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Architects design buildings and other structures. The design of a building involves far more than its appearance. Buildings must also be functional, safe, and economical and must suit the needs of the people who use them. Architects take all these things into consideration when they design buildings and other structures.
Architects provide a wide variety of professional services to individuals and organizations planning a construction project. They may be involved in all phases of development, from the initial discussion of general ideas with the client through construction. Their duties require a number of skills-design, engineering, managerial, communication, and supervisory.
The architect and client first discuss the purposes, requirements, and budget of a project. Based on the discussions, architects may prepare a program-a report specifying the requirements the design must meet. In some cases, the architect assists in conducting feasibility and environmental impact analyses and selecting a site. The architect then prepares drawings and written information presenting ideas for the client to review.
After the initial proposals are discussed and accepted, architects develop final construction plans. These plans show the building's appearance and details for its construction. Accompanying these are drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; plumbing; and possibly site and landscape plans. They also specify the building materials and, in some cases, the interior furnishings. In developing designs, architects follow building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those that require easy access by disabled persons. Throughout the planning stage, they make necessary changes. Although they have traditionally used pencil and paper to produce design and construction drawings, architects are increasingly turning to computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) technology for these important tasks.
Architects may also assist the client in obtaining construction bids, selecting a contractor, and negotiating the construction contract. As construction proceeds, they may be employed by the client to visit the building site to ensure that the contractor is following the design, meeting the schedule, using the specified materials, and meeing the specified standards for the quality of work. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are made, and construction costs are paid.
Architects design a wide variety of buildings, such as office and apartment buildings, schools, churches, factories, hospitals, houses, and airport terminals. They also design multibuilding complexes such as urban centers, college campuses, industrial parks, and entire communities. In addition to designing buildings, they may advise on the selection of building sites, prepare cost analysis and land-use studies, and do long-range planning for land development.
Architects sometimes specialize in one phase of work. Some specialize in the design of one type of building-for example, hospitals, schools, or housing. Others specialize in construction management or the management of their firm and do little design work. They often work with engineers, urban planners, interior designers, landscape architects, and others.
During a training period leading up to licensure as architects, entry-level workers are called intern-architects. This training period gives them practical work experience while they prepare for the Architect Registration Examination. Typical duties may include preparing construction drawings on CADD, assisting in the design of one part of a project, or managing the production of a small project.
Architects generally work in a comfortable environment. Most of their time is spent in offices advising clients, developing reports and drawings, and working with other architects and engineers. However, they also often work at construction sites reviewing the progress of projects.
Architects may occasionally be under great stress, working nights and weekends to meet deadlines; a 40-hour workweek, however, is usual.
Architects held about 91,000 jobs in 1994. Most jobs were in architecture firms-the majority of which employ fewer than five workers. Nearly one- third were self-employed architects, practicing as partners in architecture firms or on their own. A few worked for builders, real estate developers, and for government agencies responsible for housing, planning, or community development, such as the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development, and the General Services Administration.
All States and the District of Columbia require individuals to be licensed (registered) before they may call themselves architects or contract to provide architectural services. Many architecture school graduates work in the field even though they are not licensed. However, a licensed architect is required to take legal responsibility for all work. Three requirements generally must be met for licensure: A professional degree in architecture, a period of practical training or internship (usually for 3 years), and passage of all sections of the Architect Registration Examination.
In many States, the professional degree in architecture must be from one of the approximately 100 schools of architecture with programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). However, State architectural registration boards set their own standards, so graduation from a non NAAB-accredited program may meet the education requirement for licensure in some States. There are several types of professional degrees in architecture. The majority of all architecture degrees are from 5-year Bachelor of Architecture programs intended for students entering from high school or with no previous architecture training. Some schools offer a 2-year Master of Architecture program for students with a preprofessional undergraduate degree in architecture or a related area, or a 3- or 4-year Master of Architecture program for students with a degree in another discipline. In addition, there are many combinations and variations of these degree programs.
