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21 Different Types of Jobs for Architects

Sketch and 3d rendering of a modern house by an architect.

Becoming an architect is far from easy. In the UK, an average of seven years is needed to become a fully licensed architect, and in the US, it takes between eight to eleven years. But after all that studying, work experience, and exams, what types of jobs are out there for architects?

Types of jobs for architects include commercial, conservation, extreme, industrial, landscape, urban, sustainable, and naval.  Architects also find careers in building surveying, town planning, production designers, video game designers, and more.

Training to become an architect requires more than design skills. Architects must also be computer literate, excellent problem solvers, have exemplary organizational skills, great time managers, and be highly organized. All of these traits make them attractive to employers in a wide range of fields.

Job Titles In Architecture

Architect reviewing blueprints on her desk.

The world of architecture contains numerous job titles regardless of field. Common job titles include:

Intern

Internships might not be paid if the person is still studying at university. But this can also be a paid position for unlicensed architects who have a degree. The position may indicate how many years post-graduation, such as “Third-Year Intern.”

Drafter

This position is sometimes available to those with a certificate rather than a full architecture degree. However, some unlicensed architects who, for whatever reason, never went through the licensing process may be found in these roles.

Some firms do rank the positions, such as having a “Senior Drafter.”

Architect

A licensed architect, usually with five or fewer years of experience.

Senior Architect

A licensed architect, usually with ten or more years of experience. They may have less experienced architects or interns to manage while doing various projects.

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Project Architect / Project Manager

Typically held by a licensed architect with over ten years of experience. Some unlicensed architects with numerous years of experience may also hold the role.

They often work directly with the client and devise the schedule and budget while overseeing the project team. 

Department Head

A senior architect that has various projects under their umbrella. They often report to a principal or partner.

Junior Principal / Vice President

This role is held by someone who has been newly appointed to principal or partner.

Senior Principal / Partner / President

These roles are often held by the architects that founded or own the firm. Larger corporations may promote highly experienced architects to these positions in their various company branches.

10 Types of Architect

While the type of job titles within architecture is pretty standard, the field of architecture is wide. Around the time an architect has become licensed, they typically have found their career focus in one of these industries. However, that isn’t to say that some do not pivot at some point in their career.

Commercial Architect

Commercial architects presenting their model houses.

Commercial architects design buildings that serve the public. Examples include:

  • Educational Buildings and Facilities
  • Fire Stations
  • Hospitals
  • Hotels
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Office Buildings
  • Recreational Centers

Often firms will specialize within this field, focusing on only a few commercial builds. This is because the regulations surrounding these types of buildings, such as hospitals, are incredibly complex. Also, these builds have unique needs. For example, hospitals have special requirements when it comes to doorways, door handles, and elevators.

Take a look at these architecturally acclaimed hospitals.

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Conservation (Restoration) and Preservation Architect

Conservation and Preservation Architecture are related fields but not precisely the same thing. Some firms, however, may specialize in both. Also, architects in this field may find employment as historic buildings inspectors.

A conservation architect is involved in the design, engineering, and construction but must also have knowledge of chemistry, physics, and geology to help restore a building without harming it or doing a disservice to its history.

A preservationist has in-depth knowledge of the laws and public policy and is used in the design and site management.

Historic Buildings Inspector (Conservation Officer)

Building inspectors are part of any building work. They ensure that all laws and rules are being followed by anyone involved in a build, including architects and construction companies.

However, when it comes to certain historical sites, different preservation laws exist that do not apply to new builds. This is knowledge many architects in conservation and preservation have; thus, they are suited to this role.

Extreme Architect

Extreme architects specialize in designing buildings in incredibly challenging climates, such as the severe cold of Antarctica and deserts. Thanks to climate change, this is a growing field and is perfect for people who enjoy a challenge.

You can view more examples of this functional art form here and here.

Industrial Architect

Industrial architect discussing project with foreman at a construction site.

Industrial architecture focuses on designs with high safety protocols in manufacturing and industry. Examples include:

  • Breweries
  • Grain Silos
  • Power Stations
  • Refineries
  • Steel Mills
  • Terminals
  • Warehouses
  • Water Towers

Functionality and practicality do not mean these buildings can’t be beautiful. Check out Bertolottie Vial Machinery and Office Warehouse, Taproom Bierhaus, and Duichuan Tea Yards.

