If using your creative side to turn innovative designs into durable and sustainable constructions appeals to you, then becoming an architectural technologist could be your ideal role

As a chartered architectural technologist (MCIAT) you're qualified to lead a project from inception to completion. You'll specialise in the technology of architecture, focusing on the design of buildings for use and performance.

Your work will include conception and technical design, development and detailing, construction technology, contract administration, sustainability and creating inclusive environments. Architectural technology can be applied in the case of refurbishment, alteration and other construction projects.

Responsibilities

As an architectural technologist, you'll need to:

  • meet with other professionals and clients at an early stage to agree on the project brief
  • understand how the design aspects of a construction project influence and relate to performance and functional issues, so that practical questions can be addressed at the outset
  • evaluate and advise on environmental, legal and regulatory issues
  • contribute to planning applications and other regulatory application procedures
  • identify the surveys (e.g. land surveys) required before work can commence, ensuring they're undertaken and their results are fed into the project
  • develop project briefs and work on these as the project progresses
  • prepare and present design proposals using computer-aided design (CAD) and other design software, as well as traditional drawing methods
  • lead the detailed design process and coordinate design information
  • advise clients on procuring the best and most appropriate contracts for the work they are undertaking
  • liaise with appropriate authorities (e.g. planning enquiries and building inspectors) when producing documentation for statutory approval
  • produce, analyse and advise on detailed specifications for suitable materials or processes to be used
  • carry out design-stage risk assessments
  • administer contracts and project certifications
  • manage the work of trainee technologists and contribute to the overall running of the business
  • obtain feedback from clients and people using the building, reporting on the performance of the contractors once construction is completed
  • appraise the performance of buildings which are in use and produce maintenance management information
  • evaluate and advise on refurbishment, re-use, recycling and deconstruction.

Salary

  • Typical starting salaries for a junior technologist range from £17,000 to £25,000.
  • Salaries with a few years' experience fall between £24,000 and £40,000.
  • Senior-level salaries can reach up to £30,000 to £100,000 - sometimes higher.

London weighting may be applied and higher salaries can be achieved with experience and with increased responsibility for running complex projects. Practices may offer other benefits such as company cars and pension schemes.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm although extra hours, including work at weekends, are often required, especially as deadlines approach.

What to expect

  • You may work alone or as part of a team. The majority of the work is office based, although site visits are commonly required. Other time away from the office may involve collecting data and attending meetings.
  • Work on building sites must be carried out in all weather conditions and appropriate safety clothing must be worn.
  • Hourly rates for architectural technologists who are self-employed are often higher than for those who are employed in salaried positions, but you'll have to factor in allowances for any time taken for holiday and sickness.
  • Depending on the nature of employment, career breaks and part-time work are a possibility.
  • Jobs are available in most areas of the UK, and there are also opportunities to work abroad. The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) is internationally recognised.

Qualifications

There are currently more than 30 accredited architectural technology undergraduate and Masters degree programmes in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Europe, and it's advantageous to complete one that is accredited by the CIAT. Visit CIAT - Accreditation for Honours Degrees to find out more.

Completing one of these courses will give you an advantage as you'll receive exemptions against your MCIAT Professional and Occupational Performance (POP) Record or the MCIAT Professional Assessment, which are needed to become an MCIAT.

Although this area of work is most relevant to graduates with a degree in architectural technology, other related degrees include:

  • architectural engineering/architecture
  • building services engineering
  • building/construction
  • built environment studies
  • civil and structural engineering
  • computer-aided engineering
  • surveying.

Entry with a HNC or HND in construction, architectural technology or building studies, or a foundation degree in architectural technology can lead to recognised roles within CIAT as either a professionally qualified architectural technician (TCIAT) or MCIAT. It's also possible to enter the profession without a degree, or with an unrecognised qualification, via CIAT's profile candidate route.

A postgraduate qualification is not necessary for entry into the profession. However, Masters courses and research opportunities do exist in architectural technology and other related areas for those who are interested in further study. CIAT has awarded accreditation to some Masters-level courses.

Search for postgraduate courses in architectural studies.

CIAT offers free student membership for the duration of any further or higher education course designed to lead to a career in architectural technology. Competition for the CIAT's Student Awards for Excellence in Architectural Technology is high between architectural technology students. Further information on this can be found on CIAT's website.

Skills

You'll need to show:

  • leadership skills and a willingness to take on responsibility
  • good communication skills, as interaction with other professionals, authorities and clients occurs frequently
  • the ability to work collaboratively as part of a team
  • a logical and practical approach to problem solving
  • an eye for detail and design, with the ability to visualise objects in three dimensions (3D)
  • planning and organisation skills.

Work experience

Relevant work experience is extremely valuable and will help you to understand how an architecture practice operates and how projects are handled.

Some courses include a placement year in industry but otherwise opportunities for vacation work and placements can be found through university departments, recruitment agencies, CIAT publications, industry magazines and websites.

Employers

A range of employment opportunities exist across the UK, and typical employers include:

  • academic and research institutions
  • architectural practices
  • banks and building societies
  • building and construction firms
  • housing corporations
  • local authorities
  • property developers
  • town planners.

It's also possible to apply your skills within manufacturing and processing industries and health and government agencies.

Once you've attained MCIAT status and gained considerable experience, self-employment can be a good option. You could set up a practice on your own or in partnership with other construction/design professionals, or work on a freelance-contract basis, such as with a property developer.

There are opportunities to work abroad, including jobs with UK-based architectural practices who have international contracts or overseas offices, or with some government departments.

Look for job vacancies at:

You may also find vacancies with specialist recruitment agencies, such as Hays Construction and Hunter Dunning.

Professional development

Graduates from relevant higher education courses, who have registered for student membership of CIAT, are eligible to upgrade their membership to the associate level and to use the letters ACIAT after their name. Associate membership is not available to self-employed applicants, who have to register as profile candidates instead.

The most important step in your career as an architectural technologist is to become a chartered member of CIAT. You do this by completing the MCIAT Professional Assessment or the MCIAT Professional and Occupational Performance (POP) Record, and passing a professional assessment interview. Being a chartered member is equivalent to holding a Master's degree and the usual route to becoming chartered involves completing an accredited honours degree and gaining the necessary experience.

As well as your subject knowledge, you'll also need to develop a range of other skills. These are normally gained on the job and sometimes with employer-sponsored short courses. You'll also need to undertake continuing professional development (CPD), through in-house or external courses, to develop interpersonal skills, design skills, computer skills and technical drawing skills.

Management is a key part of the role and you may choose to develop this further, by studying for qualifications in subjects such as business, construction management and project management.

Career prospects

The size of the employer you work for, and the type of work you undertake, can greatly influence your career prospects and development.

Larger organisations generally offer more structured opportunities for promotion to supervisory and management positions, but smaller architectural practices can sometimes offer greater responsibility early on, as well as the chance to gain skills and experience across a range of specialist areas. However, to gain promotion or to increase salary, it may be necessary to move between employers or change location.

As so much of the work is project based, it's sometimes possible to move into areas that are not construction based, for example into other areas of industry and commerce.

As well as the potential of setting up your own practice (which must be registered with CIAT), there are also opportunities to teach and undertake research in universities. You could also consider working as a trainer on industry courses.