Design & Architecture
Architects are skilled professionals at the centre of the UK’s built environment industry, covering residential properties, commercial properties, public buildings and building infrastructures.
Architects plan and design buildings and develop detailed drawings to help conceptualise clients ideas for potential buildings they may have – whether it’s for personal homes, museums or office buildings. Alongside this, they work closely with building, construction, engineering and trades professionals to provide guidance and help bring the building to life.
Working within architecture and design can be a rewarding mix of creativity, problem-solving and collaboration to deliver a final project. Within the field, there are different sectors that professionals might specialise in, including:
- Commercial Architecture
- Residential Architecture
- Heritage/Conservation Architecture
- Sustainable Design Architecture
- Industrial Architecture
- Landscape Architecture
- Urban Architecture
Architecture is a regulated field. All UK architects are required to be registered with a state or territory Architects’ Registration Board. Individuals wishing to pursue a career in the sector will need to study various subjects, including technology and design, the history and theory of architecture, environmental sustainability, legislation and professional practice.
Due to the nature of their work, professionals in this field need to couple strong design skills with excellent communication and customer service. You’ll also need a strong head for project management and budgeting to ensure projects are delivered within set timeframes and budgets.
Alongside professional architects sit several other professional support roles that help get projects off the ground. This includes roles in administration, finance, interior design, landscaping, technology and engineering.
Whichever segment interests you, there are multiple ways to begin exploring this exciting and competitive field!
What You Could Do
Job roles in the industry are varied, and they can be competitive, depending on the specific area you want to practice in.
While there are potential opportunities to get started in the design field without a degree, most architectural roles will require you to have a bachelor’s and postgraduate study as a minimum.
Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:
- Residential Architect: Residential architects work with individual clients to help them design and develop their own homes. When designing a customised house for a client, residential architects need the creative and problem-solving skills to turn an idea into reality, while keeping within budget and creating something that’s functional. Residential architects need to be familiar with local building codes and potential restrictions.
- Commercial Architect: Commercial architects operate in a similar way to residential architects, but they focus on business and commercial properties. This could be anything from office buildings to supermarkets, parking lots to museums or schools. Commercial architects tend to be experts in designing functional and practical buildings that serve a core purpose. Aside from needing excellent design skills, a commercial architect also needs a robust understanding of commercial building codes, safety regulations, and the financials involved in construction.
- Urban Planner: Slightly different to architects but an equally exciting role, urban planners develop and implement plans and policies for the controlled use of urban and rural land. Rather than focusing on individual buildings, urban planners (sometimes referred to as urban designers) focus on the whole landscape of a built environment. They also provide advice and guidance on economic, environmental and social factors affecting land use. They need excellent knowledge of building codes, land regulations and safety legislation to ensure urban spaces are used and developed correctly.
- CAD Technician: Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technicians create electronic design plans for buildings using computer software. CAD technicians work with architects and transform their technical drawings, designs and blueprints into 2D and 3D computer models. These models further aid the development and initial construction of the building.
- Landscape Architect: Architecture doesn’t just involve buildings – it also encompasses outdoor spaces too, and that’s where landscape architects step in. Landscape architects specialise in the design and development of outdoor spaces such as private and public gardens, lawns, parks, and building walkways. They might also be involved in specialised outdoor spaces such as golf courses or holiday resorts. Landscape architects have specialist knowledge in horticulture so they can best advise on the greenery for specific spaces, based on a number of variables.
These job roles are only just scratching the surface! Across each sector of the industry, you might work freelance or as a sole contractor, or you might work for a firm or organisation.
In both instances, many architects have a role to play in securing new clients and building the portfolio of commissions they work on.
Graduate Outcomes & Gender Split
The Graduates Outcome Survey tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors.
Here’s a look at some degrees that could be a great starting point for this industry:
- Architecture and Built Environment Graduates in full-time employment: 67.7%
- Architecture and Built Environment Graduates in employment overall: 82.3%
Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for graduates working part-time and/or who may have continued to higher studies; these are promising percentages!
*Figures from 2020 survey results.
The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within, but overall there is a significantly higher percentage of males working across architecture and design:
Professional bodies are working to address this imbalance across the sector and promote STEM careers with girls.
Industry growth slowed down between 2008 and 2009, and the sector only began to see an increase in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic has directly impacted continued growth, but it is anticipated this will continue to grow between now and 2024.
Industry research group IBIS expects growth in the architecture industry to jump from 0.5% in the past five years to 2.2% in the next five years.
The majority of architects in the UK work in small practices, often as sole traders, and a number also work with State and Local Governments. The highest number of architects are employed by architectural firms across all sectors of the industry.
Qualifications and Entry Pathways
You will need a bachelor degree in architectural design to work as an architect and it’s also common to complete postgraduate studies in the field.
The UK requires a five-year course of post-secondary study as a pre-requisite for architectural registration. This typically takes the form of a three-year bachelor degree followed by an accredited two year Master of Architecture (MArch) degree program.
To be eligible to apply for registration as an architect, you will need to:
- Complete a five year higher education program leading to an accredited Master of Architecture qualification.
- Obtain at least two years of experience working in the industry.
- Pass a three-part competency assessment process – the Architectural Practice Examination – including completing a logbook, a written paper and an interview with current practitioners.
Degree courses you can undertake to begin your career journey into architecture include:
- Bachelor’s in Architectural Design
- Bachelor’s in Architecture and Built Environment
- Bachelor’s in Architectural Engineering
- Bachelor’s in Landscape Design
- Bachelor’s in Urban and Regional Planning
For some pathways, vocational education and training (VET) courses can offer specialised and valuable springboards into some design careers. There may also be opportunities to pursue an apprenticeship for roles in:
- CAD Technology
- Landscape Design or Planning
Pathway options might include:
- Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can start a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship from Yr 9 and work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience.
- Work experience once you leave school: If you leave school at 16, you can apply for work experience and school-leaver programs in entry-level positions and work your way up over time. Many organisations will also support you to gain further professional qualifications. You’ll need a robust skill set and good grades in Maths and English as a minimum.
Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you do some research.
Whatever your circumstances, grades or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.