How to Become an Architect

Prescribed degree courses in Architecture take five years of full-time study followed by 24 months of Post-graduate Professional Training and a Professional Practice Examination. Some students take a year out for practical experience between the third and fourth years, or between the fourth and fifth years, so the whole process, from start to Registration as an Architect, generally takes seven to nine years.

  • The route to Registration as an Architect

    In Ireland the title ‘Architect’ is protected by legislation. This means that if a person wishes to describe themselves as an Architect they must be admitted to the Register for Architects.

    There are a number of routes to registration, but typically if you are studying in Ireland you will:

    Graduate with a prescribed degree in Architecture (see "Choosing A Programme" below); 

    followed by

    Completion of at least two years of approved Post-Graduate Professional Training

    followed by

    Successful completion of a Professional Practice Examination specified and accredited by the RIAI.

  • Duration of Studies

    Prescribed programmes in Architecture take five years of full-time study.

    Sometimes the five years of study are split into a three-year programme followed by a two-year programme, or a four-year programme followed by a one-year programme. Only the final award (after five years) is formally accredited or prescribed.*

    Some students take a year out for practical experience between the third and fourth years, or between the fourth and fifth years, so the whole process, from start to Registration as an Architect, generally takes seven to nine years.

    *The RIAI does not accredit programmes in Architecture on the basis of less than five years of study. 

  • Choosing A Programme

    Architecture is regulated in most European countries and programmes must be recognised by the regulator/registration body to give access to the profession under law.

    When choosing a programme in Architecture it is essential to check that the programme you are interested in is properly accredited and prescribed for access to the profession.*

    View a list of Accredited Programmes

    Some architectural programmes are moving away from the ‘ab initio’ five year 'Bachelor of Architecture' model into a 'Bachelor of Science in Architecture followed by a Masters in Architecture' model spread over five years. A Masters programme will usually incur full academic fees. Take note when entering a programme if the final phase will take the form of a Masters in Architecture and what the fee is likely to be for the Masters element so that you can prepare in advance.

    *In Ireland programmes in Architecture are accredited by the RIAI, as the Registration Body and Competent Authority, and recommended to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government for ‘prescription’ under the Building Control Act 2007, which means legal recognition as a qualification in Architecture.

  • Studying Outside Of The Republic Of Ireland

    Because Architecture is a regulated profession those seeking entry to the profession with qualifications from outside Ireland are subject to checks. For those qualifying in an EU or EEA country or Switzerland, agreements are in place for the recognition of those qualifications under EU law.

    You may consider studying Architecture in another EU State. Architecture Qualifications currently recognised by the EU are listed in the Directive 2005/36/EC on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications.

    While it is possible to move between programmes and even a country/State of study during your studies caution is advised.

    If you have already begun your Architectural Education in Ireland and you plan to move abroad to complete your education you should pay particular heed to "Moving Between Programmes of Study" at the following link and contact the RIAI for advice in advance:

    Information for Students and Graduates

  • Post-Graduate Professional Training

    Once you have your degree you will be entitled to call yourself and Architectural Graduate.

    You will need to get some practical experience (post-graduate professional training) in an Architect’s office. To be recognised by the RIAI as ‘Post-Graduate Professional Training’ this experience has to be gained under the supervision of a Member of the RIAI, someone on the Register for Architects, or equivalent.

    During your first two years as an Architectural Graduate you will want to get direct experience of as many aspects of the job as possible, to prepare yourself for the Professional Practice Examination.

    The quality of an Architectural 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 a 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. 

    Once you have completed a minimum of two years of approved post-graduate professional training you can undertake a Professional Practice Examination. Your post-graduate professional training is reviewed at the point when you enrol for a Professional Practice Examination/Diploma by the Educational Institution providing the qualification.

  • Professional Practice Examination

    The Professional Practice Examination is the final stage in qualifying for admission to the Register of Architects and to RIAI Membership. In Ireland there are currently two Professional Practice Examinations specified and accredited by the RIAI and available to Architectural Graduates.

    These examinations cover subjects such as professional ethics, planning and building legislation, contract law, project management, practice management, etc., and prepare you for the situation where you want to set up your own architectural practice.

    Further information on "Professional Practice Examinations" is available at the following link:

    Information for Students and Graduates

  • What Subjects Should I Do In My Leaving Cert?

    If you want to keep your options as open as possible, a good combination would be English, Maths, Irish, Art, Physics and another language. But provided that you have English and Maths and enough CAO points you should be eligible for admission into some schools.

    What about Construction Studies or Technical Drawing? These subjects may not give you any particular advantage. Most schools of Architecture prefer you to get a good general education in a broad range of subjects before concentrating on architectural topics; and architectural drawing and building construction are taught from foundation level in every programme in architecture. In addition, the kind of drawing skills required by an Architect are different from those taught in Technical Graphics. However, if you really enjoy these subjects, do well at them, and reckon that they will give you your best chance of getting the points you need, then go ahead.

  • Points And Subject Requirements¬†

    CAO points and subject requirements for Architecture vary from year to year and from one school of architecture to another. Some schools of architecture require you to submit a portfolio; others don’t. You can get all of the up-to-date information from the Central Applications Office (CAO) website: www.cao.ie.

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

    Most schools of architecture also have procedures for admission of mature students. These procedures vary depending on the School of Architecture and the category of candidate. They will usually involve submitting a detailed CV, records of any courses or examinations taken and any merits, distinctions or other awards the candidate has gained. A substantial track record of relevant work experience will be helpful and an interview and portfolio will certainly be required. In all cases the school's objective will be to assess the candidate's aptitude, interest and motivation, and their ability to complete the course successfully. Competition is stiff and very small numbers are admitted into programmes in Architecture by this route.

  • What About A Portfolio?

    What do you do if a portfolio is required and you haven't done Art for your Leaving Certificate? Technical Graphics work alone will not make a suitable portfolio. If you did Art for the Junior Cert you could include a small number of items done at that time, but recent examples of work done in your spare time or during summer holidays are more useful. If you have an art, craft or design related hobby - sketching, photography, woodwork, ceramics, for example - include samples or photographs.

    Many community colleges and colleges of art or design around the country offer Summer Portfolio Preparation courses. If you are not doing Art at school it may be a good idea to take one of these. If you do this two summers in succession you will have plenty of time to develop and to build up a good portfolio.

    Another option, if you are taking a year out to work, perhaps, between Leaving Cert and Third Level is to do a part-time evening Portfolio Preparation course. This has the added benefit that you will be one year older when you start your degree course, and maturity is a distinct advantage for a Student of Architecture.

    Interviews do not allow a lot of time for looking at your portfolio, so quality is more important than quantity.

  • Is There Another 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 architect.

    In Ireland there is no part-time route to qualification as an architect. Schools of Architecture have procedures for the admission of students transferring or stepping up from other courses and graduates from other disciplines. (See the Section on 'Points and Subject Requirements for Admission'.) 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. But once admitted you will have to follow the full-time course.

    The Building Control Act 2007 allows admission to the Register for Architects for people who have at least 7 years' practical experience working at the level of an architect, are at least 35 of age and have passed a Register Admission Examination. It will be difficult to find work at the level of an architect if you have no qualifications to begin with and in the Examination you will have to demonstrate that you have reached the same level of knowledge, skill and competence as someone who has had a full architectural education. But candidates who have completed the Examination Process find it challenging, exciting and a valuable educational experience in itself.