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Architect


Description

Buildings don't just sprout out of the ground, growing like weeds where ever they choose. Each building takes months, even years, of careful planning, consulting, model-making, and compromise. Architects are the masterminds behind these massive projects, organizing and overseeing the development of huge condominium complexes, concert halls, tiny country cottages, and wheelchair accessible homes.

Developers, home owners, and companies hire architects to come up with design ideas, and then plan and develop these designs. They meet regularly with their clients about the buildings, consulting about styles, features, colors, and materials to be used. Before the building's foundation can be laid, the architect must make sketches and models for the clients and blueprints (detailed construction plans) for the construction workers, including information about electricity and plumbing. These designs are traditionally hand-drawn, however, designs and plans made with computers are becoming increasingly common. The architect will also decide if the project has enough money to continue, and present the client and the construction crews with contracts before the first cement truck arrives on scene.

Architects are often fully involved in the project, including supervising the workers, to make sure they are following the plans, and not breaking any by-laws. The architect must also stay in contact with builders, electricians, landscapers, interior designers, and plumbers.

Architects often specialize in one type of structure. Some may concentrate on residential buildings, some do commercial buildings, like malls. Some build only institutions, like schools and synagogues. Some only work in restoration of historical buildings. Some architects don't make buildings at all, and build bridges and dams. But all architects must remember the importance of visualizing a structure before it is built, seeing both the inside and outside of the space. They need to have a good understanding of electrical systems, by-laws for new buildings, and should be able to estimate cost of materials. They spend a lot of time marketing themselves and their services. They may have to socialize with their clients, including potential clients. They will need to write proposals and produce brochures, ads, and stay in contact with former clients. In architecture, you don't only build up good solid houses, but good solid businesses, too.

Architects are very important to us. We live in buildings, work in buildings, play in buildings. We do everything in buildings. Architects are the people who make sure the wind doesn't knock our roofs off, they are the people who make sure our homes don't collapse during earthquakes. Architects make sure our homes are safe, comfortable, and beautiful, all at the same time.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$36,280
 
Median Salary:
$56,620
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$92,350

  Interests and Skills  
Architects need to be extremely creative, have the ability to visualize three-dimensional structures in their mind, and the ability to draw. They also need to have good math and science skills, and have an interest in engineering. Like many professions these days architects must have knowledge of computers and software used to produce blueprints. Architects need to be organized, detail oriented and have good people skills.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Create and design plans for clients, including drawings, computer images, and models
  • Draw blueprints for construction crews
  • Estimate costs
  • Meet with clients regularly to discuss concerns, and provide progress reports
  • Research by-laws and building codes
  • Write up contracts for clients and crews
  • Hire construction crews, plumbers, and electricians
  • Supervise construction
  • Promote business
  • The architect may be working on a number of plans at once, so might research by-laws; draw some sketches; meet with clients and construction companies, negotiating contracts and discussing plans; visit a construction site; and have dinner out with a potential client, all in the same day. Architects spend most of their time at work indoors; however, they will spend time outdoors when supervising construction. A well-respected architect will get to travel if their clients live in other cities, or are establishing a chain of businesses throughout the country.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Architects may work alone, or they may work for other architectural firms. They can also work for government agencies, corporations, or real estate and development companies. Their hours vary. Some days may be regular, but when major projects are underway, architects may be at the office and on site for long hours, with fewer days off.
  • Architects work in offices, where they draw, use computers, meet with clients, and talk on the phone. They will also work on construction sites, which are dangerous enough to warrant hard hats and steel-toed boots.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Architects who start off working for an agency may choose to move on and open up a private agency on their own or with a few colleagues. Architects who no longer want to design homes can get into designing office buildings, shopping centers, and hospitals, and vice versa. Architects could always write, become illustrators, or designers.
 

  Educational Paths  
There are a few paths to becoming an architect. Some people get a bachelor's degree in architecture, and/or a master's degree in architecture. From there, they will need to complete two to three years apprenticing in an architecture firm, or working under the guidance of a registered architect like environmental design. Some of these programs might require prerequisite courses, so individuals must make sure to check when they apply.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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