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Interior Architect

Interior architects sketching and rendering a room on a laptop.

Interior architects are different from interior designers. While these licensed architects have knowledge on the impact of colors and décor choices, they also have skills in structural elements. The latter is a highly technical science-based skill. In addition, they must be up to date on building codes, including plumbing and electrical needs.

You can find some fabulous examples of interior architecture on IA Interior Architects’ Instagram page.

Landscape Architect

Landscape architect designing a pool on his drafting desk.

Landscape architects are licensed architects, not to be confused with landscapers. Landscape architects tend to design public and commercial outdoor spaces, where landscapers tend to focus on outdoor residential spaces.

While a landscape architect must understand plants and aesthetics like any landscaper, they also have to have technical, structural knowledge. Examples include:

  • Retaining Walls
  • Outdoor structures (e.g., Gazebos, Open-air Theaters)
  • Irrigation and Drainage Systems
  • Parking, Driveways, Service Entries

Check out the 2020 ASLA General Design Category Winner Cultural Crossing project.

Naval Architect

A page from a book showing illustration of a vessel.

A naval architect specializes in maritime builds, from shipping vessels, offshore drilling, dredging, and transportation.

It is important to note that naval architects are a type of engineer. In the UK, the standards and qualifications are set by The Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA). Thus, those looking to get into this fascinating career must focus on engineering rather than a school of architecture and follow the training advice by the RINA.

Residential Architect

Residential architect working on his model houses and blueprints.

Residential architects design homes and buildings for people to live in. This is usually the type of architect that comes to mind by the general population. A famous name in this field is Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Famous and acclaimed residential architecture can be viewed here and here.

Sustainable (Green) Architect

Sustainable architect discussing solar project with a worker in the office.

Sustainable architects, also known as green architects, consider the surrounding landscape and incorporate the natural resources into the build. Rather than clear a space to build, sustainable architecture tries to work with the landscape and minimize damage while also maintaining a vision of the future.

Some acclaimed sustainable architects include:

  • Brinda Somaya
  • Fran Bradshaw
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Ken Yeang
  • Norman Foster
  • Peter Busby
  • Renzo Piano
  • Sue Riddlestone
  • Sofie Pelsmakers

You can view acclaimed and innovative sustainable designs here and here.

Urban Designer

Urban designer working on large drawings in an industrial office.

Urban designers are not required to be a licensed architects in some areas. Architects who are specialists in this field are big picture people, looking at a space as a whole rather than a specific building. It is a consideration of how an entire district or community will work and flow as a whole.

Some famous names in the field include:

  • Andrés Duany
  • Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk
  • Jane Jacobs
  • Janette Sadik-Khan
  • Le Corbusier
  • Rem Koolhaas
  • Richard Florida

11 Jobs For Architects Outside of Architecture

Architects are not limited to working within their designated field. Their skills and artistic eye allow them to excel in other careers.

Architecture Photography

Architectural photography is a career where a person photographs buildings and other structures. To do it well, the person must have an eye for light and design and the angles that best showcase these elements. In addition, they must have methods to deal with distortion and have creative ways to bring perspective and proportion. 

Professional architecture photographers are hired for brochures, websites, and magazines.  They do not have to be architects to succeed in the field but must have exceptional photography skills.

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Well know architecture photographers include:

  • Andrew Prokos
  • Berenice Abbot
  • Carol McKinney Highsmith
  • Frederick H. Evans
  • Iwan Baan
  • Janie Airey
  • Julia Anna Gospodarou
  • Julius Shulan
  • Kerstin Arnemann
  • Wolfgang George Sievers

Artists

An artist creating a model modern house.

Many young artists are encouraged and pushed into architecture as a “practical choice” for their natural talent. But loving to create art does not necessarily translate to a love of designing buildings. Aside from a lack of time, nothing restricts an architect from pursuing other artistic forms outside the day job.

Accomplished artists with an architecture background include:

  • Frank Gehry
  • Frederick Kiesler
  • Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini
  • Le Corbusier
  • Maya Lin
  • Michelangelo
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Zaha Hadid

Building Surveyor

Back profile of a building surveyor inspecting the building.

