Our guide to architectural courses

Our guide to architectural courses

First published date January 29 2014 Amended date January 15 2016

Does your heart skip a beat when you discover a new building while exploring a new city? Do you love to design and create new things? Perhaps you have a passion for the world’s greatest monuments? Then why not try and build the Colosseum of the future? If you love academic subjects but also possess a creative flair then becoming an architect could be the career for you,  and choosing from our list of architecture courses will give you a head start towards your dream.


What does an architect do?

Architects are the brains behind structures and buildings. They combine their scientific expertise and creative flair to develop the frameworks of our society;, whether places to live, work, eat, shop or learn,  they are all designed and created by architects. Architects create the look of these buildings while at the same time making sure that the building is safe, functional and economical. Communication is a key part of an architect’s skill set and these ideas will have to be pitched to clients and contractors, persuasively communicating how their vision is better than other architects on the market. These ideas will all have to be within the client’s economic, cost, site and land restrictions. Once being accept by the client, conceptual ideas will then be turned into a plan of the building through drawings, computer designs and plastic models. The architect will then spend their time supervising other professionals, such as engineers and interior designers, to construct their final product. An architect must encompass a broad range of skills to take on these varied tasks and they are often associated with working long hours during projects.


Five reasons to become an architect

Studying architecture can be a rewarding experience and at the same time an exciting prospect as you will start a career in an industry constantly evolving.

  • Artistic freedom: As an architect you will be paid well to think creatively. You will be given the artistic freedom to do what you love with your visions becoming realities.
  • A respected profession: People respect architects for helping to improve the welfare and structures of society.
  • Inspire others: Buildings are the foundations of everything we use in life. You will have the opportunity to leave legacies and inspire people through your artistic work.
  • Knowledge: Architecture is a constantly evolving profession. You will be continually learning new skills and developing all the time.
  • It’s your passion: Architecture involves hard work and long hours. If you are passionate and love everything about architecture it won’t just become your career it will become your life style.


Entry requirements

Architecture is a varied subject which will involve a mix of scientific proficiency and creative prowess. Architecture courses come with plenty of competition and high standards and therefore a solid secondary school education will be required. Good A-levels (or equivalent) in maths, art and science based subjects will significantly help your application. Despite this, the most important part of your application will be your portfolio. Architecture schools will require proof that you have what it takes to become an architect and will ask to look at your portfolio of work. This portfolio doesn’t have to be of an architectural nature, things such as drawing, painting, sculpture and photography will show your experience and ability in the visual and material arts. A sketchbook of ongoing work will show your progression and commitment to the course.

If you want to get a step ahead of the game, shorter architecture courses can teach you how to draw and design 3D models while also helping build your portfolio with an architectural focus. The extra work done on these shorter courses, such as architectural design training or architectural drawing training, will really show the interviewer your passion and dedication to architecture. Other courses in art, design, painting, sculpture or photography can also help you to develop your skills before you apply to undergraduate courses.


How to qualify as a certified architect?

To work under the title of architect it is required by law that you are registered by the Architects Registration Board (ARB). The ARB is the statutory regulator of Architects in the UK and qualifying is comparable to that of medicine and law, usually taking a minimum of seven years to obtain the necessary qualifications and experience. Qualifying as a certified architect will require you to pass through the three ‘parts’ administered by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The first part of your route to becoming an architect will be to enrol on an undergraduate degree, BA or BSc at one of the 45 schools of architecture in the UK validated by RIBA. You will also be required to take a one year placement in an architect office, either after your degree or as a sandwich placement, to successfully complete part one. Your placement will be monitored by a professional Studies Advisor from your university and an employment mentor from your practice with your experience being recorded on the PEDR website. The second part will involve going back to university to study a postgraduate course, usually two years, to gain a graduate diploma (Dip Arch) or a Masters (MArch). Upon completion of this you will then have to work for a minimum of 24 months under the direct supervision of an architect, during this stage you will be given more responsibility and start to take an active role on projects.

