Careers in Architecture

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

Within the traditional architecture firm, you may obtain a beginning position as an intern and progress to junior designer, project architect, and eventually, associate or principal.

You 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, 2015)


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.

Careers - Beyond Architecture

Careers in Architecture and Beyond

An architectural education is excellent preparation for many career paths beyond architecture.  In fact, the career possibilities with an architectural education are truly limitless.  Anecdotal estimates suggest that only one-half of architectural graduates pursue licensure.

Career paths beyond traditional practice tap into the creative thinking and problem-solving skills developed from an architectural education.  The interest in these paths is growing; the results of the most recent AIA/NCARB Internship and Career Survey of interns and emerging professionals indicate that nearly one-fifth of the respondents do not plan on pursuing a traditional career in architecture although they still plan to obtain their license.

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:


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


  • Engineering and Technical
  • Related Professional
  • Development and Construction
  • Art and Design
  • Entrepreneurship / Consulting
  • Social Impact Design
  • User Experience

Over the last few years, Archinect, an online forum for architecture, has featured over 25 architects who have applied their backgrounds in architecture to other careers fields through its “Working out of the Box" series.  While most are still connected to design, the range of career fields is quite diverse – filmmaker, organic farmer, artist, design director at a resort hotel chain, user experience designer, information designer and design technology consulting.  Also, the reasons for pursuing these are varied and typically not tied to the recent economic down turn.

Robert Douglas, FAIA studied non-traditional careers (maverick architects) and found those that he studied credited “design thinking” as helpful in their careers beyond architecture.  From his research, architectural graduates and architects pursued careers in law, investment banking and real estate development, computer software, lighting design, film production and set design, cultural policy, architectural criticism and journalism, facilities planning, land planning and management, industrial and product design, arts programming, structural engineering, highway design, public arts installation, architectural photography, painting and sculpture, and clothing design.