The choice of degree type depends upon each individual's preference and educational background. Prospective architecture students should carefully consider the available options before committing to a program. For example, although the 5-year Bachelor of Architecture program offers the fastest route to the professional degree, courses are specialized and, if the student does not complete the program, moving to a nonarchitecture program may be difficult. A typical program includes courses in architectural history and theory, building design, including its technical and legal aspects, professional practice, math, physical sciences, and liberal arts. Many architecture schools also offer graduate education for those who already have a bachelor's or master's degree in architecture or other areas. Although graduate education beyond the professional degree is not essential for practicing architects, it is normally required for research, teaching, and certain specialties.
Architects must be able to visually communicate their ideas to clients. Artistic and drawing ability is very helpful in doing this, but not essential. More important is a visual orientation and the ability to conceptualize and understand spatial relationships. Good communication skills (both written and oral), the ability to work independently or as part of a team, and creativity are important qualities for anyone interested in becoming an architect. Computer literacy is also required as most firms use computers for word processing, specifications writing, two- and three- dimensional drafting, and financial management. A knowledge of computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) is helpful and will become more important as architecture firms continue to adopt this technology.
New graduates usually begin in architecture firms, where they assist in preparing architectural documents or drawings. They also may do research on building codes and materials; or write specifications for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of finishes, and other related details. Graduates with degrees in architecture also enter related fields such as graphic, interior, or industrial design; urban planning; real estate development; civil engineering; or construction management.
In large firms, architects may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Some architects become partners in established firms; others set up their own practice.
Architects' employment has traditionally been affected by the level of local construction, particularly of noninstitutional structures such as office buildings, shopping centers, schools, and healthcare facilities. The boom in construction of commercial office space and some other types of non-residential structures during the 1980s means there will be less construction of this type between 1994 and 2005. Nevertheless, employment growth of architects is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations during this period.
The needed renovation and rehabilitation of old buildings, particularly in urban areas where space for new buildings is becoming limited, is expected to provide jobs for architects and to compensate somewhat for any slowdowns in jobs related to new construction. Also, the expected expansion of the population under age 15 and over age 65 should spur the demand for public and private buildings, such as schools and healthcare facilities. The need to replace architects who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons will provide many additional job openings.
Despite expected employment growth and the increased number of openings due to replacement needs, prospective architects may face competition, especially if the number of architecture degrees awarded remain at, or above, current levels. Traditionally, many individuals are attracted to this occupation, and there are often numerous applicants for available openings, especially in the most prestigious firms. Because noninstitutional construction is sensitive to cyclical changes in the economy, architects will face particularly strong competition for jobs or clients during recessions, and layoffs may occur. Those involved in the design of institutional buildings such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional facilities, will be less affected by fluctuations in the economy.
Even in times of overall good opportunities, there may be areas of the country with poor opportunities. Architects who are licensed to practice in one State must meet the licensing requirements of other States before practicing elsewhere. These requirements are becoming more standardized, however, facilitating movement to other States.
Because the use of computer-aided design and drafting is becoming more prevalent in architecture firms, prospective architects who know CADD technology may experience better opportunities in the future, particularly in a competitive job market.
According to The American Institute of Architects, the median salary for intern-architects in architecture firms was $24,700 in 1993. Licensed architects with 8 to 10 years' experience but who were not managers or principals of a firm earned a median salary of $38,900 in 1993; and principals or partners of firms earned a median salary of $50,000 in 1993. Partners in some large practices earned over $110,000. Most employers of wage and salary architects offer paid vacation and sick leave, and a majority also provide medical and life insurance plans to their employees. Employees of very small architecture firms (fewer than 5 employees) are less likely to receive these benefits.
Architects who are partners in well-established architecture firms generally earn much more than their salaried employees, but their income may fluctuate due to changing business conditions. Some architects may have difficulty getting established in their own practices and may go through a period when their expenses are greater than their income, requiring substantial financial resources.
Architects design and construct buildings and related structures. Others who engage in similar work are landscape architects, building contractors, civil engineers, urban planners, interior designers, industrial designers, and graphic designers.
Information about education and careers in architecture can be obtained from:
Architecture Fact Book, The American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20006.
Society of American Registered Architects, 1245 S. Highland Ave., Lombard, IL 60148.
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