California Occupational Guides

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Detailed 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.

Creating a structure typically consists of a number of design services, beginning with feasibility studies and proceeding through design development, written specifications, and construction. In large architectural firms, individual Architects may specialize in one or more of these functions. In smaller firms, Architects are likely involved in all three phases or functions.

Architects must understand the client's building needs, wants, and budget. To do this, they meet with and question clients closely to determine what the client envisions. They may also educate and inform clients of the importance of environmentally sustainable practices.

Architects may design structures that incorporate environmentally friendly building practices, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), to conserve energy or water or to eliminate surface runoff contaminants or other adverse environmental impacts. They may calculate energy savings by comparing energy consumption of a proposed design to baseline standards. They may also analyze energy efficiency and conservation to design zero-energy homes. Their designs may include the use of solar panels, wind energy, and organic building materials; the collection and use of rainwater; and window structure and placement to achieve the greatest energy efficiency. Architects must design structures that meet safety, environmental, or government regulations.

Architects document the design concept. They prepare and provide contractors with detailed drawings of the structure's components, such as the structural; electrical; plumbing; and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. They put design language into construction terms so the instructions are easy for contractors to follow. They may assist clients in obtaining construction bids, selecting contractors, and negotiating contracts. They check on the progress of the work during construction to ensure that contractors follow the design plans, use the specified materials, and adhere to the construction schedule.

It is common for Architects to focus on specific areas of their profession. Many concentrate on certain project types, such as health care, retail, or public housing. Some specialize in one or more aspects of the job, such as building codes, sustainable design, or accessibility. Others may specialize in retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, historic preservation, or to withstand earthquakes (seismic retrofit).

Tools and Technology

Architects use tools such as dividers, compasses, arm and track drafting machines, diazo and engineering copiers, and parallel straightedges, as well as analytic tools for energy measurement and reduction. Architects use a variety of technological instruments and software, including computer-aided design (CAD), document management, graphics, project management, spreadsheet, and word processing.

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.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

*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.

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Consult with client to determine functional and spatial requirements of structure.Active Listening
Inspect proposed building sites to determine suitability for construction.Building and Construction
Perform predesign services, such as feasibility or environmental impact studies.Law and Government
Direct activities of workers engaged in preparing drawings and specification documents.Management of Personnel Resources
Create three-dimensional or interactive representations of designs, using computer assisted design software.Computers and Electronics
Prepare scale drawings.Visualization
Design environmentally sound structural upgrades to existing buildings, such as natural lighting systems, green roofs, or rainwater collections systems.Design
Meet with clients to review or discuss architectural drawings.Oral Expression
Prepare information regarding design, structure specifications, materials, color, equipment, estimated costs, operational efficiency, environmental sustainability, or construction time.Written Expression
Integrate engineering element into unified design.Engineering and Technology
Develop final construction plans that include aesthetic representations of the structure or details for its construction.Originality
Administer construction contracts.Administration and Management
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

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.

Architects are typically not members of labor organizations; however, those who work for government agencies may belong to a union. Architects may join professional associations, such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) or the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD).

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.

Wages

The median wage in 2015 for Architects, Except Landscape and Naval in California was $86,218 annually, or $41.45 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 2015Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$68,879$86,218$106,061
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2015 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

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.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Architects, Except Landscape and Naval is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Architects, Except Landscape and Naval are expected to increase by 12.8 percent, or 1,700 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Architects, Except Landscape and Naval
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
13,30015,0001,70012.83,200
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 170 new job openings per year is expected for Architects, Except Landscape and Naval, plus an additional 320 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 480 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Architects, Except Landscape and Naval
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
170320480
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

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.

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.

Experience

Many employers require two to five years of experience as an Architect; however, some firms offer entry-level positions for college graduates and provide them with formal or seminar-type training. Entry-level candidates, while under the direction of licensed Architects, gain knowledge and experience and are assigned more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. Senior Architect positions can require seven or more years of experience.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in becoming Architects should take courses in English, mathematics, physics, computer technology, art, and art history, as well as any drafting courses available.

Work-Study Programs

Some colleges and universities help students find work-study programs or internships. Internships are usually paid and are an opportunity for the sponsoring organization to recruit future employees.

Continuing Education

Architects are encouraged to take continuing education courses in order to stay up to date with the latest developments in the field. Several organizations provide continuing education courses, such as the American Institute of Architects Continuing Education Services (AIA/CES). Most Architects acquire sustainable skills through training seminars, on-the-job training, conferences, and online instruction.

In California, Architects are required to complete continuing education courses on disabled access regulations as a condition of license renewal. Those with LEED Professional Credentials require continuing education units every two years. In addition, Architects need to keep current on updates and changes to CALGreen.

Licensing and Certification

Current California law provides that persons who are not licensed as Architects can design certain types of buildings or parts of buildings; however, anyone who uses the title of Architect, or advertises to provide architectural services in California, must be licensed as an Architect by the California Architects Board.

The license requirements are as follows:

  • Eight years of post-secondary education and/or work experience as evaluated by the Board (including at least one year of work experience under the direct supervision of an Architect licensed in a U.S. jurisdiction or two years of work experience under the direct supervision of an Architect registered in a Canadian province)

  • Completion of the Comprehensive Intern Development Program (CIDP) and the Intern Development Program (IDP)

  • Successful completion of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)

  • Successful completion of the California Supplemental Examination (CSE)
To become a candidate for licensure, individuals must first submit an Application for Eligibility Evaluation to the Board to establish eligibility to take the ARE. Candidates are eligible to begin taking the ARE following the completion of five years of education, work experience, or both, and enrolling in the National Council of Architectural Registration Board's (NCARB) Intern Development Program. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Many professional associations offer certificates related to architecture, such as the Certified Professional Building Designer. Certification can help demonstrate a level of competence that may enhance job prospects.

Many Architects, in response to green economic trends, apply for LEED credentials. Architects who are LEED credentialed have shown a complete understanding of green building practices and principles, as well as familiarity with LEED requirements, resources, and processes. The LEED credentialing program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Exams are given by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Architect, Architecture, and Environmental Design.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Architects, Except Landscape and Naval are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Architectural and Engineering Services 68.1%
Local Government 1.6%
State Government 1.6%
Federal Government 1.4%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

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 www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

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

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Architects, Except Landscape and Naval.

  • Architects
  • Architects Commercial & Industrial
  • Architects Residential
  • Architectural Designers
  • Architectural Planning Consultants
  • Architectural Services
  • Construction Consultants Commercial & Industrial

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Within architecture firms, once Architects are licensed and gain experience, they take on assignments that are more complex. In time, they may manage entire projects. In larger firms, Architects may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Some Architects become partners in their firms, while others set up their own businesses or become consultants. A master's or doctorate degree in architecture may lead to teaching opportunities. Building product vendors may hire Architects to represent their products. Architects with computer visualization skills may leave the profession to work in film and game animation.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Architects, Except Landscape and Naval with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Civil EngineersGuide
Commercial and Industrial DesignersProfile
Construction ManagersGuide
Graphic DesignersGuide
Health and Safety Engineers, Except Mining Safety Engineers and InspectorsProfile
Interior DesignersGuide
Landscape ArchitectsProfile
Marine Engineers and Naval ArchitectsProfile
Mechanical EngineersGuide
Set and Exhibit DesignersProfile
Urban and Regional PlannersGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification17-1011
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Architects, Except Landscape and Naval17-1011.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)AIR
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Architecture and Related Services, Other 049999
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Other Architecture and Environmental Design029900