Career Paths

Pursuing architecture prepares an individual for a vast array of career possibilities.  Many of these are within traditional architectural practice, but many are also available in related career fields.

Within the traditional architecture firm, graduates may obtain a beginning position as an intern and progress to junior designer, project architect, and eventually, associate or principal.  Getting to the top does not happen overnight; it can take a lifetime. Aspiring professionals may pursue careers in traditional firms regardless of their size (small, medium, or large) or may choose to work in a different setting, such as a private corporation, a government agency, or a university – or, after obtaining professional licensure, may choose to start their own firm.

Architectural Practice

How does a career in architecture begin?  How does an individual progress from graduation to become an architect? Following the AIA Definition of Architect Positions, the path seems linear, progressing from an emerging professional to architect (see Architect Positions below).

Architect Positions

  • Senior Principal/Partner
  • Mid-Level Principal/Partner
  • Junior Principal/Partner
  • Department Head/Senior Manager
  • Project Manager
  • Senior Architect/Designer
  • Architect/Designer III
  • Architect/Designer II
  • Architect/Designer I
  • Third-Year Intern
  • Second-Year Intern
  • Entry-Level Intern

Source: AIA Definition of Architect Positions (Washington, DC, AIA, 2006)

Of course, the path of a career in architecture is not strictly linear; however, it is helpful to understand these titles with the knowledge and responsibility associated with them as outlined in Dana Cuff’s Architecture: The Story of Practice.  Upon entry into the profession, the intern is building upon their education foundation through practical experience under the supervision of an architect; and the intern is tracking their experience in the Architect Experience Program (AXP), an essential step in becoming an architect. Once licensed, the architect is demonstrating competence, gathering responsibility, and gaining autonomy and management tasks.  When at the full-fledged stage, the architect is gaining fiscal responsibility on a widening sphere of influence.

Outside Traditional Practice

Beyond traditional practice, architects work in a number of other settings. While now exact statistics are kept, it is estimated that one in five architects work outside private practice. Below are some examples:

  • Corporations and Institutions
  • Government and Public Agencies
  • Education and Research
Beyond Architecture
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