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Being an Architect

It’s more than just buildings



People need different places in which to live, work, play, learn, worship, shop, and eat. These places can be indoors or outdoors, big or small, quiet or loud, dark or light. These places can be by themselves (a farmhouse) or in a group (a city). An architect imagines spaces for all of life’s activities and turns these ideas into drawings from which a builder can construct.


To become an architect, it is necessary to go to college and receive a professional degree in architecture. Depending on the program, this will take five to seven years. Contact the schools you are interested in to find out about their entrance requirements. At architecture school, you will be exposed to interesting ideas and learn to express and explore these ideas through drawing, model-building and three-dimensional computer modeling. Different schools have different emphases, so make sure to research and find ones that match your interests. Even after your college work is completed, you will not be able to call yourself an “architect” until you pass a licensing exam. Typically, you will first work for an architecture firm as an “intern” for at least three years. Once your internship is completed, you can take the exam. Most states require licensed architects to take continuing education classes to maintain their license and improve their knowledge and skills. The American Institute of Architects, a professional organization for architects, provides its members with educational seminars and other important resources.


The professional degree in architecture allows the graduate to pursue many different paths. Graduates may choose a traditional career as an architect or may decide to focus on only part of the process, such as building design, interior architecture, or construction technology. It is also possible to focus on only one building type, such as hospitals, schools, or houses. Others choose a related career as a project manager, building manager, building-products salespeople, or furniture designer. Those that like research and teaching may become professors.


If you are thinking of becoming an architect, it is never too early to visit an architect in your area to learn more about the profession. Architects often talk about the excitement of seeing their ideas and drawings become a building. They talk a lot about the satisfaction of finding creative solutions that meet the owner’s needs. This satisfaction comes from the knowledge that many people will enjoy living, working or playing in the building they design. Their work is hard and they must continue to learn all the time, but they will tell you it’s all worth the effort.

This information was created by the AIA Minnesota Architecture in the Schools Committee and is intended as a guide for students interested in a career in architecture. AIA Minnesota is a society of the American Institute of Architects and an advocate for the value of the architecture profession.