Architects design and create plans and technical drawings for the construction, restoration and renovation of buildings.
What qualifications do you need to become an architect? Find out the routes into a career in architecture, from degrees to apprenticeships, as well as how to train as an architect, the skills you need, how to fund your studies and more.
What are the essential qualifications?
There are several routes to becoming a fully qualified 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.
Ways to train as an architect
It takes a minimum of seven years to train to become an architect. This is typically split between three key stages:
- A five-year degree programme in architecture. The programme must be recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Architects Registration Board (ARB)
- A minimum of two years’ work experience in a recognised Architect’s practice
- Professional architecture examination. This is where examiners will assess how you did in your work experience – it involves a written exam, which usually involves assessment on a case study of a project you’ve worked on, and finally, an oral exam.
Academic route to become 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.
The required A levels will depend on where you go on to study your degree or apprenticeship in architecture, as different institutions will have different UCAS points requirements. Generally, you will need at least two (usually three) A levels in relevant subjects.
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.
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:
- An undergraduate degree, such as BA or BSc 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.
- A two-year postgraduate degree in architecture – the name of the award 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 study.
- 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 a RIBA Associate member.
- 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, becoming a fully-fledged, qualified architect able to start work in the exciting world of architecture.
Additionally, you can become a RIBA Chartered member once fully qualified. This gives you access to specialist knowledge, resources, expertise and advice as you are starting your career in architecture, as well as everyday practical support and the ability to network with tens of thousands of architectural professionals.
Find out more here.
Vocational route to become an architect
Architecture degree apprentices are a vocational route into an architectural career and offer the same level of qualifications as a degree. They are beneficial as they tend to offer more practical experience than the degree route. Typically, you will spend around 80% of your time undertaking practical, on-the-job experience, with the remaining 20% as academic learning.
They are also split into three parts, with two types of architecture apprenticeships currently available:
- Level 6 architectural assistant apprenticeship. On completion, you will earn a Bachelors degree and Part 1 qualification.
- Level 7 architect apprenticeship. This provides you with Part 2 and 3 qualifications, and you will earn a Masters of Architecture (MArch) upon completion. You can then register as an architect with the ARB.
Entry requirements are typically the same as those for entry on degree programmes, although you may require fewer GCSEs and A Levels.
Additionally, you will need to secure an apprenticeship offer with an employer prior to starting.
If you’re unsure of which route to take, read our guide here on apprenticeships.
Architects Registration Board (ARB)
The Architects Registration Board is an independent body which regulates, maintains and protects the architect profession in the UK.
Anyone who claims to be and/or practices under a title containing the word architect must be part of the ARB’s Register of Architects. The register ensures that only people who have had the relevant training, education and practical experience can offer the professional services of an architect.
Find out more about the ARB and how to become registered here.
What skills will you need to be an architect?
Architects are a highly skilled profession, so there are a number of skills required to become one, including:
- An interest in design and some artistic ability
- Creativity and the imagination to produce something that is visually pleasing and suited to its environment
- 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
- To be a well-organised person with good planning skills
- Ability to understand technical plans
- Good numeracy skills
- Knowledge of business technology
- IT skills, especially experience of using CAD software
- A keen eye for detail
- Good people skills.
How to fund your studies
If you’ve decided that becoming an architect is the career path for you then you’ve already taken the first step on an exciting journey.
As there are multiple routes to becoming an architect, there are different ways to fund your studies. If you’re going to university, you will be eligible for loans to cover your tuition fees and maintenance costs; although this differs between England, Scotland and Wales. If you qualify via the apprenticeship route, there are no tuition fees and you are paid throughout your time as an apprentice.
Find out more about funding for architects here.