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Do you want to be an Architect?

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions to help you decide

Where can I study Architecture?
What do Architects do?

Why should I consider a career in Architecture?
Where will I work?
How much will I earn?
What kind of work will I do?
How do I become an Architect?
What A-levels should I study?
What spare time activities would help my application?
How else can I prepare for an interview?
Any advice for a mature student?
How do I get more information?
I am an overseas student - what about me?

Q. Where can I study Architecture?
A. You can study at one of the schools of architecture that have been accredited by RIBA/ARB (see map below). This is recommended as successful completion of the course automatically gives you exemption from part one of your course. Alternatively you can undertake a non-accredited course in Architecture and submit your portfolio of work to a RIBA panel for examination and, if it is satisfactory be awarded part one. Some schools have specialisms in subjects such as environmental design, interior design, urban design or building technology.The prospectuses of the various schools of architecture will give more information. The map below shows Universities running accredited courses. For all Architecture courses including those that are not accredited carry out a search on the UCAS web site.

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Schools of Architecture

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Q. What do Architects do?
A. Architects are responsible for the design of new individual buildings and groups of buildings, their surrounding landscape and interior design and are usually responsible for the supervision of their construction. They are also responsible for the refurbishment of old buildings and the extension of existing buildings.

At the beginning of a project, the Architect produces a series of initial 'sketch designs' in consultation with the client, based on the client's needs and wishes and taking into account where the building is to be located. When an outline design is approved the design is developed and completed in collaboration with other consultants such as Engineers and Quantity Surveyors. Then, working with a group of construction specialists, the Architect will supervise the construction work and make regular visits to the building site to inspect and approve the work in progress.

The range of skills an architect must possess is wide and includes the ability to be able to conceive and 'visualize' a complex three-dimensional design (design skills), produce drawings for the client, planning authorities and building contractors (artistic and computer-aided-design (CAD) skills), administer the construction contract for the client (legal skills), authorize payments (financial skills) and solve problems (negotiating skills). This is a daunting list but the architectural education you receive in University and practical training prepares you for these tasks.

Q. Why should I consider a career in Architecture?
A. The practice of Architecture combines a unique blend of art, technology and people skills. It is a worthwhile and rewarding career because the product of the architect's work makes a significant contribution to the appearance and quality of the day-to-day life of a local community. Well-designed spaces and buildings create enormous pleasure, often subconscious, in the people that use them.

Q. Where will I work?
A. Many Architects are self-employed or work together in partnership, sharing the income that is derived from the fees that are charged for the projects they undertake. Larger architectural practices can also be Limited Companies and many of these employ Architects on a fixed salary basis. A number of government authorities, larger private companies and public corporations also have their own 'in house' architect's departments that employ salaried Architects.

When you first qualify as an Architect you will probably work as a salaried architect for the first few years of your career and may then progress to being an 'associate', junior partner or full partner of an existing practice - or set up your practice as a 'sole practitioner' or in partnership with other colleagues.

Q. How much will I earn?
A. There is no national salary scale for architects but for guidance, typical earnings after Part 1 graduation (before final qualification and Registration as an Architect - see below) are around 15,000 to 17,500. The average salary for a qualified architect with three years experience is approximately 33,000. Architects who are self-employed or partners have an income that is dependent on the fees earned by the practice (that are charged as a percentage of the cost of the buildings that the practice designs). Typical earnings for partners are 36,500 and upwards. Visit the Hays Architecture web site for the most up to date salary survey.

Q. What kind of work will I do?
A. Architects can work on a very broad range of projects ranging from small domestic extensions and conversions to multi-million pound shopping centres, concert halls and government buildings. Some architectural practices 'specialize' in the design of certain types of building but most practices will undertake a wide variety of commissions.

As a junior Architect you will probably begin by working as a member of a 'design team' with responsibility for certain aspects of a design, under the direction of a more senior Architect or partner. As you gain experience you will become responsible for the design and supervision of your own small projects and will eventually become a 'team leader' responsible for the overall design of more complex commissions.

A proportion of the working week will be spent in an office or 'studio' interspersed with regular meetings with clients, other design consultants, suppliers of construction materials/services and visits to buildings under construction. The combination of indoor and outdoor work gives variety to the working day and is one of the benefits of working as an architect.

