A pencil and a ruler lying on an architectural plan

What qualifications do you need to become an architect, one of the most competitive and sought-after job roles in construction? Find out the routes into a career in architecture, from degrees to apprenticeships, as well as how to train as an architect, how long it takes and the skills you need.


What do you need to qualify for architecture?

There are several routes to becoming an architect, including degrees, apprenticeships and through work experience.

However, there are two essential qualifications to become an architect: an architecture degree recognised by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) and two years of professional architecture experience.


What GCSEs do you need to be an architect?

You will need at least 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English, maths and a science to progress to a degree-level qualification.

Do you need an Art GCSE?

Being proficient in art is usually a prerequisite for a budding architect. You should be able to show that you have a technical ability in drawing, so taking Art at GCSE and if possible at A Level is always a good choice.

A Levels

Places on architecture courses are highly competitive, so A Levels are an essential qualification for anyone considering a career in architecture.

Do you need A levels for architecture?

Yes, you do need A levels to study or take an apprenticeship in architecture.

Generally, you will need at least two (usually three) A levels in relevant subjects, at grades A or B. The subjects will depend on where you choose to study for your degree or do your apprenticeship in architecture, as different institutions will have different UCAS points requirements.

Some universities will require A levels in maths and/or a science, so they are good subjects to consider. Alternatively, subjects such as Design & Technology and Art are good options; Art in particular will help you with building a portfolio of sketches and drawings which demonstrate you have the technical drawing skills required for architecture.   

RIBA foundation in architecture course

The RIBA foundation in architecture course gives people considering a career in architecture a chance to build up a portfolio and acquire some professional work experience before progressing to Part one of an architecture degree. The course is offered by Oxford Brookes University in partnership with the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and successful applicants will be supported in developing an architectural portfolio and in finding the 200 hours of work experience.


The majority of architects enter the profession through the study of a five-year, ARB accredited architecture degree, with periods of leave to gain practical experience.

The degrees are split into three distinct parts, giving students a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job experience:

Part 1

  • An undergraduate degree, such as a BA or BSc in Architecture, which usually takes between 3-4 years to complete full-time. This is where you will develop your core architecture skills and understanding.
  • Practical experience, which typically lasts for one year. You can do this part-way through your studies or after, although it is recommended to complete it after. During the practical experience, you will work in an architectural company, supported by an employment mentor and Professional Studies Adviser. You will record your experience using RIBA’s PEDR recording tools, and if your experience is eligible, this will count towards your registration requirements set out by the ARB.

Part 2

  • A two-year postgraduate degree in architecture – the award's name will vary depending on the learning provider, such as BArch, Diploma or MArch. You will gain enhanced architectural knowledge and project complexity, as well as the opportunity to carry out specialist studies.
  • Two years of practical experience, one year of which must be under direct supervision of an architect. You will be given more responsibility at this stage and have the opportunity to become an RIBA Associate member.

Part 3

  • Examinations, written and oral. You will be assessed on your previous practical experience, as well as case studies and professional CV and career evaluations.
  • On completion of all three parts you will be eligible to register as an architect with the ARB, and so becoming a qualified architect.

Can I become an architect without going to university?

Yes, you can become an architect by completing an architecture apprenticeship, effectively a degree apprenticeship.

Architecture apprenticeship

An architecture apprenticeship allows apprentices to earn a salary at the same time as training to become an architect. Apprentices spend 80% of their time working in a practice and 20% studying at a university, and the final qualification is the same as that achieved by architecture students on full-time university courses.

There are two stages to the apprenticeship – a Level 6 Architectural Assistant Apprenticeship and Level 7 Architect Apprenticeship. Level 6 includes the RIBA Part 1 degree qualification, and Level 7 includes Part 2 and Part 3.  

To fully qualify as a chartered architect, apprentices must complete Parts 1, 2 and 3.

RIBA Certificate in Architecture

The RIBA Certificate in Architecture (Part 1) allows students to work towards their Part 1 degree qualification while working in practice, under the direct supervision of an architect. Entry requirements are 3 GCSE passes, 2 A Level passes or an RIBA Foundation in Architecture at Merit level.


Skills and competencies

Architecture is a highly skilled profession, so there are a number of competencies required to become one, including –

  • An interest in design and some artistic ability
  • Creativity and the imagination to produce visually pleasing technical plans and drawings
  • The ability to think through and solve problems
  • Strong presentation skills, as you will have to present your ideas to a wide variety of people
  • Good planning and organisational skills
  • Ability to understand technical plans
  • Good numeracy and people skills
  • Knowledge of business technology
  • IT skills, especially experience of using CAD software
  • A keen eye for detail

Find out more about becoming an architect