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An architect is trained and licensed in the planning and designing of buildings, and participates in supervising the construction of a building. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, itself derived from the Greek arkhitekton (arkhi-, chief + tekton, builder), i.e. chief builder. A looser usage of Architect is: the translator of the building user's requirements of and from a building into an inhabitable environment. Moreover, the words architect and architecture are used in the disciplines of engineering, e.g. computer software architect; however, in some of the world's jurisdictions, the professional and commercial uses of these etymologic variants, are legally protected from such loose denotations.

Professionally, an architect's decisions affect public safety, and thus an architect must undergo specialized training consisting of advanced education and a practicum (or internship) for practical experience to earn a license to practice architecture. The practical, technical, and academic requirements for becoming an architect vary by jurisdiction (see below).

Architects in practice

Architecture is a business in which technical knowledge, management, and an understanding of business are as important as design. An architect accepts a commission from a client. The commission might involve preparing feasibility reports, building audits, the design of a building or of several buildings, structures, and the spaces among them. The architect participates in developing the requirements the client wants in the building. Throughout the project (planning to occupancy), the architect co-ordinates a design team. Structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers and other specialists, are hired by the client or the architect, who must ensure that the work is co-ordinated to construct the design.

An architect must understand building and operational codes, the construction methods available to the builder in constructing a client's building and structures, and the desired results with the actual costs and construction schedule limits. Work time is usually a standard work week, but when working towards a deadline the architect often works long hours. Architects are office-based professionals, but the work usually includes visiting clients and regular visits to job sites. With the advent of the computer and its ability to communicate via e-mail, it has become customary to be in the office often. However, the profession did have a history of being a lot more field oriented before the implementation of the design bid build system.

Whats more, there are at least two kinds of offices in practice, the design office and the commercial office. A design office is a more refined and usually higher quality product because the amount of work made to craft a building including using models to work the three dimensional aspects of the building. Commercial offices focus almost exclusively on the technical aspect of the building and work a lot faster, Most of their work is done exclusively in two dimensions(plans, elevations, sections). Commercial firms will sometimes do a model at the end when they have a final design if the client is willing to pay for it. Everything in commercial offices is faster paced. Some offices might work in between the two types, but the design office and the commercial office are the two opposites. There are far more commercial offices than design offices. The quality and design style emphasis of the design offices vary from office to office. Examples of design offices include Morphosis and the Jean Nouvel Atalier. Commercial offices might be HOK, KPF, SOM.

Design role

Architects deal with local and federal jurisdictions about regulations and building codes. The architect might need to comply with local planning and zoning laws, such as required setbacks, height limitations, parking requirements, transparency requirements (windows), and land use. Some established jurisdictions require adherence to design and historic preservation guidelines.

Architects prepare the technical documents (construction drawings and specifications), usually coordinated with and supplemented by various engineers, that are filed for obtaining permits (development and building permits) that require compliance with building, seismic, and relevant federal and local regulations. These construction drawings and specifications are also used for pricing the work, and for construction.

Construction role

Architects typically put projects to tender on behalf of their clients, advise on the award of the project to a general contractor, and review the progress of the work during construction. They typically review subcontractor shop drawings and other submittals, prepare and issue site instructions, and provide construction contract administration and Certificates for Payment to the contractor (see also Design-bid-build). In many jurisdictions, mandatory certification or assurance of the work is required.

Depending on the client's needs and the jurisdiction's requirements, the spectrum of the architect's services may be extensive (detailed document preparation and construction review) or less inclusive (such as allowing a contractor to exercise considerable design-build functions). With very large, complex projects, an independent construction manager is sometimes hired to assist in design and to manage construction. In the United Kingdommarker and other countries, a quantity surveyor is often part of the team to provide cost consulting.

Alternate practice and specializations

Recent decades have seen the rise of specializations within the profession. Many architects and architectural firms focus on certain project types (for example, health care, retail, public housing), technological expertise or project delivery methods. Some architects specialize as building code, building envelope, sustainable design, historic preservation, accessibility and other forms of specialist consultants.

Many architects elect to move into real estate development, corporate facilities planning, project management, construction management, interior design or other related roles.

Professional requirements in the English-speaking world


In Australia, the title of architect is legally protected but architects are registered through state boards. These boards are affiliated through the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA). The Architect Registration also provides accreditation for schools and assessments for architects with overseas qualifications for the purposes of migration.

