How to become an architect in the UK

15 December 2020
student working on laptop in office

Architects are the designers and engineers of our modern society. They play an important role, both creatively and practically, in building our landscapes by designing structures to the needs of clients. Architects can specialise in a variety of different fields and industries, and are highly employable due to their specialised skill set and experiential knowledge.

Should I become an architect?

If you are a logical thinker with a flare for the arts, architecture could be a great career avenue for you to explore. By training and working as an architect, you will have the opportunity to enhance your innate skills and apply creativity to your everyday work. Studying architecture can also open many doors, due to the variety of subjects you will study within your degree courses. You can choose to specialise in a range of industries and find your creative niche within the subject.

As an architect, you can expect to be well paid and work on a variety of different jobs, from government buildings to public structures to privately owned homes. It is also likely you will experience good levels of employment, as architects are valuable assets in every society around the world. There is a good amount of career flexibility in this line of work, and you can seek out creative freedom by choosing your jobs accordingly.

How can I become an architect in the UK?

To become a successful architect you will need to meet certain requirements. These include:

Education

Your studies are very important as a future architect, as there are very certain things you need to learn in order to qualify. You will first need to undertake an approved undergraduate degree in architecture, which can take between three and four years to complete, depending on whether you choose to do a placement year. Postgraduate study is also needed, which will usually consist of a two-year Diploma or MArch in architecture.

Wondering how you can begin studying to become an architect in the UK? At the International Study Centre, we offer preparational courses to help international students progress to Cardiff University, a world-leading university in the heart of Wales’ capital city. To start studying an undergraduate degree in architecture, find out about how our International Foundation Year can prepare you for university by improving your English language abilities and teaching you the necessary academic information and study skills. You will also be supported in creating a Design Portfolio, which will contribute to your final grade and be part of your progression assessment. Portfolio guidance will be provided by the Welsh School of Architecture during the course of your International Foundation Year.

Skills

If you’re wondering what skills you need to become an architect, look no further - we have provided the list below for you so you can see if you have what it takes to pursue this type of career.

  • Natural creativity and strong drawing skills
  • A unique imagination and the ability to think and create in three dimensions
  • Solid analytical skills, accuracy, and attention to detail
  • A keen interest in buildings and manmade environments
  • Good organisational, communication and negotiation skills
  • Practical mathematical skills
  • Proficient IT and computer knowledge

Other qualifications and experience

It is important to note that, to become a working architect, your education will need to incorporate a minimum of 24 months of supervised practical experience. This can be completed during or between your university studies, and will need to take place at a relevant, established architectural firm.

Additionally, further qualifications that can assist you in becoming a successful architect include the Professional Qualification. This is an exam on architectural practice and management that allows students to register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which students can take once they have completed the required work experience.

How long does it take to become an architect in the UK?

Studying and completing the work experience needed to become an architect in the UK will take at least seven years in total, though this will depend on the specific university courses you choose to do and how quickly you can find placement work.

This may sound like it is a long qualification period, but in comparison to other countries you could study in, like the US, it is relatively short. These seven years will also give you the opportunity to learn absolutely everything you need to become a well-practiced, successful architect with good working knowledge.

What does an architecture career look like in the UK?

Once you are ready to embark on your career as an architect in the UK, you should experience good employment opportunities, as architects are in high demand across many industries. Starting salaries for a qualified architect with education from a good university are usually high, with junior-level architects reportedly earning between £32,000 and £45,000 per year.

You can also expect a decent level of flexibility, especially later on in your career. After gaining experience in the field post-qualification, you will have the opportunity to progress by becoming a member of the RIBA and opening your own practice if you so wish. Alternatively, you can choose to work freelance or work your way up in an established firm, which can earn you a salary of £70,000+ per year.

Study architecture abroad in the UK

Studying architecture at Cardiff University is a unique experience, broadening your horizons and giving you the best start to a fruitful, prosperous professional career. Students who choose Cardiff benefit from high employability levels once finishing their studies - 95.7% of graduates are in work or further education after six months (HESA DHLE 2016/17). Furthermore, Cardiff is an innovative university, ranking within the UK’s top 5 universities for research excellence.

As previously mentioned, you can take your first steps to studying architecture in the UK at the Cardiff University International Study Centre. Along with our preparational courses, we help our students with their employability skills while equipping them for life in a new country with a new culture.

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