• Gareth Ngwenya

What does it take to become an architect?

Updated: Feb 17

Whether you're just curious about what architects do, looking to go into the profession, or already an architect and just happened to stumble across my blog, I believe my experiences may shed some light on the character traits an architect needs to thrive in the industry as well as the process you'd need to go through to reach industry level. However, there are no universal truths in this journey. What might work for you may not necessarily work for the next person.

Every aspiring architect is going to have different experiences since there are many different factors to take into consideration such as working from a smaller firm, a big company, and the type of firm.

But I'm jumping the gun a bit here. So let's take it back a notch.

1. University (Study, study, study... and some more studying!)

The first thing you'd want to do is complete a four-to-five-year architecture program. Getting an architecture degree is imperative on this journey to becoming an architect. As simple as that may sound, architects have a lot to juggle and this habit is something that begins as early as your college days. Aspiring architects need to have the capacity to work with numbers, lines, and angles while tapping into their creative side to think of concepts and ideas. An architect can balance logic with creativity, basically using the left and right hemispheres of the brain daily.

Furthermore, although this step isn't particularly necessary, you'd need to consider graduate school. The furtherment of your education may improve your chances of working at your dream firm, but more importantly, it will allow you to amplify your knowledge in design while strengthening your concepts, technical drawing abilities, and project management skills.

National Architectural Accrediting Board

An architect is hard-working and determined. Being dedicated to your studies will reflect on your diligence when it comes to completing assignments and projects. The long hours you'll spend working in the studio are going to prepare you for the possibly long hours in the office, on-site, and even at home. My word of advice... Get a nice, hot cup of coffee and some good music. You're gonna need it!

2. Internships (aren't just about serving other people coffee, believe me.)

While you're studying, or perhaps toward the end of your academic journey, you're going to get some field experience. That could be literal or figurative, as some firms may give you opportunities to work on-site while other firms may keep you in the office for some time. In my experience, and also taking away from conversations I've had with architects in the past, most firms, especially small firms, will give you a well-rounded internship experience. Your internship may feel like a job as you'll be exposed to working on projects, visiting sites as you submit drawings, and participating in important meetings. I'd recommend starting at a smaller firm as they do provide a lot of these opportunities.

Your internship may also be an actual job that will contribute to the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), a program required for those seeking licensure. At this point, as an aspiring architect, you'll be able to develop true problem-solving skills. Not only is this essential for good design, but it is also crucial in meeting client needs.

3. Accreditation (Getting closer to your career path)

Now that you've completed the internship process, or hopefully seeing the light at the end of that tunnel, you'd be adapt to learning and absorbing information. Once you've completed a NAAB accredited bachelor degree program, or the equivalent, depending on which country you're studying in, you'd be able to establish a recording allowing you to earn AXP credits which ultimately will guide you through project management, programming and analysis, project planning and design, practice management and many more specific areas that will lead you to your final step which will be your examination.

4. Examination (you're almost done, just keep swimming!!!)

The last step before becoming the architect you've always wanted to be is completing a series of exams to earning architectural licensure. The exam will test your overall knowledge of architecture practices and principles. Don't take too much time off before completing these tests because most firms require that you pass these exams within five years of completing your first professional degree, while other firms have a shorter timeframe!

Fret not, you've got this! There are also exam guides that you can download from the NCARB which will assist you on all seven divisions that make up the examination.

One Final Tip:

As an aspiring architect two skills that you'll need to constantly be developing are your ability to think creatively and to have a scientific mindset. These two mindsets might seem like opposites but they run parallel to each other when you think like an architect.

So now you know a bit more of the process and what it takes to become an architect. This career path is highly rewarding and the world will always need architects.

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