There are three key requirements for registration: a professional degree from a school of architecture accredited by the AACA; at least two years of practical experience, and; the completion of the architectural practice examination.

Architects may also belong to the Australian Institute of Architects (formerly the Royal Australian Institute of Architects) which is the professional organization and members use the suffix AIA after their name.

Most States have legislation which covers the use of the title "architect" and makes it an offence for abusers of the title. As this can vary, it is essential to check the relevant legislation applicable in each State.


In Canada, architects are required to meet three common requirements for registration: education, experience, and examination. Educational requirements generally consist of an M.Arch. degree and are certified by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB). For degreed candidates, the experience requirement is typically the Intern Architect Program (IAP). The provincial associations of architects, by the authority granted under their respective provincial Architects Act, require that Interns gain a minimum of 5,600 hours of work experience. The fundamental purpose of the pre-registration/licensing employment period is to ensure that the Intern is provided with sufficient experience to meet the standards of practical skill and level of competence required to engage in the practice of architecture. This experience is diversified into four main categories and 16 sub-categories, and must be completed working under the direct supervision of a registered architect. At present, all jurisdictions use the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), a series of nine computerized exams administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). As well, all jurisdictions except British Columbia recognize the Examination for Architects in Canada (ExAC), administered by the Pan Canadian ExAC Committee. Upon completion of the educational requirements, IAP, and examinations, one can apply for registration/license. The average age of an intern is 39 years old. An annual fee must be paid, and continuing education requirements met, in order to maintain a license to practice.

The .Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) was established in 1907 and is a voluntary national association representing more than 3,600 architects and Faculty and graduates of accredited Canadian Schools of Architecture. The RAIC aims to be "the voice of Architecture and its practice in Canada". Members are permitted to use the suffix MRAIC after their names. The suffix FRAIC (Fellow of the RAIC) is used by members of the RAIC College of Fellows. Not all members of the RAIC hold accredited degrees in architecture, and not all Canadian architects are members of the RAIC.


The main body for Architecture in Ireland is the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland, RIAI. Members may use the affix MRIAI and are registered to use the title "Architect" in company stationary. The title has only recently been protected.

It usually takes five years' full-time study in the recognised schools of Architecture. More details can be found on the [RIAI] website.


In Singapore, university study is required (such as the five-year course of study at the National University of Singaporemarker or certain approved foreign universities). Upon completion of university, additional training by working for a minimum of two years under a registered architect is required in order to become registered. Singaporean law governs the use of the term "architect" and prescribes the requirements to be listed in the Register of Architects. Membership in the Singapore Institute of Architects is a voluntary professional credential.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, practicing under the name, style or title "architect" is restricted by law to those registered at the Architects Registration Board. It usually takes a minimum of seven years to obtain the necessary qualifications and experience for registration. Those wishing to become registered must first study at a recognized university-level school of architecture. Though there are some variations from university to university, the basic principle is that in order to qualify as an architect a candidate must pass through three stages which are administered by the Royal Institute of British Architects:

  • On completing an initial degree in architecture (usually three or four years, usually either a BA, BSc, or BArch) the candidate receives exemption from RIBA Part I. There then follows a period of a minimum of one year which the candidate spends in an architect's office gaining work experience.

  • The candidate must then complete a post-graduate university course, usually two years, to receive either a graduate diploma (Dip Arch), Masters (MArch) or B(Arch). On completing that course, the candidate receives exemption from Part II of the RIBA process.

- The candidate must then spend a further period of at least one year gaining experience before being allowed to take the RIBA Part III examination in Professional Practice and Management.

United States

In the United States, people wishing to become licensed architects are required to meet the requirements of their respective state. Each state has a registration board to oversee that state's licensure laws. In 1919, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) was created to ensure parity between the states' often conflicting rules. The registration boards of each of the 50 states (and 5 territories), are NCARB member boards.

