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Blog>Guides>Careers in Architecture: How to Make a Career Change in 2023

Careers in Architecture: How to Make a Career Change in 2023

Article index


  • Learn the steps to kickstarting a career in architecture

  • Understand the requirements needed for obtaining a license in architecture

  • Explore the career options available

  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of professionals in this field

  • Get an idea of the job prospects and salaries of each profession


Architects shape our world. From ancient times and the marvel of the world’s Seven Wonders to the 21st-century splendor evinced by the Burj Khalifa and the Empire State Building, architecture is as much an art form as it is a technique.

Old vs. new architecture example.

Architects are creative problem solvers — designing and overseeing the form and functions of our buildings and structures. They have an uncanny ability to manage limited space while optimizing designs with practical use. Yet, they have to ensure that their vision is precisely executed.

It’s no wonder then the profession is held in high regard. A career in architecture is laden with a promise of respect, good pay, and the actualization of a creative mind.

Perhaps that’s why, despite limited job growth in the field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected an average of 9,100 job openings for architects per year over the next decade. It is, therefore, a great time to be an architect.

Are you hoping to make a career change to architecture in 2023? Maybe you’re hoping to study architecture in college after high school with the hopes of landing one of the coveted entry-level architecture jobs. In that case, our guide will provide you with valuable information to help kickstart your journey into the architecture profession.

How to Start a Career in Architecture

As a professional field of study, a career in architecture follows a series of well-defined processes. These processes are governed by the National Architecture Accreditation Board (NAAB). We take a look at some of the steps below.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Once you’re done with high school and hope to become a professional architect, your first step is to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture (B.Arch). B.Arch is a professional bachelor’s degree program accredited by NAAB.

The program takes five years to complete in an accredited college. You can check out the list of accredited colleges for B.Arch programs in the United States on the official NAAB website.

Some core coursework of the program includes architectural drafting and design, history of architecture, architectural drawing, building science and technology, etc. These courses equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel when you start practicing.

However, suppose you are a college entrant interested in architecture but still unsure of a career path. In that case, you can take a four-year program of pre-professional degrees in architecture. The program will either earn you a Bachelor of Science in Architecture or a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture or Architectural History. Subsequently, to professionalize, you can supplement it with a two-year master’s degree in architecture.

Become Licensed

A license grants you the authority to practice without supervision. It is proof of your authenticity as a professional. How do you become a licensed architect? Well, being an architecture graduate means you have already fulfilled the first requirement.

In the United States, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) is the licensing body for the architecture profession. Architecture Review Boards (ARB) represent the NCARB at the local and state level.

In addition to your degree, the review board also requires proof of your practical experience with a licensed architectural firm. Don’t worry if you don’t have access to any professionals. The NCARB organizes, directs, and supervises the Architecture Experience Program (AXP) — a form of internship that offers real-world experience.

With your architectural degree (B.Arch) and internship, you are now qualified to sit for the Architecture Registration Examination (ARE). This seven-part examination tests your technical skill sets and competency in executing architectural projects.

A satisfactory performance in the test earns you licensure.

Earn Professional Certifications

Architects are encouraged to seek growth and improvement in skill and responsibility like all major professions. Adding professional certifications looks great on resumes. It increases your value to your employer and clients — giving you a competitive advantage.

Some popular professional certifications in architecture include Project Management Professional (PMP) offered by PMI, LEED AP Building Design + Construction (LEED) by GBCI, and The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) through The Open Group.

Certifications prove your specialization and that you can handle greater responsibility. Additionally, you can use it to show continued education as required by NCARB for license renewal.

Consider a Master’s Degree

Various master’s degree categories are available. Your choice will depend on your chosen career option. For instance, the Master of Science in Architecture (M.Sc) has a more research-driven approach. If you’re pursuing a teaching or research career in architecture, this may be a good option.

However, suppose you’re a practicing professional in the field. In that case, your best bet is the more design-focused master’s degree in architecture (M.Arch).

Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field can make a career switch by earning an M.Arch degree in an accredited institution. It is the only other degree recognized by the licensing board NCARB.

The duration of this degree ranges from two to four years, depending on your background. Industrial designers making a switch, for instance, will spend less time than a physics major. B.Arch holders spend the least time during the M.Arch program.

What Are the Different Types of Careers in Architecture?

Various career opportunities are available in architecture. Here, we discuss the more prominent career options.


An architect designs buildings and creates blueprints for houses, churches, libraries, factories, and other buildings of varying purposes. Thanks to improved technology, modern architects can better communicate building information and design using BIM software.

