Job description for an architect

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Alison Smith manages a team of four architects and assistants for an £11 million residential project in Manchester but she is based in London. She spends a lot of time liaising with the client and co-ordinating with other architectural and building consultants. This involves a lot of regular design team meetings in both cities producing the drawings for the project.

What is your typical day?

Firstly, a meeting with my team to check that we are all on schedule with our workload and actions for the coming week.

At the moment we are producing drawings that describe how the building will be constructed and what materials to use. This stage involves plenty of meetings with the client and with the other consultants.

The building is due to start on-site next spring, which means I will be spending more time on the building site and answering queries from the builders.

Other daily duties involve checking my post, fax tray and emails to keep in touch with any questions coming from the client and other consultants. If there is something more complicated or urgent to discuss this is usually done on the phone.

What equipment do you use?

Basic drawing materials and computers with various programmes for administration and drawings. Digital cameras and graphic computer programmes. Drawings nowadays are done mostly on the computer. In our office we sometimes produce 3D computer models to create more realistic images for our clients.

How did you enter this career as an architect?

I did science subjects and art at school then went to university. Between my degree and diploma I worked at various practices both in the private and public sectors.

What training do you receive?

Training in computer programmes, especially drawing programmes. We receive regular training in our office to keep up-to-date with the latest versions of computer drawing packages.

What hours do you work?

I work a normal 40-hour week although, sometimes, I need to work longer to meet deadlines or solve urgent problems.

What do you like about being an architect?

Working with great people in the office. I also get to travel to different places – I have worked on jobs in London, Cambridge, Warwick and, now, Bristol. I even worked on a job in Singapore last year and spent two months there.

What are the skills and qualities needed?

A good understanding of design and the ability to think in a three dimensional way. Good communication skills are essential.

Alison's route to her career as an architect

  • A Levels.
  • BSc (Hons) General Architectural Studies.
  • DipArch – Diploma in Architecture.
  • Royal Institute of British Architects Part 3 examination.

Alison's architect career tips

  • It is a satisfying and rewarding career with an opportunity to be creative.
  • There can be long hours.

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What is the salary of an architect?

  • Entrants studying for RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) examinations while employed earn between £12,400 to £14,700.
  • The average salary for a qualified architect with experience is £30,000 and senior architects earn £35,500 upwards.

A career as an architect

  • The minimum entry requirements for a career in architecture are those needed for a degree course at one of 36 schools of architecture. Architects train for a minimum of seven years and the majority are self-employed. In the public sector they can progress to chief architect level. In the private sector, progress depends on their skill competence and experience.
  • It is not essential to have an art qualification but applicants should be able to sketch and draw freehand. Most schools of architecture ask to see an applicant's portfolio of drawings and sketches.
  • The only other route into architecture is to get at least six years' experience in an architectural practice and then take a relevant degree. An HND may be enough to start work in an architectural office for non-professional tasks. Further study would be required to become a registered architect.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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