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Becoming an Architectural Technologist

How do I become an Architectural Technologist?

In 1974 the RIAI created a new category of membership to provide for Architectural Technologists . In the years since then architectural technology education has developed significantly at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. In recognition of this RIAI Council decided in 2009 to replace the membership category of ‘Architectural Technician’ with that of ‘Architectural Technologist’.

The best way to qualify as an architectural technologist is to take a degree through an accredited course, which generally takes three years of full-time study, followed a period of supervised practical training. You are then eligible to become an Architectural Technologist member of the RIAI.

Graduates of accredited programmes may apply under Route T1.

Qualifications awarded outside the State are evaluated by the RIAI on a case by case basis against the Irish standard for entry through Route T1.

Graduates of non-accredited programmes awarded in the State may take the Architectural Technologist Entry Exam.

Four-year Level 8 courses in Architectural Technology are now also available. RIAI accreditation of these degrees is now under way.

Courses in Architectural Technology

Because of the EU’s Bologna Declaration on Higher Education the qualifications given by these courses, which used to be called Diplomas, have been Level 7 Degrees since 2005.

Carlow Institute of Technology offers a three year RIAI accredited BSc in Architectural Technology (Level 7) and a four year RIAI accredited Bsc (Hons) in Architectural Technology (Level 8). RIAI Accreditation: Qualification Date 2014 and after.
Contact: IT Carlow, Kilkenny Road, Carlow, Ireland tel: 059 91 75000 Fax: 059 91 75005 Website: www.Itcarlow.Ie.

Cork Institute of Technology offers a three year RIAI accredited BSc in Architectural Technology (Level 7). RIAI Accreditation: Qualification date 1989 - 1999 and 2014 and after.
Contact: Cork Institute of Technology, Bishopstown, Cork Tel:021-432 6100 Fax: 021-454 5343 Website: www.cit.ie

Dublin Institute of Technology offers a four year RIAI accredited BSc (Hons) in Architectural Technology (Level 8) and a three RIAI accredited BSc in Architectural Technology (Level 7). RIAI Accreditation: Qualification date 1975 and after.
Contact: Department of Architectural Technology and Conservation, Faculty of the Built Environment, Dublin Institute of Technology, Bolton Street, Dublin 1. Tel: +353 1 4023000 Website: www.dit.ie.

Waterford Institute of Technology offers a three year RIAI accredited BSc in Architectural Technology (Level 7). RIAI Accreditation: Qualification date 1989 and after.
Contact: Department of Architecture, School of Engineering, Waterford Institute of Technology, Cork Road, Waterford. Tel: +353 51 302 035 Website: www.wit.ie.

Letterkenny Institute of Technology offers a three year RIAI accredited BSc in Architectural Technology (Level 7). RIAI Accreditation: Qualification date 2011 and after.
Contact: School of Engineering, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Port Road, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal .Tel: +353 (0)74 918 6000 Fax: +353 (0)74 918 6005. Website: www.lyit.ie.

Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (Galway Campus) offers a three year RIAI accredited BSc in Architectural Technology (Level 7) and a four year RIAI accredited Bsc (Hons) in Architectural Technology (Level 8). RIAI Accreditation: Qualification date 2011 and after.
Contact: School of Engineering, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Galway. Tel: (091) 753161. Fax: (091) 751107. Website: www.gmit.ie.

Points and Subject Requirements for Admission

Points and subject requirements for Architectural Technology vary from year to year and from one course to another. You can get all of the up-to-date information from the Central Applications Office (CAO) website: www.cao.ie.
For Northern Ireland and the UK check the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website: www.ucas.ac.uk.

You should also visit the website of any course you are considering to check out the details.

So what Subjects should I do in my Leaving Cert?

Because Maths and either English or Irish are the only required subjects you have quite a wide choice of subjects for your Leaving Cert. Most Institutes of Technology like you to have a good general education in a broad range of subjects. Construction Studies or Technical Graphics are not required by any of the ITs, but if you really enjoy them, do well at them, and they will give you your best chance of getting the points you need, then certainly include them.

Getting your Diploma

Subjects covered in most courses include building technology, materials, structures, building services, surveying, architectural history, graphics, computer applications, costs and contracts. Much of your time will be spent on project work, site visits and practical work.

Practical Training

Once you have your diploma you will need to get some practical training  in an architect’s office. To be recognised by the RIAI as ‘Approved Experience’ your work has to be done under the supervision of a Member of the RIAI, someone on the Register for Architects, or equivalent.

The quality of a graduate’s practical experience is the single most important factor contributing to successful completion of the final stage of professional formation. The RIAI Policy on Post-Graduate Professional Training is intended to provide information and guidance on graduate’s practical experience to students and graduates, RIAI members and practices, Schools of Architecture and of Architectural Technology, and State agencies with roles in education, training and employment.

