Why Choose A Career In Architecture?

Architecture influences every aspect of our lives – the houses we live in, the buildings we work in, the places we spend our leisure time and even the streets we move about in. Everything that is built around us has an impact. This is true even of buildings we never enter but just pass by every day.

  • How can I tell if I would be good at it?

    Architects have a unique ability to lead in the design, delivery and management of the built environment. Architects need a broad range of abilities: creative, visual, technical, organisational, and social.

    A good Architect will have a fascination with buildings and design, the ability to juggle several tasks at one time, to evaluate complex options and make clear decisions about them, to collaborate in a team, to understand other people’s needs and to communicate their own ideas effectively.

    Architects also need perseverance and sound common sense. As a student of Architecture some of these qualities will be inherent in your personality and others will be developed in the course of your studies.

    Talk to a Registered Architect if you know one and try to get some work experience, however short, in a local architectural practice, perhaps during Transition Year. This will give you a better idea of what the life is like, and whether you would find it satisfying, before you commit yourself.

    Talk to your parents and school Career Guidance Counsellor. Go to Open Days for RIAI accredited programmes in Architecture. Look at the subjects you would study if you accepted a place on one of these programmes - do they appeal to you?

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

    The RIAI Bookshop stocks a wide range of books on architecture. If you find them fascinating you are probably on the right track.

    If the design of buildings and the built environment interests you, but you think Architecture may not be for you, consider the other careers involved in the area such as: Architectural Technologist, Interior Designer, Structural Engineer, Building Services Engineer, Quantity Surveyor, Landscape Architect, Urban or Regional Planner.

  • How do I choose my course?

    It is important to note that in the Republic of Ireland programmes in Architecture are recognised on the basis of five years study. Only the final B.Arch or M.Arch award (after five years of architectural education) is formally accredited or recognised by the RIAI to lead to registration as an Architect. Some students take a year out for practical experience between the third and fourth years, or between fourth and fifth years, so the whole process, from start to Registration as an Architect, generally takes seven to nine years. In choosing a programme in Architecture you are usually making quite a big decision about your career direction so it is important to research it well.

    When studying Architecture in the Republic of Ireland is it critical that you choose a programme in Architecture that is RIAI accredited and can therefore lead to registration as an Architect*. Further information on choosing a programme in Architecture is available at: 

    How to become 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. 

  • Studying Architecture

    When studying Architecture you may find that your college timetable is busier than friends who choose other courses. Your days will be very full and most of your time will be spent in the ‘studio’ or out on study visits, where, with the help of a team of design tutors you will develop your awareness of the environment, analyse buildings and open spaces, and work on a series of design projects for spaces, structures and buildings of increasing complexity. In studio you will also acquire skills in drawing (both by hand and on computer) and model-making. 

    In parallel you will be attending lectures. The subjects covered in the first year of a programme in Architecture will vary somewhat from school to school: some require you to take maths or physics and others don't. But in any school of architecture you can expect to cover during your five years: history and theory of Architecture, structures, building technology, environmental science, surveying, computer applications, building economics and professional practice.

    When you enroll in an RIAI accredited programme in architecture you will receive a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture (B.Arch) or Master's Degree in Architecture (M.Arch) after Fifth Year. The RIAI accredits both B.Arch and M.Arch programmes for access to the Register of Architects. In some schools you will receive a B.Sc. in Architectural Science or equivalent degree after Third or Fourth Year (depending on the school). Some schools do not award an intermediate qualification but they may offer an exit award should you choose to change career direction on successful completion of Third Year.

    Once you have successfully completed five years of architectural education with an RIAI accredited award from a recognised school you can apply to become an Architectural Graduate member of the RIAI. With a further two years of postgraduate professional training and successful completion of a Professional Practice Examination you can apply to join the Register of Architects. Further information is available at: 

    Careers in Architecture - How to become an Architect

  • Working life

    Architecture can be an exciting and satisfying profession.

