Whether you go to university and study for a degree or Masters, or opt for on-the-job training through an architecture apprenticeship, you have a choice of routes to becoming an architect
An architecture career at a glance
- A starting salary of £15,000-£22,000, rising to £45,000 once qualified.
- Qualify via degree, apprenticeship or previous work experience.
- Opportunities for freelance work and self-employment.
- There are 42,170 registered architects in the UK (ARB, 2021).
What is an architect?
Combining creative and scientific skills, architects are tasked with designing plans and technical drawings for the construction of buildings.
With responsibility for the safe construction and long-term durability of houses and commercial properties crucial to the role, it's no wonder that architects have to go through a rigorous process to become fully qualified.
To succeed as an architect, you'll need analytical skills and excellent attention to detail, as well as creativity for designing.
Learn more about the role of an architect.
Why become an architect?
While it's true that being an architect is a high-pressure role that carries a significant amount of responsibility, seeing the buildings you've helped to create can be incredibly rewarding.
Previously, going to university was the main pathway into the profession. Following the introduction of architecture apprenticeships, there's now an alternative to undertaking full-time study - you'll gain the experience and qualifications you need without the price tag of tuition fees.
If you're unsure of which route to take, consider whether to go to university or do an apprenticeship.
Rest assured that whatever you decide to do, your end goal will be the same - you'll become a fully qualified architect and able to join the Architects Registration Board (ARB).
For those more interested in the science behind buildings (including the technical plans and deciding which materials should be used), you may wish to consider qualifying as an architectural technologist instead.
How long does it take to become an architect?
According to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), it typically involves five years of study and two years' practical experience.
The majority of architects enter the profession through full-time study of a five-year, ARB-accredited architecture degree, with periods of leave to gain practical experience.
The degree is split up as follows:
- Part 1 - Develops your core architectural skills. An undergraduate degree taking three to four years to complete full time.
- Part 1 practical experience - Taking a minimum of one year out, you'll need to find an employer, mentor and advisor to log your experience with RIBA's Professional Experience & Development Record (PEDR).
- Part 2 - Enhances and deepens your knowledge. Awards vary, so you could obtain a Bachelors of Architecture (BArch), Diploma or Master of Architecture (MArch).
- Part 2 practical experience - A total of 24 months' experience is required to advance to Part 3, so you'll need to gain at least 12 months' experience under the direct supervision of an architect. You'll be able to take on more responsibility at this stage and can also become a RIBA Associate Member.
- Part 3 - This involves a written and oral examination, as well as assessment of your previous experience.
Course content varies between institutions, but as long as you're studying an accredited degree, you'll be able to register as an architect with the ARB and apply for RIBA Chartered Membership on completion of Part 3.
For instance, modules on the three-year, full-time BArch Architecture (ARB/RIBA Part 1) at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) include 'Technology and Environment in Architecture', 'Architecture in Context' and 'Architectural Communication and Representation', where you'll learn how to use 2D and 3D design methods. In your final year, you'll display your work as part of NTU's Degree Shows, attended by prospective employers.
To apply, you'll need 120-128 UCAS Tariff points from up to four qualifications (at least two must be equivalent to A-level standard), as well as maths and English GCSEs at grade C/4 and a digital portfolio. As you progress your career, you can create a place to house your designs and showcase your architect skills via a dedicated portfolio builder site such as Archifolio.
The University of Lincoln offers accredited qualifications for Parts 1, 2 and 3. Its MArch Master of Architecture (Part 2) is available as a two-year, full-time course, or it can be studied part time across three to five years. The course utilises a range of teaching methods, including project-based learning, seminars and group work, and is split into two levels.
At level one, you'll focus on research and design equally and choose your topics from a range of specialisms. The second year deals with aspects of professional practice and you'll produce a final project - bringing together your knowledge of technology, research, sustainability and cultural awareness. You'll need at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree in architecture (or equivalent subject) from a RIBA/ARB approved programme to apply.
A full list of accredited degree courses can be found at ARB - Schools and Institutions of Architecture.
Architecture degree apprenticeships
For students who would prefer to gain practical experience as they qualify rather than study full time, architecture degree apprenticeships are now available at a number of UK institutions.
Two types of architecture apprenticeship are available:
- Level 6 Architectural Assistant - upon completion of this apprenticeship, you'll earn a Bachelors degree and Part 1 qualification.
- Level 7 Architect - this apprenticeship leads to a Masters of Architecture (MArch) award as well as Part 2 and 3 qualifications.
You can currently study for a Level 6 Architectural Assistant degree apprenticeship, validated by RIBA, at London South Bank University and the University of Portsmouth.
The Level 7 Architect apprenticeship is available at the following institutions:
- University of Bath
- Birmingham City University
- De Montfort University, Leicester
- Leeds Beckett University
- London Metropolitan University
- London South Bank University
- Northumbria University
- University of Portsmouth
- University of the West of England (UWE).
Entry requirements are typically the same as those for entry onto full-time degree programmes. Be aware that you'll first need to secure an apprenticeship offer with an employer to get started.
For more information, visit RIBA - Architecture apprenticeships.
Alternative routes to becoming an architect
If you're UK, EU, EEA, Channel Island or Isle of Man based and currently working under the supervision of a registered architect, you may instead consider the RIBA Studio qualification. You'll be able to study Parts 1 and 2 at your own pace.
This route may particularly suit you if you've decided to make a career change to architecture, gone straight into work from school or college, or completed Part 1 at university and remained in practice after a year out.
RIBA Studio is offered in partnership with the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University.
If you haven't yet gained your first salaried experience in practice and are new to the field of architecture, the RIBA Foundation in Architecture course will help you to develop the portfolio and experience you need for Part 1. This is also available at Oxford Brookes University.
Find out more
- Discover what can I do with my degree in architecture?
- See what the property and construction sector has to offer.
- Read the ARB Student Handbook on careers in architecture.