2 April 2024

Becoming an Architect – The Career Pathway Guide

A route map for the architectural highways

What motivates people to become architects?

Well, RIBA’s Director of Education and Learning, Dr Jenny Russell, recently put it like this:

“As an architect, you will change the world – quite literally, being responsible for the creation of our built environment, and designing the buildings that surround us and enclose us. Studying architecture is an extraordinary opportunity giving you the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives, impact communities, and directly tackle the climate emergency.”

And in case world domination isn’t enough to inspire you, RIBA has got all cosy with Found Futures to produce this short film. It features students at various stages in their architectural journey, who talk about where they are and how they got there.

If this has got you interested, then read on, because we’ve put together a career pathway guide on where you go from here to become an architect.

But before we start, there are two UK organisations that you need to get acquainted with right now.

We’ve just been rattling on about the first one, RIBA, which leads us nicely to your first ‘need to know’ – RIBA stands for the Royal Institute of British Architects. Incidentally, RIBA’s web address is architecture.com, which is probably the coolest in the industry.

The second big name is the ARB, AKA the Architects Registration Board. This organisation regulates the UK’s architectural profession, and it doesn’t get more serious than this. You’ve got to register with the ARB to use the title ‘architect’, and that’s not even for starters. Any course you take during your professional training had better be approved by it, or you’ve been wasting your time and money.

So, introductions over, what’s next?


Routes to becoming an architect

To cut a long story short, the current route involves completion of three qualifications – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 – plus an additional two years of practical experience.

This is the typical route, and means committing yourself to seven years of training – so that’s five years at university, as well as the two years’ practical experience. If that’s the short story, then the longer version goes like this:


Part 1

This is the foundation, and there are three ways you can achieve it:

  1. Take an approved first degree in architecture, lasting three or four years. It’s important that you do your research for this, but to make life easier, the ARB has published this full list of approved schools and institutions. It even includes links and phone numbers, so it couldn’t be easier.
  2. The work-based RIBA Studio route. This is delivered in conjunction with Oxford Brookes University, and is only open to candidates who have at least three years’ worth of experience working in an architectural practice. The great thing about this RIBA initiative is that not only does RIBA Studio offer a Foundation in Architecture course, but also allows students to work full time in practice, so retaining their salaries whilst gaining their RIBA Part 1 or RIBA Part 2 qualifications.
  3. Take an Architectural Apprenticeship. There are two types of degree apprenticeships available: the first type is the one for newbies – this is the Level 6 Architectural Assistant Apprenticeship and it includes a Part 1 degree qualification; the second type is for later, and is the Level 7 Architect Apprenticeship. This includes both the Part 2 and Part 3 qualifications. The apprenticeships each take four years, but the obvious and worthy benefit is that you don’t pay tuition fees and you earn a salary while you qualify.


Stage 1 Practical Experience

After you’ve completed Part 1, the next stage involves 12 months of supervised and recorded professional experience. Most students focus on a place in an architects’ practice, but any area of the building industry can give you this experience. This includes construction and design, the only criteria being that the work’s related to architecture and is supervised by an industry professional.


Part 2

This stage is an essential further two years of study, which takes your architectural knowledge to a much deeper level. This can be completed either at university, or as work-based study. The end-point is the award of a B.Arch or M.Arch, or a RIBA Diploma.

Phew, you say! Well no, not yet. But the great news is you’re very nearly there.


Stage 2 Practical Experience

The point of Stage 2 is to give you a minimum of 12 further months of supervised and recorded professional experience. You’ll then have the full 24 months experience needed to sit the Part 3 examination.


Part 3

The examination is all about professional practice and management. It consists of a written and oral examination, as well as the all-important assessment of your 24 months of practical experience.



You’ve finally done it. With your Part 3 examination complete, you can officially register as an architect with the ARB (accreditation) and join RIBA as a Chartered Architect (validation).


Coming to the UK

If you qualified as an architect outside the UK or EU, you still need to be ARB approved. It will assess your qualifications (even if they’re RIBA-validated) for equivalence to the UK Parts 1 and 2. On top of that, you’ll need to complete the UK Part 3 to be able to apply for registration with ARB. The good news is that the ARB now has agreements with the USA, Australia and New Zealand – click here for the critical lowdown on this.


Time for a career switch?

Even if you currently work in a related industry such as interior design, engineering, or even as an architectural technologist, there’s no quick fix. The upside is that you already have valuable insight and experience, but as you’d expect, the standards are rigidly high. But don’t lose heart, because with the RIBA Studio and Apprenticeship routes, you won’t have to kiss goodbye to your salary and grown-up friends. Also, with the ongoing ARB reform of architectural education, you never know what’s around the corner, so keep checking the ARB’s news releases.


Architectural training embraces equality

If you think you’d love architecture, but your background or gender would hold you back, then a brilliant organisation called HomeGrown Plus is delighted to tell you that the industry is rapidly evolving – and all for the better.

Carmel Simmonds, an apprentice architect, recently talked to Architecture Today about her experiences with HomeGrown Plus:

“HomeGrown Plus is a non-profit organisation whose primary goal is to champion individuals from non-traditional backgrounds in architecture; educating and inspiring future generations. I first encountered the foundation through the student exchange program in 2022. As one of ten students, I spent ten days in New York, visiting a range of architectural studios, participating in a short course at The Pratt Institute School of Architecture, and exploring the city. Similar to apprenticeships, HomeGrown Plus represents a new wave of accessibility, challenging centuries of elitism.”

And to underline this, RIBA recently welcomed its first female Chief Executive, Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick, who is championing increased gender diversity in architecture.

Meanwhile, RIBA’s current President, the übertalented Muyiwa Oki, is holding two torches as not only the first Black appointee to the role, but also the youngest.

That’s not the only good news. Another organisation called The Pay 100 is fighting for a living wage for fresh graduates, which reflects the years of determination and hard work it takes to qualify.

In a nutshell, there’s never been a better time to break into the architectural game.


Are you architecture’s future?

Are you already qualified? Plus, do you have what it takes to get noticed within the world of architecture? Great – because we’ve got the kind of job vacancies which will keep you awake at night. And if you’re an architectural firm looking for the best people the business has to offer, you’ll find them on our books. The mustard BE team is waiting for your call – the number to dial is 0117 929 6060.

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