What do a municipal plaza, skyscrapers across a skyline, a cozy home, a landscaped city street, and an amusement park have in common? They started off as an idea in someone’s brain. That someone is an architect.
What does an architect do? The common vision of an architect is someone hunched over a drawing board with T-square and pencil in hand. But these professionals do so much more than pencil out plans, designs, and blueprints. Architects influence many fields, including urban planning, civil engineering, exterior landscapes, and more.
Furthermore, architects are highly trained; requirements for this career include, at the very least, a bachelor’s degree.
A bachelor’s degree in architecture offers two things: a higher salary and an unemployment hedge1. Additionally, a master’s degree in architecture leads to greater employability and an even higher salary2.
What follows is an in-depth look at the field of architecture, educational requirements, and what else is necessary to succeed in this profession.
Highest Paying Architecture Jobs
Anyone deciding on architecture as a profession has a variety of career paths from which to choose. Here are the top ten highest-paying architecture jobs3,4.
Lighting Architects Average Annual Salary: $126,065
Earning $126,065 annually, lighting architects design and develop illumination and lighting structures both inside building structures and metropolitan areas. These professionals work with civil engineers on developing light systems in public areas. They can also collaborate with designers and others in the private sector to develop proper lighting in residences and commercial buildings.
Planning Engineer Average Annual Salary: $100,080
With a national average salary of $100,080 annually, planning engineers and architects create and implement processes on structural projects (such as buildings). These professionals oversee and develop master building plans and areas, including new construction and renovations.
Sustainability Architect Average Annual Salary: $91,938
Earning $91,938 per year on average, sustainability architects focus on planning and developing environmentally friendly structures. These professionals produce designs that require sustainable materials. They also create plans for energy-efficient structures.
Architectural Project Manager Average Annual Salary: $90,917
Architectural project managers earn $90,917 on average and are responsible for overseeing architectural projects for their companies. Their responsibilities include managing all aspects of the specific project, such as directing teams, delegating tasks, and providing ongoing feedback throughout the project.
Site Architect Average Annual Salary: $87,557
Site architects earn $87,557 a year on average. Responsibilities include both creating a construction project’s design and overseeing the conversion of that design to physical reality. The site architect is responsible for creating the basic structure design and works with fabricators that convert those plans to detailed drawings.
Project Architect Average Annual Salary: $84,102
Project architects earn an average annual salary of $84,102. These professionals oversee architectural elements of a particular design while the project is in development. Specifically, project architects focus on developing specifications, plans, and blueprints.
Building Architect Average Annual Salary: $80,758
Earning $80,758 a year on average, the building architect plans and designs specific building elements. These professionals work in different industries, such as government sectors, private firms, and public and municipal organizations. They typically design private and public structures, plazas, and complexes.
Specification Manager Average Annual Salary: $77,854
Specification managers earn $77,854 a year on average. They are architectural professionals who develop, coordinate, and manage a project’s design aspects. They can also use computer software to create project diagrams and models.
Urban Planner Average Annual Salary: $75,950
Urban and regional planners earn an average annual salary of $75,950. These professionals develop land use plans and programs, which are the foundations for communities that accommodate population growth. These efforts also assist with infrastructure, building placement, and other features.
Landscape Architect Average Annual Salary: $70,630
Landscape architects earn $70,630 per year, on average. Their jobs include any form of outside design, such as parks and other exterior spaces.
Popular Career Paths With an Architecture Degree
Architects are responsible for designing places where people can live, work, and play. They focus on public and private projects, creating interior or exterior spaces. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that architects design everything from a single room to a collection of buildings5. As such, graduates with a degree have access to many careers in architecture.
