Becoming An Architect
Getting to the point of practising as an architect and legally being able to call yourself an architect can take a long time. In most cases, you could expect this process to reasonably take 8-10 years of a lot of hard work and study.
If this is something you are seriously considering, here’s the process in Australia, which is very similar to many other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada or the USA. We’ll talk about them at the end.
If you are interested in working as an architect, you will first need to undertake some serious study. There is no real alternative pathway such as an apprenticeship or internship straight out of school.
Depending on the marks you receive at school, you have a couple of study pathways into the profession of architecture.
Advanced Diploma in Building Design
If your grades are not high enough or you do not meet the entry requirements of a University, you can undertake an Advanced Diploma in Building Design (Architectural).
This course is generally 2 years full time, or 3.5 – 4 years part-time at a TAFE or University or private provider. It will help you improve your skills and capabilities, and develop a portfolio. Some universities offer this option as a pathway into their degrees.
If you take this option, check to see how much of this study the university of your choice will consider for entry into their degrees as this may vary. It won’t always guarantee you entry.
At the end of this you may choose to continue your studies or go directly to work in the following career opportunities:
- Building designer;
- Architectural technician;
- Architectural assistant;
- Building design assistant; or
- Architectural draftsperson.
You cannot receive an architectural qualification with this study alone. It is a stepping stone.
Undergraduate Bachelors Degree
If your grades are high enough, and you meet the entry requirements of a university you can apply to enter a Bachelor course straight away.
You can find a list of universities offering architecture or related courses in Australia HERE.
Most universities have two parts of your study to becoming a graduate in architecture. The first degree is an undergraduate degree of three years. Depending on the university, this undergraduate degree may have different names and could be referred to as:
- Bachelor of Environments (Architecture)
- Bachelor of Design (Architecture);
- Bachelor of Design Studies; or
- Bachelor of Architectural Design.
Depending on the university, this first degree may be a more general, multi-disciplined degree to include disciplines such as landscape design, interior design or urban design or it may just be focussed on architecture. For example, you may be studying a Bachelor of Design with a major in architecture or construction.
If you are not sure about architecture and want to explore other options, you may want to choose a more multi-disciplined approach, however, note that in industry, some of these courses are not seen to be as good as the architectural focussed courses.
The second degree is an additional two years (five in total) and is generally called a Master of Architecture. Most universities require you to achieve a certain average mark in your first degree to be accepted into your Master’s degree. You might want to check this out at the very start of your studies and make sure you are on track if you wish to continue to Masters.
Some universities will accept a different Bachelor’s degree with a certain average but will increase the Master’s course to three years, mainly to ensure you have the foundation skills required.
Some schools require you to undertake a year work experience between the two degrees, while others will let you go straight through. If you are not sure about architecture at this stage, it may be a good idea to get some work experience before continuing your studies.
Many years ago, these degrees were both undergraduate degrees, and often referred to as a Bachelor of Design Studies and a Bachelor of Architecture. Regardless of the name, the industry will recognise your equivalent study from a particular institution at a certain time regardless of what your degree is called.
Architects become registered in Australia under different legislation or Architects Acts which are managed by each state. This legislation aims to is to protect the title “architect” and provide a framework for practising architects. They do vary between states so you will need to check this legislation depending on where you live and intend to practice. Unfortunately, this process is not yet national, but this won’t necessarily prevent you from practising in different states. You can look into extending or transferring your registration once you are registered in one state.
Under this legislation, you generally cannot call yourself an architect unless you are registered – even if you have graduated with a degree. To practice architecture and call yourself an architect in a particular place, you must be registered in that state or territory. It is important to note that the requirements for each state do vary.
Registration Process + National Standard of Competency
In Australia, there is a National Standard of Competency to become registered as an architect. This competency level is overseen by the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA).
This normally requires several years working in the architectural industry after graduation to obtain the relevant range of experience across the design and construction process, as well as a range of different project types.
To show your competency level, there is a three-part process once you have obtained the relevant experience:
- AACA Logbook – A record of your practical experience that meets certain capabilities;
- AACA Written Exam or Architectural Practice Examination (APE); and
- AACA Interview – A panel interview that assesses your knowledge and understanding and ability to apply this in practical situations. This will normally be 2-3 practitioners who will ask you questions about case studies or the projects you have worked on and described in your logbook or maybe hypothetical qualifications.
Those with overseas qualifications or experience may still be able to become registered in Australia with some additional requirements.
You can find more information at the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) website.
Architectural Registration in Australia is regulated by a board in each state or territory. Once you have been accredited by the AACA, you will need to register in the state you are practising in. For example:
- ACT – Australian Capital Territory Architects Board – Architects Act 2004 (ACT)
- New South Wales – NSW Architects Registration Board – Architects Act 2003 (NSW)
- Northern Territory – Northern Territory Architects Board – Architects Act 1963 (NT)
- Queensland – Board of Architects of Queensland – Architects Act 2002 (QLD)
- South Australia – The Architectural Practice Board of South Australia – Architectural Practice ACT 2009 (SA)
- Tasmania – Board of Architects of Tasmania – Architects Act 1929 (TAS)
- Victoria – Architects Registration Board of Victoria – Architects Act 1991 (VIC)
- Western Australia – Architects Board of Western Australia – Architects Act 2004 (WA)
Registration In Other Countries
Many other countries seem to have a similar process that requires specific university study, some practical experience and registration. Here are some useful links that explain the registration process in other countries:
- Canada – Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB)
- The United States – National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)
- United Kingdom – Architects Registration Board (ARB)
As you can see, the process of becoming an architect is a long one, and you could expect to take 7 or 8 to 10 years from the time you start your studies until the time you become registered if you follow the process straight through.
If you take time off along the way to travel or to obtain relevant experience upon graduation, it could take longer than that.
Architecture is a profession and a path that you choose for the long term. It is something you continue to learn over your entire career. It is not something you come to know in a matter of months or years or cramming for an exam. Saying that it can be a rewarding profession that provides many different avenues or pathways for a range of work experiences.
If this seems like something you might enjoy, the only way to find out is to give it a go.
PS… If you have any questions or comments about the process of becoming an architect, please let me know in the comments.