The profession of architectural technology is both creative and innovative and essential to the design of buildings and structures underpinned by science and engineering.
Knowledge of architectural technology is essential to achieve optimum functionality, efficiency and effectiveness in construction and robust, durable and sustainable design solutions that perform over time.
Chartered architectural technologists (MCIAT) are qualified to lead a project from inception to completion. They specialise in the technology of architecture, focusing on the design of buildings for use and performance. This includes concept and technical design, development and detailing, construction technology, contract administration, creating inclusive environments, and sustainability.
Chartered architectural technologists' work is not only restricted to new buildings but also includes refurbishment, alteration and other construction projects.
Architectural technologists can work towards becoming a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) by completing the MCIAT Professional Assessment or the MCIAT Professional and Occupational Performance (POP) Record. 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.
Chartered members can run their own practice, which needs to be registered with the Institute. Members of CIAT work across a range of areas, including working for multi-national companies, house builders, local authorities, as well as within academia and research.
Depending on the project, day-to-day tasks may include:
- meeting with other professionals and clients at an early stage to agree on the project brief;
- understanding 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;
- evaluating and advising on environmental, legal and regulatory issues;
- contributing to planning applications and other regulatory application procedures;
- assessing what surveys (e.g. land surveys) are required before work can commence and ensuring such surveys are undertaken and their results are fed into the project;
- developing project briefs and working on these as the project progresses;
- preparing and presenting design proposals using computer-aided design (CAD) and traditional drawing methods;
- leading the detailed design process and coordinating design information;
- advising clients on procuring the best and most appropriate contracts for the work they are undertaking; liaising with appropriate authorities (e.g. planning enquiries and building inspectors) when producing documentation for statutory approval;
- producing, analysing and advising on detailed specifications for suitable materials or processes to be used;
- carrying out design-stage risk assessments;
- administering contracts and project certifications;
- managing the work of trainee technologists and contributing to the overall running of business;
- obtaining feedback from clients and people using the building and reporting on the performance of the contractors once the construction project is completed;
- appraising the performance of buildings which are in use and producing maintenance management information;
- evaluating and advising on refurbishment, re-use, recycling and deconstruction.
- The range of typical starting salaries for junior technologist falls between £17,000 and £25,000.
- Salaries with a few years' experience range from £24,000 to £40,000.
- Senior level salaries reach up to £30,000 to £100,000 or even 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 are typically 9am to 5pm although extra hours, including work at weekends, are often required, especially as deadlines approach.
What to expect
- A technologist 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.
- Self-employment is possible and is an alternative for some after gaining chartered status (MCIAT) of CIAT. Hourly rates for architectural technologists who are self-employed are often higher than for those who are employed in salaried positions.
- 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.
- As with most jobs in the construction industry, the number of vacancies is closely linked to the general economic situation.
There are currently over 30 accredited architectural technology undergraduate/Masters degree programmes in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Europe and it is advantageous to complete one that is accredited by the CIAT. Visit CIAT Accredited Honours Degrees for a full list of courses.
Completing one of these courses will give you an advantage as you will receive exemptions against your MCIAT Professional and Occupational Performance (POP) Record or the MCIAT Professional Assessment, which is needed to become a chartered architectural technologist (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;
- built environment studies;
- civil and structural engineering;
- computer-aided engineering;
Entry with a HNC/HND in construction, architectural technology or building studies, or a foundation degree in architectural technology, can lead to recognised roles with CIAT as either a professionally qualified architectural technician (TCIAT) or chartered architectural technologist (MCIAT). However, the steps required to qualify are more extensive compared to those with an accredited undergraduate/Masters degree, so it may take a bit longer.
Architectural technicians play an integral role within the design team/process, but they are unable to practice on their own. More information on this role is available from CIAT.
Entry to the profession without a degree or with an unrecognised qualification is possible via the CIAT's profile candidate route. With substantial experience and possibly further qualifications, this can lead to the qualification of an architectural technician (TCIAT) or a chartered architectural technologist (MCIAT) (if the CIAT's professional standards are met).
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.
Student membership of the CIAT is free for the duration of the course to anyone studying on a higher education course designed to lead to a career in architectural technology. The CIAT's Student Award for Excellence in Architectural Technology is a highly competitive award amongst architectural technology students. Further information on this can be found on the CIAT website.
You will need to show:
- leadership skills and a willingness to take 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 as well as an ability to solve problems;
- an eye for detail and design, and the ability to visualise objects in three dimensions (3D);
- planning and organisation skills, and the ability to learn quickly.
Relevant work experience is extremely valuable. 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.
CIAT represents professionals who either work or study in the area of architectural technology.
A range of employment opportunities exist across the UK, and typical employers include:
- architectural practices;
- town planners;
- building and construction firms;
- housing corporations;
- local authorities;
- property developers;
- banks and building societies.
It is also possible for chartered architectural technologists to apply their skills within research and academia, manufacturing and processing industries and health and government agencies.
Self-employment is a popular option for those who have chartered architectural technologist (MCIAT) status and considerable experience. Some architectural technologists set up in practice on their own or in partnership with other construction/design professionals. Others choose to work on a freelance contract basis, with a property developer for example.
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:
- Architects' Journal
- Careers in Construction
- Hays Construction
- RIBA Appointments
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.
Chartered status (MCIAT) is obtained via assessment against the CIAT's Professional Standards in the form of either the MCIAT Professional Assessment or the MCIAT Professional and Occupational Performance (POP) Record. The time it takes to complete either of these processes depends on the candidate’s knowledge and experience, and is followed by a professional interview. If you have completed an accredited degree at undergraduate level, you will be exempt from some of the underpinning knowledge units of the MCIAT POP Record or the Educational Standards of the MCIAT Professional Assessment.
In addition to subject knowledge, architectural technologists need to develop a range of other skills. These are normally gained on the job and sometimes with employer-sponsored short courses.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is important and may comprise of in-house or external courses that aim to develop interpersonal skills, design skills, computer skills (especially for CAD) and technical drawing skills. It is also very important to keep up to date with any legislation changes or developments in the industry. Most employers support and encourage this type of training. Details of events that could be useful to architectural technologists can be found via CIAT and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Management is a key part of the role for many architectural technologists; some choose to develop this further by studying for qualifications in subjects such as:
- construction management;
- project management.
The size of the employer and the type of work they undertake can be a major influence on career prospects and development.
Large organisations may employ teams of support staff which include architectural technologists. A small architectural practice may employ only one or two technologists who support or work alongside the practice partner(s).
In large organisations, promotion to a specialist role is possible or to a senior technologist level, with increased responsibility for managing staff and resources.
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 is sometimes possible to move into areas that are not construction based, for example into other areas of industry and commerce.
Experienced chartered architectural technologists can work as consultants or can set up their own practices. There are also opportunities to teach and undertake research in universities or work as a trainer on industry courses.