Is there any other way?

Second level students, parents and careers guidance counsellors, or people considering a career change, often ask if there is any other way to qualify as an architectural technologist.

In Ireland there is no part-time route to qualification as an architectural technologist. Institutes of Technology have procedures for the admission of students transferring or stepping up from other courses and graduates from other disciplines. If you have already covered some of the course subjects at the same level you may be granted some exemptions, or be admitted to the course at Second Year or higher level.

The other option is to take the RIAI Architectural Technologist Entry Examination. This exam is open to people who have at least 10 years of practical experience in architectural technology (working as an architectural draughtsman/technician in an architectural practice, for example). Up to three years of relevant full-time equivalent courses, successfully completed, may be taken into account as part of the ten years. Success in the exam does not result in an academic award, but it does make you eligible for Architectural Technologist membership of the RIAI. However, the RIAI strongly recommends that the best route to qualification as an Architectural Technologist is to take a full-time recognised course in a third-level educational institution.

A number of colleges offer FETAC awards in architectural areas. The subjects studied vary: architectural, engineering and technical graphics; CAD; building construction, heating and ventilation, mathematics and business studies are common. A period of work experience is usually included.

None of these courses meets the requirements for membership of the RIAI, but they do provide job skills and some of them provide, for students with ability, a route to a degree in architectural technology.

Working Life

The architectural technologist usually works as part of the architect’s team, with particular responsibility for the preparation of production information such as working drawings, schedules and specifications. They also work on site surveys, administrative procedures to do with building regulations, fire safety certificates, planning applications, the building contract, etc.. Some technologists develop specialisations in particular areas, such as specification writing, technology, materials, regulations, or CAD management, for example.

Job Opportunities

Most architectural technologists work for private architectural practices or in the architectural departments of Government Departments, Local Authorities or Semi-State Agencies. But there are also job opportunities with building contractors, manufacturers or suppliers of building products and materials, in private architectural technology practice, architectural graphics and model-making.
As with architecture, career possibilities are very much dependent on the state of the economy. In a booming economy there is a shortage of architectural technologists. When it is depressed the building industry is soon affected. But the situation could change between now and the time you qualify.

Salary Levels

The RIAI has no current information on salaries in the private sector. They vary with experience, responsibility, market demand and location. The website of employment agencies, such as Hays Montrose for example, often contain information on current salary levels in private practice.

2010 salary scales for Architectural Assistants (Architectural Technicians) in the Civil Service range from approximately €29,000 at entry to €52,000 at maximum. 2010 salaries for Architectural Technicians working in Local Authorities range from approximately €27,500 at entry level to €58,000 for a Chief Technician at the top of the scale.

How Can I Tell if I Would be Good at it?

You need to have mechanical aptitude, and the ability to think in three dimensions. The Differential Aptitude Tests given by the Careers Guidance Counsellor in your school may give some indication of your strength in these areas. You also need to be able to work to tight deadlines and to work in a team. Above all, you need to have an interest in buildings, how they are built, how they work and how they are used.

How do I chose?

It is difficult to tell in advance if you have the aptitude for architecture, because there is nothing that you experience at Second Level that is anything like it. Courses in architecture and architectural technology are of their nature vocational. In choosing one you are usually making quite a big decision about your career direction. So it is important to research it well.

Collect all the information you can from the course booklets published by the educational institutions. Look at the subjects you will have to study during the course - do they appeal to you? Talk to your parents and school career guidance counsellor. Talk to an architect if you know one. Go to Open Days.

Try reading one or more of the following books. If you find them fascinating you are probably on the right track. If you find them boring, then think again.

  • Francis Ching. Architecture: Form, Space, Order. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 2007.
  • Francis Ching. Building Construction Illustrated. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 2008.
  • J.E. Gordon. Structures, or Why Things Don't Fall Down. Penguin, 2003.
  • Patrick Nuttgens. The Story of Architecture. Second edition. Phaidon, 1997.
  • Steen Eiler Rasmussen. Architecture for Beginners. Chapman & Hall. 1964.
  • Sean Rothery. A Field Guide to the Buildings of Ireland. Lilliput Press, 1997.
  • Marie Brennan and Ann McNicholl. Shaping Space: Architecture in the Transition Year. RIAI, 1998.

These books are available through the RIAI Bookshop.

If your school offers a Shaping Space module in Transition Year, get involved.

If these books interest you, but you think architecture may not be for you, consider the other careers involved in the design of buildings and the built environment: Interior Designer, Structural Engineer, Building Services Engineer, Quantity Surveyor, Landscape Architect, Urban or Regional Planner.

Finally, if you are seriously thinking about a career in architecture, try to get some work experience, however short, in an architect’s office. This will give you a better idea of what the life is like, and whether you would find it satisfying, before you commit yourself to the many years of training it requires.