Almost there, only one more part and you will be allowed to work under that prestigious architect title. Part three, and the final step, will be to sit the professional practice and management exam at a RIBA validated course provider. You will be assessed on; your 24 month practical experience, professional CV and career evaluation, case study, written examination and an oral examination. Having passed these three parts you will now be able to become a chartered member of the RIBA, giving you the qualifications to finally take that title of architect.


Careers in architecture

You’ve finally made it; you officially have the title architect, so what’s next?  The choices aren’t over yet, you still have to decide where you want to specialise as an architect. Here is our list of a few areas that you could specialise in:

  • Landscape architect: If you love the outdoors the specialising in landscape architecture is the career for you. Landscape architects work on outdoor areas such as parks, golf courses, playgrounds and residential areas.
  • Residential architect: Residential architects work mainly in the building of residential homes, both public and private.
  • Project manager: Maybe you want to try your hand at management? Project managers are employed by construction firms to oversee projects.
  • Building conservation: If you love old buildings and some of the world’s greatest monuments then you’ll want to specialise in build conservations. Architects who work in conservation spend their time refurbishing and conserving old buildings.


Careers outside of architecture

Just because you studied architecture doesn’t mean you have to have a career as an architect, you will learn plenty of skills during your degree that will be applicable to many other career paths. A course in architecture will teach you an array of skills such as thinking logically while also working creatively, IT skills, project management, teamwork, research and written and communication skills. These skills can set you up for careers in all sorts of jobs such as building surveying or management positions, and those who prefer the artistic side of things often find themselves in roles such as web design or production design for the broadcast industry.


Hear from the expert...

Andrea Marini studied (MArch) Digital Design Systems at London Metropolitan University and was awarded a Distinction in ‘the investigation of the computation of self-intersecting timber surfaces’. He then gained the AA Dipl. RIBA Part II and RIBA Part I at the Architectural Association in London. Andrea currently teaches on both BA and Diploma BIM (Building information modelling) courses at The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass), here is what he has to say:


What qualifications route did you take to realise your career?

I studied a 5 year Architectural degree at the Architectural Association and 1 Year Masters degree in Digital Design Systems at London Metropolitan University.


How long have you been in the industry?

 4 years.


What do you think is the most important skill required to do your job? 

Combining precision with creativity.


Can you describe a typical day in your working life?

Design development and coordination of the design elements with other professions. Sketching, 3D modelling, visualizing and quantifying. It involved fast paced problem solving to adapt to requirements on large construction sites.


What will students  learn during your course?

The course will explore the modelling possibilities within the software packages offered by Bentley. It shall focus towards the production of information in all its forms, directly from a 3D environment, progressing towards gaining an understanding of building information modelling (BIM).


What’s the first thing you teach?

Being able to feel confident within the software interface. As comfortable as if one were to be sketching freehand.


What are the benefits of studying this course with you?

The course will give insight on all the facets of a complex software and workflow, benefiting from the errors and discoveries gained through its implementation within real projects in Practice.


What’s the best way to go about getting a job in architecture?

Having as diverse a skill-set as possible but also the capability of becoming an expert when needed.


What qualities do you need to succeed?

You need precision but also the flexibility to adapt to diverse tasks and requirements. Control the tools you use but also be able to think without them.


What advice do you have for people interested in studying a course like this?

As the software is quite advanced one should have patience of learning the basics first and gradually progressing to more complex tasks which could feel overwhelming otherwise.

Tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on...

The Sporting D'Hiver Monaco – the complete masterplan for the cultural center within the Principality of Monaco. This included six residential towers, an office, conference centre, art gallery and two levels of retail. Guy’s Hospital Cancer Centre:  New Hospital Tower to be constructed utilising predominantly off-site manufactured components adopting BIM level 3. I was also awarded the Bentley Innovation in Building Prize in November 2013.