    Designing a building involves many steps: visiting and surveying the site; discussing with the clients what kind of building they want; developing a preliminary design for the building and refining it to make sure that it meets the client’s needs and budget and complies with the various regulations; applying for planning permission; preparing detailed drawings and specifications; obtaining quotes from builders; administering the contract between the client and the builder; checking that the building is being constructed in accordance with the drawings and making sure that payments to the builder are in order.

    Almost fifty percent of Architects have their own practices, so are self-employed. In that sense you can be your own boss. But no building gets built by the Architect alone. Except on the smallest jobs, a building project involves a whole design team which may be made up of one or more Architects, Architectural  Technologists, structural engineers, building services engineers, quantity surveyors and planning consultants.

    You may have to meet the client’s legal and financial advisers, or representatives of the future users of the building (the client's tenants or employees, for example). Then there are consultations with fire, planning, health and safety, environmental and other authorities depending on the type of building involved, and discussions with the manufacturers and suppliers of building materials and components. When the design is finished and building starts, you will be dealing with the main contractor and a team of specialist sub-contractors on the site.

    An Architect’s job involves a lot of responsibility. You have to make complex decisions which involve the investment of other people’s money and the quality of your work has an impact not only on your client but also on all the people who will use the buildings you design. The size of projects can vary enormously, from a small house extension to a multi-million pound complex. You may be designing a brand new building or renovating an historic one. Some projects may take only a few weeks to complete, but others take many years.

    So you will almost always be working as part of a team, juggling different projects, spending some time at the drawing board or computer, some on site or at meetings. Your week will often be disrupted as the client’s requirements change or a problem emerges on the building site.

  • Travel

    An Architect’s skills are very transportable. Since drawings and images are the main method of communication it is not as language-dependent as many professions and this makes it easier to work in other countries. Throughout your studies and your working life you will be aware of buildings being built all around the world.

    Most Architecture students use their summer holidays as an opportunity to travel or work abroad and see the architecture of other countries. For those students who choose to take a year out, for example between the third and fourth year, or between fourth and fifth year, it is often spent working in an Architect’s office in another country.

    Others arrange to study abroad for a while, often during their fourth year. Spending some time working abroad after graduation is very common indeed and, provided the Irish economy is in good shape, there is no difficulty in coming back to work in Ireland.

  • Job opportunities

    Once you join the Register of Architects the variety of work open to you is wide. You can work for yourself, or as part of a team in a small or large private practice, or in the architectural section of a Government Department, Local Authority, Semi-State or commercial organisation.

    You can specialise in certain types of building, or concentrate on a particular aspect of the job, such as design, technology, architectural conservation or project management, depending on your own interests, abilities and opportunities. Some Architects choose instead an academic career, involving themselves in teaching and research.

    Like any career, job prospects in Architecture are very much dependent on the state of the economy, and the employment picture can change very quickly. Given that it takes at least seven to eight years to become fully qualified as a Registered Architect, it is impossible to tell when you commence your studies what the job situation will be when you finish. When things are bad the building industry is disproportionately affected. 

    Until 2007 there was a shortage of architectural graduates in Ireland. With the onset of the recession in 2008 the position changed and jobs for architectural graduates were scarce both in Ireland and abroad. Employment opportunities are more promising in recent years in recent years as the economy has recovered. A good measure of current employment opportunities is the number of positions advertised on RIAI Jobsearch 

  • Continuing Professional Development

    Once fully qualified, it is your responsibility as a professional to ensure that your professional skills are kept up to date. Scientific knowledge, technology and the law, for example, keep changing so you will be expected to keep up to date throughout your working life.

    In addition, some Architects choose to expand the range of skills they can offer to clients by gaining additional qualifications in disciplines such as project management, architectural conservation, property and contract law, urban planning, interior design, landscape design, furniture design, etc.

  • Salary levels

    The RIAI has no current information on salaries. They vary with experience, responsibility, market demand and location. The websites of employment agencies often contain information on current salary levels in private practice.