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What Does an Architect Do?

Have you always dreamt of designing buildings, been fascinated by how things are constructed and want to work on exciting projects? A career as an Architect could be the one for you!

But perhaps you’re curious to find out what a job as an architecture actually involves? What do Architects actually do and how do you become one? 

Well, these are just a few of the questions we cover during our chat with someone who has a lot of experience in the industry and really knows what a career in architecture looks like! 

So, let’s take a closer look! 

Meet Mark
What is an Architect?
Steps to Becoming an Architect
Future Outlook
Best Thing & Worst Thing
Advice for Aspiring Architects

Meet Mark

Mark Roach has been working as an architect for over 11 years now! He recently joined the Sydney based architecture firm DJRD as an Associate Architect and is leading a number of projects there to do with hospitals and ambulance stations. In the past, he’s worked on hotel developments in Australia and transport projects. 

Studies and Experience 

Mark completed a 3-year Bachelor degree in Architectural Studies at UNSW. He then went on to complete his Masters which was another 2 years.

During his final year, he was a student ambassador and assisted with career open days where he discussed the architecture course. He then got his first job straight out of uni!

Now, in order to use the title ‘Architect’, you have to become a registered architect which is done by successfully completing the Architectural Practice Examination  which is exactly what Mark did! 

More than 11 years later he is still a practising and registered architect! Each year, Mark has to show that he’s up to date with what’s happening in the industry and is maintaining his skills or knowledge by completing 20 hours of Continuing Professional Development — it’s a requirement of the NSW Architects Code of Professional Conduct

“It’s good because it’s one of those industries where the technology is constantly changing and your clients want to see that you know what the latest building products are and what the latest technology is,” said Mark. 

What made you want to work in this industry?

Mark knew from an early age that he wanted to go into architecture. 

How to Become an Architect - Quote

“I just kept up with that sort of interest in drawing and getting a love for how things are made and constructed and built,” he said.

What is an Architect?

Working as an Architect isn’t just about designing buildings and spaces — you’re probably thinking of that picture perfect house with the white picket fence, right? Well, there’s a lot more to architecture than just that!

As an Architect, you’re involved with drawing up different design ideas and plans, visiting construction sites, dealing with clients and contractors, admin and overseeing projects from start to finish (you could be working on one project for 3+ years!) 

There’s a lot of different tasks that you’ll do as an Architect and it can really vary! 

It really depends on where you work, what size office you’re working in, what type of projects,” Mark said.

“If you’re working in a small office, say five people working on residential architecture, then you’re going to be across a lot more of the contract administration side of things whereas if you’re in a larger office, you might get more involved with documentation and designing larger more complex projects,” he told us. 

Roles and Responsibilities 

As you progress in your career as an Architect, the kinds of roles you’ll undertake will change. 

When Mark first started out in the industry, he was involved with the documentation of the drawing and drafting. As he progressed, he became more involved with running projects so he got to visit the sites, see the construction and deal with contractors and clients. 

As an Associate Architect, Mark told us that this position usually involves running multiple projects. 

He’s also mentoring the junior staff and leading them on the projects. In this position, Mark is also involved in the management side of the organisation so that means quality assurance and setting the standards for the organisation and the staff.

Since Mark is in a more senior role, he spends a lot of time talking with clients and contractors and setting various tasks for his team to complete. 

“It’s less about being on the tools — so a lot of people think that Architects spend all their time drawing but the more senior you get, the less time you spend doing the drawing and the more time you do managing projects,” he said.  

You still might do your sketches to give to staff as an idea, a concept or as a form of instruction and then they go off and do the proper formal drawing,” he added. 

A Typical Day as an Architect

So a typical day for Mark could look like this:

  • 9 o’clock team meeting: Going through the agenda project by project, assign tasks and deadlines
  • Series of meetings for the different projects running: This could be a client, a contractor or stakeholder being dealt with (when working on government projects, there’s a lot of different people to deal with and big decisions to be made)
  • Checking up on the team, making sure everyone is moving forward and completing those tasks off

“There’s a lot of checking, that’s one thing you do a lot of — checking drawings, reading reports because every consultant on the team will produce their own set of drawings and their own set of reports,” Mark said. 

  • Reviewing plans, commenting on them from an architectural point of view and reporting back to senior colleagues
  • Researching (this is a big one!) 

If a builder decides they think it’s better to build something in a different type of material, then you’ve got to do all the appropriate checks and balances, you have to do the research on that system. If that’s one that you’re not that familiar with that can take a bit of your time,” Mark told us. 

