architects image
Architects plan and design houses, office buildings, and other structures.
Quick Facts: Architects
2012 Median Pay $73,090 per year
$35.14 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2012 107,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 17% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 18,600

What Architects Do

Architects plan and design houses, office buildings, and other structures.

Work Environment

Architects spend much of their time in offices, where they meet with clients, and consult with engineers and other architects. They also visit construction sites to review the progress of projects. About 1 in 5 were self-employed in 2012.

How to Become an Architect

There are typically three main steps to becoming a licensed architect: completing a professional degree in architecture, gaining relevant experience through a paid internship, and passing the Architect Registration Exam.


The median annual wage for architects was $73,090 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of architects is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Competition for jobs will be strong as the number of applicants continues to outnumber available positions.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of architects with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about architects by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Architects Do About this section

Architects use CADD during the design process.

Architects plan and design houses, office buildings, and other structures.


Architects typically do the following:

  • Meet with clients to determine objectives and requirements for structures
  • Estimate the amount of required materials, equipment, and construction time
  • Prepare structure specifications
  • Direct workers who prepare drawings and documents
  • Prepare scaled drawings with computer software and by hand
  • Prepare contract documents for building contractors
  • Manage construction contracts
  • Visit worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans
  • Seek new work by marketing and giving presentations

People need places to live, work, play, learn, shop, and eat. Architects are responsible for designing these places. They work on public or private projects and design both indoor and outdoor spaces. Architects can be commissioned to design anything from a single room to an entire complex of buildings.

Architects discuss the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project with clients. In some cases, architects provide various predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses, and design requirements.

After discussing and agreeing on the initial proposal with clients, architects develop final construction plans that show the building’s appearance and details for its construction. Accompanying these plans are drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems; plumbing; and, possibly, site and landscape plans. In developing designs, architects must follow state and local building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those requiring easy building access for people who are disabled.

Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) have replaced traditional drafting paper and pencil as the most common methods for creating designs and construction drawings. However, hand-drawing skills are still used, especially during the conceptual stages of a project.

As construction proceeds, architects may visit building sites to ensure that contractors follow the design, keep to the schedule, use the specified materials, and meet work-quality standards. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are conducted, and construction costs are paid.

Architects also may help clients get construction bids, select contractors, and negotiate construction contracts.

Architects often collaborate with workers in related occupations, such as civil engineers, urban and regional planners, interior designers, and landscape architects.

Work Environment About this section

Although architects usually work in an office, they must also travel to construction sites.

Architects held about 107,400 jobs in 2012, with two-thirds employed in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry. About 1 in 5 were self-employed.

Architects spend much of their time in offices, where they meet with clients, develop reports and drawings, and work with other architects and engineers. They also visit construction sites to ensure the client’s objectives are met and to review the progress of projects. Some architects work from home offices.

Work Schedules

Although most architects work full time, many work long hours, especially when facing deadlines. Self-employed architects may have to work long hours, too, but they have more flexible work schedules.

How to Become an Architect About this section

Architects need internships to gain practical experience.

There are typically three main steps to becoming a licensed architect: completing a professional degree in architecture, gaining relevant experience through a paid internship, and passing the Architect Registration Exam.


Earning a professional degree in architecture is the typical path to becoming an architect in all states. Most architects earn their professional degree through a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program, intended for students with no previous architectural training. Many earn a master’s degree in architecture, which can take 1 to 5 years to complete, depending on the extent of the student’s previous training in architecture.

A typical program includes courses in architectural history and theory, building design with an emphasis on computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), structures, technology, construction methods, professional practices, math, physical sciences, and liberal arts. Central to most architectural programs is the design studio, where students apply the skills and concepts learned in the classroom to create drawings and three-dimensional models of their designs.

Currently, 35 states require that architects hold a professional degree in architecture from one of the 123 schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). State licensing requirements can be found at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.


All state architectural registration boards require architecture graduates to complete a lengthy paid internship—most require at least 3 years of experience—before they may sit for the Architect Registration Exam. Most new graduates complete their training period by working at architectural firms through the Intern Development Program (IDP). Some states allow a portion of the training to occur in the offices of related careers, such as engineers and general contractors. Architecture students who complete internships while still in school can count some of that time toward the 3-year training period.

