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Architects plan and design all forms of buildings, including green buildings. Architects are responsible for the overall look of buildings, but must ensure they are functional, safe, and economical, and suit the needs of the people who use them.

Quick facts: Architect
2021 Median Pay $80,180 per year; $38.55 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Number of Jobs, 2021 125,500
Job Outlook, 2021-31 3% (slower than average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 3,300

Architects discuss with clients the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses, and design requirements. Architects may help clients get construction bids, select contractors, and negotiate construction contracts.

Architects use computer-aided design, drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) for creating designs and construction drawings. However, hand-drawing skills are still required, especially during the conceptual stages of a project and when an architect is at a construction site.

Architects coordinate and develop final construction documents including drawings and written specifications with input from clients, consultants, and third-party reviewers. They have an understanding of all aspects of a building including site and landscaping design, structural, mechanical, plumbing, electrical systems, communications, security, and technology, and often food service, acoustical or other specialty systems. Architects coordinate between all of these disciplines and subconsultants to interpret the goals of the client and the intent of the design. In developing designs, architects must follow state and local building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those requiring reasonable access for people with disabilities. In the construction phase of a project, the architect will conduct regular site visits to ensure that the design intent of the building is followed, the schedule is adhered to, and the construction meets industry-standard.

How to become an architect

Because the codes, standards, and laws that architects must meet affect life safety, this is a career that requires licensure through a Registration Exam, professional liability, and continuing education that comes after earning a bachelor's or master’s degree and completing an Intern Development Program of professional development.

In all states, earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture is typically the first step to becoming an architect. Most architects earn their degree through a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program. Many earn a master’s degree in architecture, which can take 1 to 5 additional years. The time required depends on the extent of the student’s previous education and training in architecture.

In addition to earning an accredited professional degree, individuals interested in becoming licensed architects must first complete the NCARB Intern Development Program, which is a requirement of sitting for the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®). The ARE is a multi-division exam used to assess knowledge and skills regarding the practice of architecture and completing the ARE is required by all U.S. jurisdictions as a key step on the path to earning a license. Important skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, communication (written and oral), and relationship building.

Education and resources

Access courses and resources to learn about green building and sustainability concepts related to architecture.

Online courses

Stay up to date on the latest developments in green building through access to online courses with an annual subscription to the USGBC course catalog.

Role on a LEED project

This is a key career in the green building industry. On a green building project, an architect is responsible for building design, creating construction documents, and identifying and specifying sustainable building materials.

LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.

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