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Architects are a rare blend of creativity and practicality. You must have the ability to dream big, but also possess the skills and mindset needed to walk onto a job site and pour over the nuts and bolts of a project with its construction manager. In this way, architects are far from one-trick ponies; instead, they possess some proficiency in designing, engineering, managing, supervising and coordinating with clients and builders. Communication skills are especially important. Architects must effectively convey their unique vision for a project and interact with professionals from many fields. And architects find themselves delving into a wide variety of projects. They use cities, parks, neighborhoods and college campuses as their canvases, building structures big and small, wide and narrow, glass and steel. All the places you visit in a single day – coffee shops, libraries, train stations, office buildings, restaurants, grocery stores, city parks and so on – are the brainchild of at least one architect. To ensure these creations are aesthetically stunning while also practical and safe, architects are heavily involved in each stage of the construction process, from the initial planning session to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. In the morning an architect could be meeting with a prospective client in business attire in his or her office, and by afternoon he or she could be donning a hard hat for a walk-through at the job site. For architects, versatility is the name of the game.

The economic recovery is especially good news for architects. During the recession, the industry was hit hard as new construction projects, including homes, health care facilities and office buildings, declined severely. With the economy on the mend, both commercial and residential construction is climbing toward prerecession levels, which should prove to be a major boon for an industry that shed thousands of jobs during the downturn. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry lost an average of approximately 9,150 jobs annually from 2009 to 2011. But in the past year, job losses have leveled off considerably to about 1 percent, or 870 total positions cut, and the BLS has predicted 17.3 percent employment growth between 2012 and 2022. Combine these projections with a low unemployment rate, just 6 percent, and the job outlook for architects appears to be very solid.


The BLS reports the median annual wage for architects dipped slightly in 2012 to $73,090. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made approximately $118,230, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $44,600. To earn a salary on the higher end of this spectrum, you should consider Beaumont, Texas, Santa Cruz, Calif., and Bridgeport, Conn., which are the three metropolitan areas where the highest-paid in the profession work.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $93,010
Median $73,090
25th Percentile $56,090


Most states require architects to possess a professional degree in architecture from one of the nearly 125 schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. However, state architectural registration boards specify their own standards, so a degree from a nonaccredited program may suffice in select states. Therefore, check the requirements for any state where you wish to work. There are a few routes to obtaining a degree in architecture. Most architects choose the five-year degree intended for students with no previous training. Others opt to enroll in a graduate program, which can take one to five years to complete, after obtaining an undergraduate degree in a field outside of architecture. Graduates must complete a training period, typically of three years or more, before they may sit for the licensing exam. Requirements for this training period vary by state.

Reviews & Advice

Because architects interact with a wide-ranging group of people on each project, knowing how to interact with others and be an effective team member is a must. "You need to show that you work well in teams – especially with people different than you are," Richard L. Hayes, director of knowledge resources for The American Institute of Architects, wrote in an email. According to Hayes, demonstrating that you "can think about the best path through a complex problem" is another important element to getting a job in the field. Health care architecture, such as designing healthy communities and buildings, is a growing area of specialization that Hayes recommends for aspiring architects.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Nathan Hellman.

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