Which industries can this career be found in?

There are quite a few different industries that involve Architects. The main ones include:

  • Government 
  • Construction
  • Engineering 
  • Self-employed
  • Service 

Characteristics and Qualities 

When Mark was asked about the skills involved with a career in architecture, he mentioned four things: 

How to Become an Architect - Characteristics

#1: Time management 

“Time management is really critical because a lot of buildings are quite complex and they’re getting more complex, both from a buildability point of view or systems point of view and also from a regulatory point of view,” he said. 

#2: Attention to detail 

“It takes a very high degree of being able to pick up on the details and your observation skills need to be quite good because you’re having to check things and review things very quickly,” Mark told us. 

#3: Up-to-date knowledge

“You’ve got to be constantly keeping yourself up to date with all the requirements and the changes, you’ve got to be very persistent,” he told us. 

Remember you do have to do those 20 hours of Continuing Professional Development each year to further develop your skills and keep up with the latest industry information. 

#4: Determination 

Mark said that you’ve got to be determined because your designs and ideas will be challenged along the way. 

“There’s always going to be people wanting to sort of get in your way from what your goals or your design aspirations are, and they’re going to try to put limits,” he said. 

According to Job Outlook, the Top 5 knowledge, skills, abilities and activities that are relevant to other architects include:

CharacteristicsTypes Required
KnowledgeTechnical design, building and construction, customer and personal service, engineering and technology, administration and management 
SkillsCritical thinking, reading comprehension, judgement and decision making, monitoring, mathematics
AbilitiesDeductive reasoning, oral comprehension, oral expression, visualisation, near vision
ActivitiesPlanning and prioritising work, thinking creatively, drafting, laying out and specifying parts, communicating with the public, making decisions and problem solving 

Steps to Becoming an Architect 

What should you study? 

If you want to become an Architect, then you should study a Bachelor of Design in Architecture or any kind of specific architecture degree. 

Check out these undergraduate degrees which can be beneficial towards a career within Architecture:

If you want to become a registered architect and work under the title of an ‘Architect’, then you have to complete the Architectural Practice Examination.

How long does it take to become an Architect?

An undergraduate degree in Architecture usually takes around 3 years. Most people go on to complete Masters which adds another 2 years — so, you’re looking at a 5-year degree! 

As mentioned previously, you’ll need to take the Architectural Practice Examination in order to be recognised as a registered Architect.

There’s three parts to this exam including:

  1. Assessment eligibility (submission of your logbook with proof of practical experience)
  2. National Examination Paper (one hour exam, closed book) 
  3. Examination by interview

Moving up in the world of architecture can take quite a long time so you have to be patient! 

It takes a number of years to really get to that sort of senior level because the duration of some of these projects that you work on, it might take you 3 years to do one project — so you’ve only gone through the process once in 3 years and to do anything well, you need to go through it a number of times,” Mark explained.

Industry Knowledge

In terms of specific software that Architects use, Mark told us that Revit would be one of the main ones — he currently uses that in his job and was introduced to it at uni. He told us that Revit is like “your drawing board but in 3D” basically a 3D modelling software where you can construct buildings. 

Mark said that he also uses AutoCAD which is “mainly for bringing in survey information or other consultant information into Revit”. 

What will this career look like in the future?

How in-demand is this career?

According to JobOutlook, the future growth of people needed in this career is strong! So, that’s definitely good news for you if you’re interested in a career in architecture. 

Mark said that it’s a hard question to answer because “it really depends on which company you’re at and your level of experience”. 

If you’ve got a lot of experience and in say, government projects, then you’re probably going to be pretty busy. If you don’t have a lot of experience, and you’re in sectors that are a little bit quiet at the moment, then you might be struggling,” Mark explained.

Mark said the need for architects is “very cyclical because you have these sorts of waves”. 

“There might be a wave of health spending, and then you get everyone trying to get on health projects, and then residential might start picking up — so it really depends on the kind of sector that you’re in,” he told us. 

At the moment, Mark is working on various health projects and he said that these kinds of projects “seem to be doing pretty well at the moment”.

Are there opportunities to grow or specialise? 

Mark told us that there are “plenty of opportunities to grow” in this career. Like any career, Mark said, “It’s all up to the individual and how much responsibility they want to have.”

Typically smaller firms give you a wider range of tasks but smaller projects, whereas the bigger firms will give you less options but larger projects,” he said.

