How to Become an Architect

I go to a number of networking events in and around Edinburgh, some are better than others, Bizini is my personal favorite right now. It provides a variety of different business people with the opportunity to meet one another and network over a nice meal. I met a woman at a recent event who told me that her nephew was about to enter his final year at school and was seriously considering Palm Springs architects as a career; was it a difficult course to get into, she wanted to know? Never mind getting in, I told her, its getting out the other end, thats the problem.

The title of Architect and the word Architecture are protected by law in this and many other countries. In the UK, the Architects Act 1997 states that a person cannot call themselves an Architect “in the course of business” unless their name is on a list maintained by the Architects Registration Boards (ARB). To get your name onto that list, you must pass three examinations, known as Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. It was once possible to sit these exams as part of an apprenticeship program, training while working for a qualified Architect. This is not a popular approach nowadays, I have never met anyone who has qualified this way.

To become an Architect in the UK, and in most developed countries, there are a number of steps that take at least seven years to complete, but often take longer. This how-to guide is based on my own experience of studying and qualifying thought the University system

Most University Architecture courses will require applicants to sit an interview, some even conduct written exams. The purpose of these interviews is to view a portfolio prepared by the student. This portfolio will often contain art work or other creative projects by the student. The interviewer will want to know why the student wants to become an Architect and whether their view of the profession matches reality.

Depending on where you wish to study, there will be different criteria. Some schools of Architecture have an art bias, others lean more towards the technical approach. My own portfolio was full of technical drawing, photographs of woodwork projects and freehand sketches. I don’t think any of these were particularly good but I got offered places at two different universities. I eventually chose Dundee and some of my classmates had portfolios of very good paintings and drawings, there was a mixture of students with both art and technical backgrounds.

In the long run, I wish I had studied art at school and that I had concentrated more on freehand drawing.
Most University courses revolve around lecture theaters, not so for Architecture. If you are studying to be an Architect you will spend most of your time in a studio. These vary but most will be large, well lit, rooms with desks and drawing boards. You will work in close proximity to other students for long hours. Lifetime friendships are made in the studio, my best mate met his wife there.

The studio is where you will work on design projects during each term or semester. Many people will work from home as well but most schools prefer, and even demand, their students be present in the studio during the day so they can benefit from tutorials. These are given by staff who will go around the studios and usually have responsibility for a number of students.

As part of the design process you will have to produce drawings and models showing how you will address each design project. When you reach the point where your design is really good, or if you are about to run out of time, which ever happens first, you must prepare finished drawings and models for presentation. This almost inevitably calls for an all-nighter.

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