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The design of a building involves far more than its appearance. Buildings must also be functional, safe, and economical and must suit the needs of the people who use them. Architects take all these things into consideration when they design buildings.

Architects provide a wide variety of professional services to individuals and organizations planning building projects. They may be involved in all phases of development, from the initial discussion of general ideas with the client through construction. Their duties require a variety of skills--design, engineering, managerial, and supervisory.

The architect and client first discuss the purposes, requirements, and cost of a project. Based on the discussions, the architect prepares a program--a report specifying the requirements the design must meet. The architect then prepares drawings presenting ideas for meeting the client's needs.

After the initial proposals are discussed and accepted, the architect develops final construction documents. These documents show the floor plans, elevations, building sections, and other construction details. Accompanying these are drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; plumbing; and possibly landscape plans. Architects also specify the building materials, and in some cases, the interior furnishings. In developing designs, architects follow building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those that require easy access by handicapped persons. Throughout the planning stage, the architect makes necessary changes.

The architect may also assist the client in obtaining bids, selecting a contractor, and negotiating the construction contract. As construction proceeds, the client may employ the architect to visit the building site to ensure that the contractor is following the design, using the specified standards for the quality of work. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are made, and construction costs are paid.

Architects design a wide variety of buildings, such as churches, factories, hospitals, houses, office and apartment buildings, schools, and airport terminals. They also design multibuilding complexes such as urban renewal projects, college campuses, industrial parks, and new towns. Besides designing buildings, architects may select building sites, prepare cost and land-use studies, and do long-range planning for land development.

On large projects or in large architectural firms, architects often specialize in one phase of the work, such as design or administering construction contracts. This often requires working with engineers, urban planners, interior designers, landscape architects, and others.

Working Conditions

Architects generally work in a comfortable environment. Most of their time is spent in offices advising clients, developing reports and drawings, and working with other architects and engineers. However, they also often work at construction sites reviewing the progress of projects.

Architects may work under great stress to meet deadlines, and working nights and weekends is common.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

All States and the District of Columbia require individuals to be registered (licensed) before they may call themselves architects or contract for providing architectural services. To qualify for the registration examination, a person generally must have at least a Bachelor of Architecture degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board and 3 years of acceptable experience in an architect's office. Many States have adopted standards for this 3-year period which are identical to the training and experience provided in the Intern Architect Development Program, an apprenticeship program for architects. Many architecture school graduates work in the field even through they are not registered. However, a registered architect is required to take legal responsibility for all work.

In 1986, the National Architectural Accrediting Board accredited the programs of 93 architectural schools. Most offer 5-year programs leading to the Bachelor of Architecture degree. Others offer 6-year Master of Architecture programs. In the 6-year programs, a non-professional bachelor's degree is usually awarded after 4 years. Students also may transfer to professional degree programs after completing a 2-year junior or community college program in architecture. Many architecture schools also offer graduate education for those who already have a bachelor's degree in architecture or other areas. Although graduate education is not essential for practicing architects, it is desirable for research, teaching, and certain specialties. A typical college architecture program includes courses in architectural history and theory, building design, including its technical and legal aspects, and science and liberal arts.

Contrary to what many believe, persons planning a career in architecture do not necessarily need a high level of artistic or drawing ability. Although architects must be able to make drawings of proposed buildings, this is a skill which can be taught to most people. However, architects do need the ability to visualize spatial relationships and should have a capacity for solving technical problems. Mathematical ability is also important. Students who work for architects, engineers, or building contractors during summer vacations can gain useful experience.

New graduates begin in architectural firms, where they assist in preparing architectural plans. They also may administer construction contracts; do research on building codes and materials; or write specifications for building materials, the method of installation, the quality of finishes, and many other related details. Graduates with degrees in architecture also enter other related fields such as graphic, interior, or industrial design, urban planning, civil engineering, or construction. In large firms, architects may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Some architects become partners in established firms. Often, however, the goal of many architects is to have their own firm.

Employment of architects are expected to be good through the year 2000 because employed is expected to rise faster than the average for all occupations and the number of degrees granted in architecture is not expected to increase significantly. However, demand for architects is highly dependent upon the local level of construction, particularly of nonresidential structures such as office buildings and shopping centers. Although rapid growth in this area is expected, construction is sensitive to cyclical changes in the economy. During recessions or slow periods for construction, architects will face competition for job openings or clients, and layoffs may occur. Even in good times, there may be areas of the country with poor opportunities.

Regardless of economic conditions, there will continue to be competition for jobs in the most prestigious firms which offer good potential for career advancement. Although the increasing use of computer technologies such as computer-aided design increases efficiency, employment is not expected to be adversely affected because computer technologies are being used to improve the quality of building designs rather than to reduce the need for architects.

Although employment is expected to rise faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2000, most job openings are expected to arise as architects transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Architects who are partners in well-established architectural firms or solo practitioners generally earn much more than their salaried employees, but their income may fluctuate due to changing business conditions. Architects may have difficulty getting established in their own practices and may go through a period when their expenses are greater than their income.

Architects are concerned with the design and construction of buildings and related structures. Others who engage in similar work are landscape architects, building contractors, civil engineers, urban planners, interior designers, industrial designers, drafters, and surveyors.