What can you do with an architecture degree?

An essential guide if you are considering studying architecture at college

September 16 2016
Why study architecture?

What is architecture?

Architecture, building and planning courses are renowned for educating students to imagine, design and construct the streets and buildings of the future. 

The term architecture is used to describe physical structures, such as buildings, however it also describes the technicalities of designing those buildings, as well as the method of construction. 

Studying an architecture degree is challenging but rewarding and can take between three and seven years to complete. Students must be prepared to study for a relatively long period as, essentially, architects design structures for human use and, as a result, are largely responsible for the safety and reliability of those structures.

Find out which top universities offer an architecture degree

To become an architect, students must complete a combination of five years study and two years practical work experience before completing final exams. After completion, students become members of professional architecture organisations such as the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Despite the long study time, it is positive that there’s always a need for new buildings, ensuring promising career prospects and a confident chance that you will always be in demand.

What do you learn in an architecture degree?

Architecture degrees are a highly popular and competitive choice. Studying it at university requires a particular set of skills combining both sides of the brain; creative and logical. Courses draw on elements of mathematics and engineering, alongside creativity and an understanding of modern technologies and cultural trends.

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In comparison to other professions, architects work primarily with their hands and very little is about reading and writing. This aspect is practised from the offset while at university.

The approach differs between universities and you should research the various modules, the possibility of a sandwich year and attend open days. A lot of architecture is taught not in the classroom, but by actually going out seeing it in the real world, so features such as field trips and year abroads are an appealing addition to the curriculum.

Key parts of BA or BSc programmes (bachelor's degrees) include structural engineering, architectural history, principles of environmental design and building material studies. Degrees teach budding architects everything from how to accurately draw 3D designs – both by hand and computer – to design theory.

Some academic institutions, such as the University of Cambridge, concentrate on giving its students a detailed understanding of the history of architecture while others immediately concentrate on the practicalities of the industry. Modern universities, such as Oxford Brookes, focus on management and building skills that prepare its students for running building sites.

An integral part of an architecture degree is the development of practical design skills, meaning that a large proportion of time is spent doing studio-based design project. Drawing skills are developed as well as digital illustration and architectural modelling.

At master's level, students can study straight architecture or go along the route of more specialised courses including architecture and environmental design, interior design or urban design – alongside many others.

What should I study at high school if I want to study architecture?

It is unlikely that you will be able to study architecture prior to university, but it is related to a variety of subjects which are commonplace at school. A historic requirement to have a high grade in mathematics has softened in recent years, but most academic institutions express desire for prospective students to have studied mathematics, physics, design technology or English.

In order to be considered for architecture most universities required you to have achieved or be predicted top grades at A level, IB or equivalent, since competition for places is very tough. 

In addition, due to the artistic aspect of architecture, most universities require a portfolio of design work which shows your ability to draw freehand and create 3D models. This, for many, can be the most important aspect of your university application. The majority of prospective architecture students are invited to be interviewed by universities.

What do people who study architecture do after graduation?

Once students have completed up to seven years' worth of training, architects can choose whether they want to work for themselves on a self-employed basis, or together in a partnership with larger companies on fixed salaries. 

Salaries depend largely on the type of role and location, but qualified and registered architects can expect to earn around £30,000 while those with three to five years experience can expect to earn around £40,000.

While most students who study architecture will go on to become licensed architects and practice professionally in the field, there are many alternatives. Using the skills developed, you can move into other industries, which can include roles in spatial design, graphic design, set design for stage and film, building surveying, housing policy and conservation and environmental work. Moreover specialist journals and publications relating to architecture or the construction industry in general will often seek out architecture graduates.

Which famous people studied architecture?

Perhaps a representation of the diversity of talents within architecture, household names like actors Samuel L. Jackson and Courteney Cox found their footing within architecture prior to finding their success in other fields.

Other famous names who studied architecture include George Takei of Star Trek fame, creative director of fashion house John Galliano and American rapper Ice Cube.

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