Architect holding pen making adjustments to schematics on the desk in an office environment.

However, an architect’s role goes beyond preparing scaled drawings and plans. They are also responsible for aggregating the needs and requirements for a building project. Additionally, they manage different construction contracts, ensure proper translation of the construction plans, and give presentations.

To be a great architect, you need to be a great visualizer and creative artist with a keen mind. You will also need to develop problem-solving skills. Architects reap great monetary rewards for their efforts. According to the BLS, they earn a median annual salary of $80,000.

Check out architect jobs near you

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers design, create, and improve the framework of our society. It is a profession that has roots in both architecture and engineering and branches further into other specialties. These professionals strive for sustainability in the design process while ensuring that building codes are not violated.

Engineer with theodolite transit equipment at construction site doing surveying work with a hard hat and green vest.

In addition to planning and design, civil engineers are thoroughly involved in executing construction projects. They are more likely to be involved in public infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, dams, water systems, tunnels, etc.

A career in civil engineering requires a great deal of mathematical aptitude and knowledge of practical sciences. At a reported $88,000 per year, their median annual salary is slightly higher than an architect.

Check out civil engineer jobs near you

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Detailer

CAD detailers use computer software to make detailed plans, drawings, and blueprints for specific and complex structures like steel fabricators. They often work hand-in-hand with other architecture professionals and are not required to have official degrees or certifications.

Female engineer Using CAD on a computer to design a component.

As industrial designers, their strength lies in their expertise with various CAD software like AutoCAD, Naviswork, and other industry-specific software.

Most detailers work as freelancers. Yet, others work full-time with architects, surveyors, and production designers. Their median annual pay is about $60,000, per the BLS.

Check out drafting jobs near you

Urban Planner

Urban and regional planners are professionals who oversee the optimal use of community lands and resources.

An African-American young urban planner surveying a blueprint from a rooftop.

They often work closely with community leaders in towns, cities, and other urban regions to facilitate their development, prepare for expansion, and accommodate growth. They also ensure that selected building materials are harmless to the environment.

Urban planners train for research and data analysis, which serves as the core of their profession. Therefore, they utilize various statistical tools to perform their function.

An average urban planner takes home a little less than $80,000 a year according to BLS.

Check out urban planner jobs near you

Construction Manager

Construction managers oversee the execution of construction projects. Typically, they are actively involved from the planning stages up through implementation until the architectural project is fully delivered.

Female engineer working on a desktop computer, the screen showing CAD software with technical blueprints beside a male project manager.

As a construction manager, you’re in charge of the day-to-day implementation of the construction plan as reflected in the architectural design. Additionally, you coordinate with all construction professionals, ensure quality control, supervise construction workers’ activities and healthcare, and oversee construction materials.

It is a very active role that requires excellent problem-solving and managerial skills. Consequently, coordination, adaptability, and communication are the vital attributes of a construction manager.

The median salary of a construction manager is nearly $100,000, according to the BLS.

Check out construction manager jobs near you

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects design outdoor and recreational spaces. They are responsible for the layout and planning of parks and college campuses.

A closeup shot of a hand of a landscape architect while designing a backyard plan for a villa.

A career in landscape architecture requires great visualization and planning prowess. Visualization skills enable you to harmonize natural terrain and scenery with buildings and structures.

Growth in employment in landscape architecture is stunted. Little to no job growth has been projected for the next decade. However, if you can land a role, you could stand to earn an average of just under $70,000 a year according to the BLS.

Check out landscape architect jobs near you

What Are the Top Skills Needed to Start a Career in Architecture?

An architecture career is exciting and fulfilling. However, it can also be very rigorous, especially in the early stages.

To mitigate stressors, being equipped with good foundational skills will not only reassure you when things get rough but also bootstrap your learning and make the practice more fun.

The top skills needed to start a career in architecture include:

  • Communication and presentation aptitude

  • Problem-solving and critical thinking skills

  • Creative and design skills

  • Collaboration skills

  • Visualization skills

  • Computer literacy and software application knowledge

  • Building and construction knowledge

  • Analytical and assessment skills

Find the Best Careers in Architecture on Joblist

The architectural field offers you various exciting and rewarding careers. However, while most people are unsure about which architectural career options to pursue, others don’t know how to find a job in their chosen career field. That’s where Joblist comes in.

Our system generates the best available career options based on your preference. We believe that your job search and subsequent application should be flexible, unique, and hassle-free. All you need to do is take the quiz, and we’ll help you find the perfect architectural career for you.

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