What Does an Architect Do?

Everybody knows what an architect does, right?

We’ve all seen “Sleepless in Seattle” and “The Lakehouse” and a million other movies that feature architects as the lead role. So how is it that nobody, except a small few, actually know what an architect does? I’m sure this isn’t unique to the architectural profession but hopefully this post can shed some light on the subject. The typical person probably won’t interact too much with an architect unless they plan on designing a large custom home or if they plan on doing a substantial remodel. SIDENOTE: I plan on doing another blog post in the future specific to how an architect can help you specifically, so look forward to that.

Honestly I didn’t fully understand what an architect did until I was one. Yes we design stuff. But that’s a small percentage of our workload. See the following interview that might give you an overview of what architect do.

How did you decide to do what you are doing now?
My parents are both artists and art teachers. So my background started in art. I have always loved making things and expressing myself creatively. I was being too precise in a college art class and my teacher said I should take a drafting class. I found architecture to be where I can mix my creative and technical sides. Also people always said it's hard to be an architect. I like challenges, so I figured I would prove to myself and to others that I could do it.

What do you do during a typical day?
I work on writing marketing proposals, and meeting with clients on their projects. I design buildings, figure out how they are going to work from the inside out, and the outside in. I oversee others work such as engineers, and other designers and coordinate between clients, contractors, engineers, and city building officials.  I work on the construction drawings to make sure it designed correctly. I also handle problems as they arise throughout the design and construction process.

What do you like most about your job?
Architecture is the best of both worlds. It's very creative and also very technical. Also as a business owner, It's exciting to work with clients and bring new projects into fruition. I love seeing something start from an idea and end up being built and standing for years and years. When you are driving by a building or project you had a hand in designing, it gives you a sense of pride. It's great being able to see people using and enjoying "your" work. It's a very good visual reminder of the difference you are able to make to your community or the personal lives of others.

What are the disadvantages of your work?
One of the strong disadvantages is that there is a ton to know. You need to know everything from design, to construction, to engineering, to business skills. It takes years and years to get to a place where you feel comfortable with your skill set.

What is it like to work at your job when you first began?
When I first started in the architecture industry I started as a drafter. It was difficult to know how to draw up a set of construction documents if you don't understand the construction process. As every project is unique and often has different construction means and methods,  being comfortable and gaining the necessary knowledge is a process that takes a long time.

What is it like to work at your job after years of experience?
With years of experience architects move from doing construction documents to overseeing entire projects built and having more of a leadership role in a firm. An architect must know about local building codes and regulations to make sure that a building is right for the area, and meets all the necessary building requirements. This often means that architects need  to meet and work with local government officials. The more experience you have the more you are able to see problems that may arise in a project before they occur, thus helping to move projects through the process while avoiding costly delays.

How does your job affect your lifestyle (family life, leisure time, social life, vacations, material possessions, personal happiness, etc.)?
Architects work really hard. They usually have long hours away from family. But I think architects usually love what they do so they enjoy it. Architects are seen by most as being rich or having a lot of money. This is not necessarily the case. Usually you can make a good living, If you stay with it and become the head of a firm then your pay increases dramatically. Architects often overwork themselves or don't give themselves a chance to go on vacations. Architects usually do love to go on vacations because everywhere you go there are different types of buildings and spaces to see. Architects most often have to live in the city where things are being built.

What opportunities exist for advancement in terms of money, responsibility or personal growth?
The same as any other professional occupation. The more you work, the more experience you gain, the more responsibility you take on the more money and opportunities will come your way.

What type of training is best for this job?
There are very strict guidelines to become a licensed architect. First you must receive a Master's Degree in Architecture from an accredited university. After graduating you have to intern under a licensed architect for three years doing various tasks. Then you have to take a series of  intense tests. These tests confirm that you know about structural design, mechanical and electrical design, site design, seismic design, general building codes and building law.

How do people find out about openings in this work?
Online, in the newspaper, personal or professional connections with architecture professionals.

If you were to hire someone to do your job, what qualifications would you look for?
I would look for ability to think creatively, ability to solve problems, manage a lot projects at the same time. They would have to be a licensed architect and love architecture and building.

What are some related jobs that you could do with your training?
As an architect you gain a lot of knowledge about construction. You could work with builders and contractors.
Architects also work with government (state, and local) officials who set up building and zoning codes. Most cities have architectural professionals that work with them to determine the best codes.
Architects, now a days, know a lot about 3D modeling. So some architecture students are now working for Disney or others doing animation films and set design.

If you had to do it over, would you make the same career choice? Why?
I believe I would make the same choices I have made. Studying architecture has opened the doors to many more opportunities. It also provides a good lifestyle that fits me and my family. Being my own boss has allowed me to be home when I want and need to.

How many years have you worked at this job?
But I've been working in the architectural profession for over 16 years.

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