Requirements vary between jurisdictions, and there are three common requirements for registration: education, experience and examination. About half of the States require a professional degree from a school accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) to satisfy their education requirement; this would be either a B.Arch or M.Arch degree. The experience requirement for degreed candidates is typically the Intern Development Program (IDP), a joint program of NCARB and the American Institute of Architectsmarker (AIA). IDP creates a framework to identify for the intern architect base skills and core-competencies. The intern architect needs to earn 700 training units (TUs) diversified into 16 categories; each TU is equivalent to 8 hours of experience working under the direct supervision of a licensed Architect. The states that waive the degree requirement typically require a full 10 years experience in combination with the I.D.P diversification requirements before the candidate is eligible to sit for the examination. Californiamarker requires C-IDP (Comprehensive Intern Development Program) which builds upon the seat time requirement of IDP with the need to document learning having occurred. All jurisdictions use the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), a series of seven (formerly nine) computerized exams administered by NCARB. The NCARB also has a certification for those architects meeting NCARB's model standard: NAAB degree, IDP and ARE passage. This certificate facilitates reciprocity between the member boards should an architect desire registration in a different jurisdiction. All architects licensed by their respective states have professional status as Registered Architects (RA).

Depending on the policies of the registration board for the state in question, it is sometimes possible to become licensed as an Architect in other ways: reciprocal licensure for over-seas architects and working under an architect as an intern for an extended period of time.

Professionals engaged in the design and supervision of construction projects prior to the 20th century were not necessarily trained in a separate architecture program in an academic setting. Instead, they usually carried the title of Master Builder, or surveyor, after serving a number of years as an apprentice (such as Sir Christopher Wren). The formal study of architecture in academic institutions played a pivotal role in the development of the profession as a whole, serving as a focal point for advances in architectural technology and theory.


Earnings for architects range widely, depending on where and how they work. Salaries also vary depending on the size and location of the practice. Earnings have traditionally been dependent on the local economic conditions but, with rapid globalization, this is becoming less of a factor for larger international firms. Some architects become real estate developers or develop specialized roles where they can earn a significantly higher income than the industry median.


According to a 2007 survey by the Ontario Association of Architects, Intern Architects salaries ranged from $38,482 to $52,732. Senior architects typically have earnings that exceed $100,000 annually, especially in the larger urban centres, and principals in larger firms can earn substantially more.

United States

According to the 2008–09 Occupation Outlook Handbook published by the US Department of Labor, the median salary of architects was $76,750.

Intern architects typically earn between $24,000 and $34,000 depending on experience prior to licensure. Architects that have completed the internship period can expect an average starting salary of between $51,709 and $64,519. For 10 years' experience, the base compensation level increases significantly to an average range of $62,608–79,919; that range reaches $72,678–96,928 for architects with 15 years' experience.

Senior architects and partners typically have earnings that exceed $100,000 annually. It is not unusual for an officer or equity partner to earn a base salary of $235,000, with a bonus of $200,000. Due to the major stake in ownership that equity partners may have, they can earn incomes approaching, and occasionally surpassing, seven figures.


The average salary (2008–09) in the United Kingdommarker is £45,000, with a typical range for principals between £51,000 and £90,000.The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) provides a guide to the salaries typical of the various stages of qualification: Beginning level candidates (part one) can expect between £12,000 and £20,000. Recent graduates (part two) earn between £15,000 and £27,000. Newly registered architects (part three) earn £29,000–£34,000; part three, three to five years post-registration £34,000–42,000 (salary data collected March 2008). The range of typical salaries at senior levels (after 10–15 years in role) is £36,000–80,000, depending on the seniority of the position.


The average salary for a Finnish architect starting out in a private office is roughly €33,000 net. Architects working for the municipalities are paid according to the Finnish government's salary system, in which the salary is determined by the level of stringency and expertise needed and how well a person copes with the requirements. The average base salary is about €35,000 net.

Professional organizations

Refer to the international list of professional architecture organizations for groups created to promote career and business development in architecture. A wide variety of prizes are awarded to architects to acknowledge superior buildings, structures and professional careers.

Prizes and awards

The most prestigious award a living architect can receive is the Pritzker Prize, often termed the "Nobel Prize for architecture." Other awards for excellence in architecture are given by national professional associations such as the American Institute of Architectsmarker (AIA) and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Architects who have made outstanding contributions to the profession through design excellence, contributions in the field of architectural education, or to the advancement of the profession are elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architectsmarker and are given the postnomial FAIA after their name. Other prestigious architectural awards are the Alvar Aalto Medal (Finlandmarker) and the Carlsberg Architecture Prize (Denmarkmarker).

See also


  1. Online Etymology of the term "architect"
  2. Architect Registration
  3. Architectural Institute of Canada
  5. Architect Magazine
  8. The profession database of Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy

External links

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