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Here’s what you need to know to be an architect

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Miami skyscraper One Thousand Museum is one of Zaha Hadid's architect's last buildings. Source: Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP

From the Hagia Sophia in Turkey to the Guggenheim in New York, famous landmarks around the world are conceptualised, designed and built by architects. Their first step was to study architecture, before moving on to create their masterpieces, one at a time. Zaha Hadid, bulldozing the way for females in this male-dominated field, is one of them. She designed some of the most iconic buildings in cities all around the world: Guangzhou opera house, aquatics centre for the London Olympics and the Dongdaemun in Seoul. 

What does it take to follow in her footsteps and study architecture? It’s so much more than being an artist. Not only do you have to focus on what their design will look like, you will also have to think about safety and functionality alongside budgets and the needs of people who will use your design. To study architecture, technical skills, soft skills and creativity are necessary — if you can’t visualise easily, it will be challenging. You, however, stand to leave a legacy in the built environment. Below we take a look what you’d need to study architecture:

Degrees you will need

You’ll need a professional-level degree from a programme with accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). These are typically known as Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) and Master of Architecture (M.Arch.). 

study architecture

Streetlights in the Sultanahmet square with the Hagia Sophia mosque in the background in Istanbul. Source: Ozan Kose/AFP

A B.Arch. is earned at a university or if a student has studied for more than five years at an accredited architectural school, they are awarded this degree. A M.Arch. for students without a B.Arch., if you have an undergrad degree in another subject, you don’t need a B.Arch. and can straight away start studying for your masters.

If you have a pre-professional bachelor’s — a BSc or BA in architecture or architectural history — you can apply for your M.Arch. This would take about two years since you already completed your foundation coursework in college. 

Entry requirements to study architecture

At the undergraduate level, you’ll likely need to submit your SAT or ACT scores, or their equivalent, as well as a portfolio. To apply for a master’s programme, you’d need an undergraduate transcript, GRE scores and letters of reference, along with a letter on why you want to enrol. 

Coursework details

The typical modules when you study architecture include architectural design, environmental systems, history of architecture, building science and technology, calculus for architecture and visualisation. There are also post-professional master’s or doctoral degree programmes in highly specialised areas like ecology, urban studies and applied research. 

study architecture

A picture shows the Generali tower on the left, also called Hadid tower, in western Milan. Source: Miguel Medina/AFP

Getting a licence to be an architect

Getting a licence by the architectural review board in the jurisdiction you want to practice in is essential. This is done in the US by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) which enforces national standards for architectural licensure. 

Before you get your license, practical work under the supervision of licensed architects will be required to prove that you’re really in it to win it. Do you think it’s worth it? In the UK, the average salary in 2020 for a licensed architect (who’s studied for a degree for a minimum of five years) is 40,000 pounds.

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