree before continuing on to complete a three-year architectural program at a university or other institution. These years of further education are intended to give architecture students the expertise and skills required to practice architecture professionally.
But getting a degree in architecture can take even longer than these seven years – some may take as long as 10 years to complete. This longer timeline often includes many years of immersive internships in which students gain hands-on experience in the field. These internships are essential for gaining experience and to qualify for licensure in many states.
The Four-Year Degree
The first step to becoming an architect is to obtain a four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited university. This degree should emphasize the arts, ranging from architectural studies like design, history and theory to photography and traditional arts. Completing an undergraduate degree in architecture is a requirement for many professional licensing boards in the United States.
The courses in this degree should cover the fundamental aspects of architecture, such as the history and theory of the field, fundamentals of design, concepts of building use, computer-aided design, and materials and techniques. Most universities also require electives in other subjects related to architecture, like philosophy and economics.
The Three-Year Program
After completing an undergraduate degree, students often pursue a three-year architectural program (also known as a Masters of Architecture (M.Arch)). This program is commonly thought to be the most important prerequisite to conferring a license to practice architecture, and is available at many universities, colleges, and other institutions around the country. This program builds on the knowledge that potential architects have gained during their undergraduate studies and provides them with the necessary knowledge and skills to practice the profession.
At an accredited institution, students in an architectural program study courses like computer-aided design, construction technology, history and theory of architecture, material selection and alternates, design studio, structural design and construction. Additionally, the program will usually include internships and/or fieldwork. Upon completion, graduates receive a Master of Architecture degree (M.Arch).
Completing internships is an important part of training to become an architect. Many architectural programs, especially accredited ones, require students to complete a period of internship with a qualified architect. Internships allow aspiring architects to gain firsthand experience in the profession and to learn from the experience of a practicing architect.
These internships usually last one to two years and can often provide students with the opportunity to assist in the design and construction of projects. The experience gained by an intern can give them a better understanding of what it takes to become a successful architect and provide them with the additional experience necessary to become an independent professional.
Licensure and Beyond
In addition to completing their academic education and internship period, architects must go through a licensing process. Becoming licensed is necessary in the United States before an architect can practice in the profession. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, and completing the process can take anywhere from one to three years depending on the state.
After licensing, many architects continue to pursue further education and training. They may become a specialist in a certain type of building, such as green buildings and sustainable architecture, or pursue a doctoral degree in architecture.
Architecture is a profession that requires a great deal of education and training. To become a successful practicing architect, a person must spend seven to ten years obtaining a degree, performing an internship and becoming licensed. Completing all of these steps takes commitment and hard work, but it usually pays off in the end – becoming an architect is a rewarding and fulfilling career path.
Beyond being a creative and rewarding career, architecture can also have a meaningful and lasting impact of the human race. Architecture has the potential to greatly improve communities through innovative, socially responsible projects with a focus on sustainability. Architects can help people by designing houses, buildings, and parks that are attractive, safe, eco-friendly, and affordable.
Not only can architecture have a direct impact on people’s lives, it can also have a much broader impact on society. Architects work in almost every development sector, from urban planning to public health, and their work can often lead to a more equitable, prosperous and livable world for all.
Technology and Design
The field of architecture has been bolstered by advances in technology in the 21st century. Architects now have access to software and other digital tools that can drastically reduce the time and cost associated with designing buildings. These digital tools can allow architects to create 3D models of parts of a building and better visualize a project.
Using digital tools also allows for more efficient communication between the various parties involved in a project, from contractors to designers to clients. The technology has made it much easier to collaborate on a project, with instant updates and revisions often possible in real-time.
In today’s world, technology isn’t the only factor shaping the practice of architecture. It is increasingly important to take into account the environment, having a positive ecological impact, and to understand and make use of sustainable design principles. Architects must think carefully about how their projects will interact with and contribute to the landscape and its inhabitants.
History and Context
Architecture has a deep and long-standing history in art, science, and technology that dates back to Ancient Greece. From the Gothic castles of the middle ages to the skyscrapers of the modern-day, the field of architecture has affected our lives in countless ways.
It is essential for architects to be familiar with the history of architecture, as an understanding of past design solutions can help inform our current designs. This knowledge is essential for creating designs that are thoughtful, creative, and respectful of both the context of the site and the history of the field.
Architects must also be familiar with the local context of their project and be aware of any potential political, environmental, or cultural factors that could influence the design and building process. Taking into account the context of a site can help improve the quality of the design and the user experience.
Architecture, like any other profession, is subject to rapidly changing economic conditions. Architects in particular must respond to the whims of the market and be aware of how their work could be impacted by economic forces outside of their control.
For example, in lean economic times, architects may need to become more creative in finding solutions that accommodate a lower budget. On the other hand, an economic boom can lead to opportunities for larger, more ambitious projects. Understanding the economic factors at play can help inform a project and lead to better designs.
Architecture is also a business, and those entering the field must be prepared to understand the vast array of regulations and legal considerations involved in each building project. Professionals must have a deep understanding of project financing, procurement, construction contracts, and other business-related topics.
Finally, architects must be aware of the shifting public opinion related to their projects. Projects must remain both cost-effective and attractive to the public in order to be successful, and architects must take into consideration the wishes of their constituents to ensure the project is approved and completed on schedule.