How to Become an Architect in Five Steps


A career in architectural design can be immensely rewarding. It allows you to sculpt the world around you, changing the face of houses, towns, or cities and, when executed correctly, making the world a more beautiful place. However, as with any occupation that carries responsibility and requires so much skill, becoming an architect is not the work of a moment.

It will require years of specialist training, the gradual growth of an architectural portfolio, effective networking, and extensive experience before you are leading your own major design projects. Don’t let this put you off, though. If you are prepared to dedicate your time to developing skills, qualifications, and experience, you can enjoy a lucrative career as an architect. 

The reason for this is that, while you will need an innate eye for good design and a balance between logic and creativity to unlock your potential, becoming an architect mostly requires hard work – which is a habit you develop rather than one you are born with.

Of course, it can be difficult to know where to start when pursuing a goal as ambitious as this. You may feel like you must do a number of tasks at once or become overly rushed to achieve your dream job overnight. Ultimately, this is counter-intuitive because you are better off sticking to a realistic series of smaller goals that you can gradually tick off as you go along. To help with this, here is a five-step guide to becoming an architect:

Become Acquainted with the Right Tools for the Job

If you want to become an architect – or work in design in general – then you are going to need the correct tools, software, and equipment for the job. As with any creative career, these tools should include physical instruments and materials such as pencils and pens of various grades, a sketchbook, a drawing board, tracing paper, scale rulers, cutting mats, and a T-square. 

Your exact tool kit will vary depending on the type of design you do and the work practices of the company you work with, but these should give you a flavor of what might be required.

Of course, in the modern age, a lot of architectural design work is done digitally, so you should also look into acquiring specialist design software. Although SketchUp is popular, it isn’t the only program out there – and it might not even be suitable for your requirements, so it could be wise to research an alternative to SketchUp that provides the capabilities you need. 

In any case, be sure to upskill yourself in whichever design software tool you download because it could set you apart from other job candidates with similar experience levels. You could even take this to the next level by learning the ropes with various software applications to cater to whatever demands a potential job opening will have. 

Gain the Relevant Qualifications

One of the most vital steps in your path to becoming an architect is acquiring relevant qualifications. Depending on the specific type of architectural design you want to pursue, this could involve you enrolling in a multi-year architecture course at a college, as well as developing key skills in mathematics, engineering, creative design, and other areas of study that could help you improve your design work.

Not only are these qualifications essential, but they will help demonstrate your abilities as an architect, so endeavor to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps there are specific electives you can take which will qualify you further for a particular type of architectural design or apprenticeships you can partake in to boost your experience level. 

Naturally, it is this stage of the process that requires the most patience. When you are spending far longer in education than your contemporaries, it can be easy to lose hope in your career progression and feel like you are falling behind. 

Although this ‘falling behind’ feeling is a fallacy (because architects usually earn a strong salary from early on in their careers), the extra time in education can actually benefit you in more than one way. There could be other courses that you can complete on the side that interest you, or you could start practicing amateur architectural design in your free time to develop your skill set faster. 

Volunteer to Work for People You Know at First

When you are just starting out as an architect, you may find it difficult to land freelance work – or even a job at an existing business. This is because you are still unproven, despite your extensive qualifications. When you are designing properties that need to stand the test of time, there can be no mistakes, which makes the industry risk averse to up-and-coming talent.

Although this is a potential barrier to entry, you should treat it as an opportunity to further develop your skills relatively under the radar. You could call on the trust of family and friends by volunteering to design any architecture projects they have – from a house extension to a full-blown house build, depending on how trusting they are.

While you should never aim to work for free, it may be that you take a significant pay cut in order to get your first few designs under your belt. If there are any errors or unforeseen challenges, you stand a far better chance of working them out alongside a trusted friend rather than a stranger.

Build a Portfolio by Working for an Architecture Firm

Following on from the previous point, you will need to build a solid portfolio of design work before you can start landing consistent jobs. To help quicken this process, consider aiming to land a job within an existing design firm. This will give you the opportunity to land consistent projects without needing to rely on your underdeveloped reputation.

Specialize in a Certain Area of Architecture

You will stand the highest chance of standing out in the competitive world of architectural design if you specialize in a particular type of design. For instance, perhaps you might aim to work exclusively on commercial projects – such as shopping malls, commercial flats, etc. – or on private properties. 

To take this idea further, you could even specialize in the emerging demand for metaverse architecture. Digital property is set to explode in the coming years, and an increasing number of real-world architects are being enlisted to design properties within the metaverse.