Building surveyors are the people responsible for assessing the quality of buildings such as homes, office buildings, and factories. One key responsibility is ensuring a structure is safe and up to code, including its electrics and plumbing.

Other responsibilities include:

  • Quality Controller
  • Energy Specialist
  • Project Management
  • Administration
  • Historical Knowledge

Qualifications required to be a building surveyor depend on the country. Generally, a degree is necessary in building surveying, civil engineering, construction management, or architecture. Then an additional certification process is needed for full accreditation.

Furniture Designer

Furniture designer sanding a chair frame in his woodwork studio.

Furniture design is a good pairing for an architect. Some contemporary architects do both, such as Frank Gehry. Furniture is practical load-bearing art that is used by people, just like buildings.

Other architects who have turned to furniture design or do both includes:

  • Arne Jacobsen
  • David Adjaye
  • Eero Saarinen
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Giancarlo Valle
  • Zaha Hadid

Graphic Designer

Graphic designer holding a color swatch sample as she works on her computer.

Given that architects have to be artists and be technologically savvy, it is no surprise that many have a flair for graphic design.

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Some architects who have succeeded as graphic designers are:

  • Bob Noorda
  • Barbara Stauffacher Solomon
  • Herbert Bayer
  • Massimo Vignelli
  • Max Bill

Interior and Spatial Designer

Unlike being an interior architect, you do not need to be fully licensed to be an interior or spatial designer. The architecture degree will help in this field, of course, but obtaining the full license is only necessary if you wish to make structural changes without subcontracting.

Interior and spatial designers help set and furnish spaces both in residential, commercial, and recreational spaces. In addition, they can advise and design for furnishings, fixtures, fittings, color schemes, and lighting systems.

Lighting Designer (Architect)

Lighting designer holding a light bulb while working on his laptop.

Lightening designers, sometimes called lighting architects, are both technicians and artists. Many lighting designers work in the visual arts, especially within the theater industry. However, they will also work in building and design, ensuring spaces are lit to enhance the aesthetic while being functional and energy-efficient.

While a degree in architecture is not required, those wishing to enter the business would do well to acquire training in technical theater, photography, electronics, or study lighting design.

Production Designer

Production designer with a pen on his hand working on chair models.

Production designers are people who help set a stage or film set. It is a way of helping to tell stories through spatial design and concepts. It is a collaborative occupation that uses skills a trained architect would possess.

The most significant difference between production design and architecture is that they must bow to different realities. Architects deal with daily reality, where production designers can mold truth into the fiction of the tale.

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Yet production designers must consider where cameras and other equipment such as lighting and microphones will need to be placed. When it comes to the stage, the audience’s vantage points are factors of utmost importance.

Textile Designer

Textile designer checking fabric quality on a white desk.

Textile designers create the fabrics that form the basis of decors, such as furnishings, clothing, and wall coverings. While a degree in fashion, textiles, or surface design is preferred, architects can pivot into the field with tenacity, talent, and good networking.

Tom Ford, a famous fashion designer, studied architecture in Paris before switching over to Paris. It’s all about having an eye, creativity, and being able to work on a deadline within the confines of a budget.

Video Game Designer

Video game designers creating graphics of modern video game.

Architects are becoming popular in the development of video games, especially with the emergence of VR technology. Games such as Assassins Creed II and LA Noire have consulted architects and designers during their creation.

Some architects who have worked in the gaming world include:

  • Catrina Stewart
  • Dan Van Buren
  • Jose Sanchez
  • Maia Levinshtein
  • Maria Elisa Navarro

Town Planner

Town planners oversee the design and development of areas in their communities and assess the environmental and economic impact of proposed projects. The role does require a degree, although not necessarily in architecture. Some universities offer degrees specifically in urban and regional planning. 

Town planners, sometimes known as urban planners, are typically employees in a community and their work and often are civil servants (work for the local government). Town planners have to see beyond a specific project and consider the needs of the entire city or town.

This is different from an urban designer who may work for a private company and is hired for a specific project, which may not necessarily be taking place in their local community.


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