Architects can spend much of their time in offices as well as on construction sites. Important skills for this job include creativity, analytics, and the ability to collaborate with people. This field offers the following varied career paths:
- Local, state, or federal government
- Construction and engineering
- Real estate development
Average Salary for Architecture Graduates
The 2020 median pay for an architect with a bachelor’s degree was $82,320 a year, or $39.58 per hour6. Salary can vary based on geographic location and type of job7. Additionally, architects with masters’ degrees earn more. For example, architectural managers can earn a median income of $149,5308. This advanced degree means more than a higher salary, however. Professionals with this additional education also qualify for leadership and upper management positions in the field.
How to Find a Job After You Graduate
There are typically three steps to a successful architecture career9. First, those interested in this field must complete an undergraduate degree. About two-thirds of states require that architects obtain their degrees from schools accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). In fact, it is difficult to enter the architecture field without an undergraduate architecture degree.
Second, those graduating with an undergraduate degree must obtain relevant experience through a paid internship. In fact, architectural registration boards require this type of internship. These internships last for three years (at minimum). Architecture interns gain on-the-job experience. Their tasks might include assistance in designing a project, as well as preparation of architectural documents and drawings.
While an internship is required, some NAAB-accredited programs have established an Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL). The IPAL program combines education with real-world practice at the same time. This can help shorten a student’s time to certification and a career.
Once education and internships are completed, state licensure is the next step. Individuals must pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)10. The ARE assesses the skills and knowledge of individuals interested in architecture careers. In addition, state boards require licensure, as well as continuing education to maintain that license.
Those who have successfully navigated these three requirements can find jobs through the following methods11:
- Using the American Institute of Architects (AIA) career center
- Researching websites, such as Archinect, Architizer Professional, or Arkitectum
- Tapping into professional networks and associations. In addition to the AIA, other associations include the Association of Licensed Architects, the American Planning Association, and the American Design Drafting Association.
- Asking for recommendations from leaders and managers from the internship experience
Discover More About a Career with an Architecture Degree
How long does it take to prepare for career in architecture?
When planning for a career in architecture, it’s a good idea to assume that the education component will require 4-5 years, while the internship will take a minimum of three years to complete. If you decide to pursue a master’s degree in this field, consider adding two more years.
How do I find the right architecture college?
The best bet is to attend an NAAB-accredited college. Most states require this. The NAAB’s website provides a list of accredited schools and programs.
Can I study architecture online?
Definitely! Online undergraduate and graduate degrees offer the same quality education (taught by experts in the field) as you would find in a physical classroom. An added benefit: You may be able to customize coursework based on your career goals and schedules. Bachelor’s and master’s programs are accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB).
Should I pursue a master’s degree in architecture?
This depends on your salary and career goals. If you want to earn more and are interested in upper-level management architecture jobs, then spending extra time pursuing a master’s degree could be a smart move. There are many well-paying, interesting careers for those holding a bachelor’s degree.
 Great Value Colleges (2020). Top low-cost online bachelor’s in architecture. Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.greatvaluecolleges.net/rankings/online-bachelors-architecture/
 Great Value Colleges (2021). Top low-cost master’s in architecture degree programs. Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.greatvaluecolleges.net/rankings/masters-architecture/
 Indeed.com (2021, February 25). Types of architects and architectural jobs. Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/types-of-architects
 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021, September 8). Similar occupations (architect). Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/architects.htm#tab-8
 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021, September 8). What architects do. Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/types-of-architectshttps://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/architects.htm#tab-2
 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021, September 8). Architects. Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/architects.htm
 OnlineSchoolCenter (2021). What kind of salary can I expect as an architect with an online Bachelor of Architecture degree? Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.onlineschoolscenter.com/salary-architect/
 Great Value Colleges; Top low-cost master’s in architecture degree programs.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021, September 8). How to become an architect. Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/architects.htm#tab-4
 National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (2021). Pass the ARE. Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.ncarb.org/pass-the-are
 National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (2014, March 23). Best websites for finding architecture jobs. Retrieved October 28, 2021 from https://www.ncarb.org/blog/best-websites-finding-architecture-jobs