Interns in architectural firms may help design part of a project. They may help prepare architectural documents and drawings, build models, and prepare construction drawings on CADD. Interns may also research building codes and write specifications for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of finishes, and other related details.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states and the District of Columbia require architects to be licensed. Licensing requirements typically include completing a professional degree in architecture, gaining relevant experience through a paid internship, and passing the Architect Registration Exam.

Most states also require some form of continuing education to keep a license, and some additional states are expected to adopt mandatory continuing education. Requirements vary by state but usually involve additional education through workshops, university classes, conferences, self-study courses, or other sources.

A growing number of architects voluntarily seek certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Certification makes it easier to become licensed across states. In fact, it is the primary requirement for reciprocity of licensing among state boards that are NCARB members. In 2012, approximately one-third of all licensed architects had this certification.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Architects must understand the content of designs and the context in which they were created. For example, architects must understand the locations of mechanical systems and how those systems affect building operations.

Communication skills. Architects share their ideas, both in oral presentations and in writing, with clients, other architects, and workers who help prepare drawings. Many also give presentations to explain their designs.

Creativity. Architects design the overall look of houses, buildings, and other structures. Therefore, the final product should be attractive and functional.

Organizational skills. Architects often manage contracts. Therefore, they must keep records related to the details of a project, including total cost, materials used, and progress.

Technical skills. Architects use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) technology to create plans as part of integrated building information modeling (BIM). 

Visualization skills. Architects must be able to see how the parts of a structure relate to each other. They also must be able to visualize how the overall building will look once completed.

Pay About this section


Median annual wages, May 2012

Architects, except landscape and naval


Architects, surveyors, and cartographers


Total, all occupations



The median annual wage for architects was $73,090 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,600, and the top 10 percent earned more than $118,230.

Some firms pay tuition and fees toward continuing education requirements for their employees.

Most architects work full time and many work long hours, especially when facing deadlines. Self-employed architects may have more flexible work hours.

Job Outlook About this section


Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Architects, except landscape and naval


Architects, surveyors, and cartographers


Total, all occupations



Employment of architects is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Architects will be needed to make plans and designs for the construction and renovation of homes, offices, retail stores, and other structures. As campus buildings age, many school districts and universities are expected to build new facilities or renovate existing ones. Demand is expected for more healthcare facilities as the baby-boomer population ages and as more individuals use healthcare services.

Demand is projected for architects with knowledge of green design, also called sustainable design. Sustainable design emphasizes the efficient use of resources, such as energy and water conservation; waste and pollution reduction; and environmentally friendly design, specifications, and materials. Rising energy costs and increased concern about the environment have led to many new buildings being built with more sustainable designs.

Job Prospects

With a growing number of students graduating with architectural degrees, strong competition for internships and jobs in the field is expected. Competition for jobs will be especially strong at the most prestigious architectural firms. Those with up-to-date technical skills and training in sustainable design could have an advantage.

Employment of architects is strongly tied to the activity of the construction industry. Therefore, these workers may experience periods of unemployment when there is a slowdown in requests for new projects or when the overall level of construction falls.

Employment projections data for architects, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Architects, except landscape and naval

17-1011 107,400 126,000 17 18,600 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of architects.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Civil engineers

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design, construct, supervise, operate, and maintain large construction projects and systems, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Bachelor’s degree $79,340
Construction managers

Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from development to completion.

Bachelor’s degree $82,790
Graphic designers

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.

Bachelor’s degree $44,150
Industrial designers

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers focus on the user experience in creating style and function for a particular gadget or appliance.

Bachelor’s degree $59,610
Interior designers

Interior Designers

Interior designers make interior spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials. They read blueprints and must be aware of building codes and inspection regulations.

Bachelor’s degree $47,600
Landscape architects

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects plan and design land areas for parks, recreational facilities, private homes, campuses, and other open spaces.

Bachelor’s degree $64,180
Urban and regional planners

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners develop plans and programs for the use of land. Their plans help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.

Master’s degree $65,230
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Architects,
on the Internet at (visited November 25, 2015).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014