Q. How do I become an Architect?
A. It takes seven years to become a professional architect. The professional practice of architecture is regulated in most countries throughout the world so that only those persons who are properly qualified and experienced may legally use the title 'Architect' and/or practice professionally as an architect. The structure of professional architectural education and qualification in the UK is divided into three Parts:

Firstly, You must undertake a three year undergraduate degree programme leading to the award of a Bachelor's degree with Honours (BA, BSc or B.Arch). This stage is known as 'Part 1'.

Following this a further two year's of 'advanced undergraduate' study is required known as 'Part 2', normally leading to the award of a Diploma and/or Master's degree in Architecture

Finally, after a period of not less than 12 months in professional training, you must complete an examination in Professional Practice and Management in Architecture - known as 'Part 3' - this may also carry the award of a Diploma, Certificate or Master's degree.

Having gained these qualifications, candidates can register as an architect with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) and become a chartered member of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), RIAS, the Royal Society of Architects in Wales (RSAW) or the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA).

Q. What A-levels should I study?
Students interested in taking a degree in architecture should contact schools of architecture to find out the exact entry requirements. Generally speaking the minimum requirement is two A levels (or equivalent). Some schools may ask for two A level subjects including maths, art or physics however, it is not always necessary for A levels to be in 'academic' subjects. GCSE subjects should include maths and English language and, if possible, a science or technical subject. Do not be put off studying Architecture because you are exclusively studying art based A-levels. Contact the admissions tutors in the departments you are interested in to discuss their requirements.

Schools of architecture may also accept applicants who have GCSEs(A-C) and a BTEC vocational qualification in a building related subject.

Q.What spare time activities would help my application to a school of Architecture?
A. You should generally practice your drawing skills, especially sketching the interior and exterior of buildings. Take an interest in TV programmes about buildings. We also suggest that you should acquaint yourself with current trends in Architecture and Design by looking at recent editions of such publications as Blueprint, Wallpaper, Frame, The Architectural Review, Architectural Design, The Architects' Journal and The RIBA Journal, and the Design pages of The Guardian, The Independent, The Times & Sunday Times, The Observer and The Telegraph.

Students studying Architecture often need to make models, so skill in model making is an advantage. Take an interest in local buildings - try and identify things about them that you like/dislike. Finally try to find out about well-known architects (living ones as well as dead ones!) and the buildings they have designed; the above list of publications - many of which you should be able to find in your local public library - will provide a good starting point. There are also a number of websites with information on famous architects and building case studies

Q. How else can I prepare for an interview?
A. There is a substantial 'artistic' element in all courses in architecture. When you are invited for an interview you will be asked to bring with you (or submit in advance) a 'portfolio' of artwork you have done at school or completed in your own time. For many Schools of Architecture the portfolio is the most important factor in determining the offer of a place. Your portfolio does not need to contain work that is specifically 'architectural', but should show evidence of imagination, creativity and technical skill. Any and all media of expression are appropriate and the portfolio should include sketchbooks and preliminary designs as well as finished work.

Q. How do I get more information?
A. Try the following links

Search for courses at the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service www.ucas.ac.uk or use the links to individual schools on the left hand side of this page.

Learn about the role of an architect and get more information from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) www.architecture.com | carrersinarchitecture.net

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has been set up to safeguard standards in higher education. Their guidelines for standards in schools of Architecture give a further insight into the teaching of the subject and its requisite skills.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)offers advice on a range of built environment careers including architecture, engineering, horticulture, landscape, planning, surveying and urban design.

Q. Any advice for a mature student?
A. There is no age limit for entry into architecture, but the seven-year length of education and training should be born in mind. Some students finish training after part 1 and become architectural technicians. Applicants over the age of 21 do not usually need the A-level entry requirements described above, particularly if they have worked in a construction/design related environment.

Q. I am an overseas student - what about me?
A. Please read this document. its about architectural education in the UK as related to overseas students. You may need to download the adobe acrobat reader to read it.

John Bush - Admissions Tutor, Huddersfield School of Architecture

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© Interface Publishing Last updated Nov. 2009, E-mail weblink@interface-publishing.co.uk