California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

   Architects, Except Landscape and Naval in California

May also be called: Architectural Project Managers; Design Architects; Project Architects; and Project Managers

What Would I Do?

Architects* are licensed professionals trained in the art and science of building design. They create the concepts for structures and turn those concepts into images and plans. Architects design and oversee the construction of buildings, such as homes, hospitals, shopping malls, skyscrapers, and sports complexes. Architects may even design entire communities.

Green Economy: Architects play an important role in the emerging green economy by creating designs that are friendly to the environment and follow smart growth and sustainable design principles. In general, this type of architecture tries to reduce the negative impact of structures on the environment by improving the efficient use of materials, energy, and building space.

Architects spend most of their time in offices meeting with clients; planning the details of a project; and working or consulting with contractors, engineers, environmental consultants, urban planners, or other Architects. They visit proposed building sites to understand existing conditions. They also visit construction sites to monitor the progress of a building or complex. The work of Architects is generally not hazardous; however, when visiting construction sites, they must adhere to safety regulations and wear protective clothing and equipment, such as hardhats, eyewear, and footwear.

Most Architects work a 40-hour week; however, deadlines may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring longer work hours, which may include nights and weekends.

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Architect may appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas, designs, and patterns, as well as activities that require an extensive amount of thinking and reasoning. They also like starting up and carrying out projects.

Aspiring Architects should be creative and detail oriented. They must be able to work independently as well as part of a team. They must also possess decision-making and leadership skills. Effective oral and written communication skills are critical.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Salaries vary by geography, with higher-paying jobs and more work typically found in urban areas. Many Architects are self-employed and set their fees based on a number of factors, such as overhead expenses and competition from other Architects.

The median wage in 2017 for Architects, Except Landscape and Naval in California was $86,581 annually, or $41.62 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2017Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Architects generally receive health and life insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement benefits. Self-employed Architects are responsible for their own benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

The number of Architect jobs is expected to increase over the next several years. Those with a sustainability background and green certifications or credentials (e.g., LEED) may find more job opportunities; however, like many occupations, employment may be sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy.

How Do I Qualify?

There are three main steps in becoming an Architect: the attainment of a professional degree in architecture through a program that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), work experience through an internship, and licensure by passing the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) and the California Supplemental Exam (CSE). The exams are administered by the California Architects Board.

Most Architects earn their professional degree through a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program, which is intended for students with no previous architectural training. Others earn a master’s degree after completing a bachelor’s degree in another field or after completing a preprofessional architecture program. A master’s degree in architecture can take from one to five years to complete depending on the extent of previous training in architecture.

Most Architects acquire sustainable skills through training seminars, on-the-job training, conferences, and online instruction. Architects should be knowledgeable of the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). The CALGreen will affect new construction projects, including residential and commercial (non-residential) buildings.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Internet job listings, job fairs, college career centers, or architectural associations may also provide job leads. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

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