In architecture, specialisation is more about the project type so that means you might specialise in an education, health or transport project.

He said that this kind of specialisation project “can take a few years to develop” and you’re probably looking at around 5-10 years! 


Annual SalaryFuture GrowthSkill Level Rating
$87,000+Strong over the next 5 yearsVery high skill

Influential Trends and the Future of this Industry

Mark mentioned how there is a growing focus on incorporating virtual reality into architecture!

“Using that [virtual reality] as a way to engage clients in a design process — you can have a client with a headset, walking around their project, and visualising what it could look like and then providing more meaningful feedback to the design team,” he said.

Mark also believes that sustainability and responding to climate change are big topics in the industry — it’s the way of the future! 

“Organisations like the Green Building Council of Australia do a number of online courses where they go through all the different projects that are targeting these energy rating tools, or sort of systems, that buildings can aspire to get accredited under — things like Green Star,” he said. 

Green Star is a sustainability rating system for buildings and spaces built for communities and transport.

Mark said that these kinds of energy rating systems are becoming more recognised in the industry, “It seems like in the last 5 years, there’s been a much bigger push towards sustainability and the role architects can play in responding to things like climate change.”

Best Thing & Worst Thing

What do you enjoy most about this job?

Mark told us a combination of things that he most enjoys about the job. He mentioned that architecture is a “very collaborative industry”. 

It brings a lot of different kinds of people together to get a project off the ground and it can be extremely challenging getting projects realised beyond just doing the sort of napkin sketch or the idea or the dream of what it’s going to be,” he said.

To get that into a constructed reality, that takes a lot of different people and by bringing all those people together, you’re constantly learning and you’re learning at quite a fast rate,” he added.  

Alongside this Mark said he enjoys passing his knowledge on — like his mentors did with him when he first started out, “Once you’ve had some experience, I find it quite good to be able to teach or pass on some of those things that you’ve picked up and mentor the younger staff.” 

Mark told us that it’s very rewarding seeing what you’ve designed come to life. “There’s an immense amount of pride in walking around something that maybe a year or two ago, was only on a paper or not even on a piece of paper, it was just someone’s idea, but now you’re walking around and there’s clients that are using that space, and hopefully they’re enjoying that space,” he said.

It’s a constant reminder of what you’ve achieved and maybe areas where you could improve — it’s something that has a permanence about it because it may be standing for a very long time,” he explained.

What do you feel is the worst part of this job?

For Mark, sometimes there can be a fair bit of pressure with working to deadlines and sticking to budgets which can make the job challenging,

“99% of the time, you’re working to some kind of budget and some kind of deadline and the time frames can be pretty tight,” he said. 

You don’t have the luxury of trying to go over things as much as you would like to sometimes,” he added. 

Advice for Aspiring Architects 

What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?

“I found that, it’s a little bit in many ways a romanticised profession like in, say, Hollywood, or wherever it may be — architects or a lot of them are seen as these fantastic, sort of star designers where they’re coming up with these fantastic buildings,” said Mark. 

Now, that’s not to say that you won’t eventually get there but it does take time! 

“The reality is that unless you’re the owner of the business or quite senior in an organisation or it’s quite a small business, it takes some time to get into a role where you’re going to be the one doing the design work and making the big decisions,” he explained. 

Why should people consider taking on this career?

“Architecture has got a lot to offer — it can sort of cater for people that are quite technically minded. I’d probably consider myself more in that sort of, if you like, flavour of architect, whereas there are more creative, more design focussed type architects,” Mark told us. 

“There’s opportunity to be quite creative, there’s opportunity to be involved with quite technically demanding projects,” Mark said. 

So, you’ve got the best of both worlds — you can be more creative or technical focussed or both!

Tips for Getting Started in the Industry 

Mark explained that it’s important to “be really clear on what you’re after in the profession”.

He said you need to think about your expectations around salary, the sort of hours that you might be working and how long it might take you to advance in your career. 

“I think it’s always good in any profession to be really understanding of that and really try to talk to some people in the industry and engage whether what you think it’s gonna be like, is close to the mark,” he said. 

Job Flexibility 

“It really depends on the kind of role that you have in the organisation,” he said. 

While Mark believes there is the opportunity for some architects to be more flexible and work from home because you can perform various tasks such as checking drawings, running meetings and guiding your team, there are some important parts which you can’t do from home.

For example, going to the site — of course, you can get photos and videos of the construction progress but as Mark said, “It’s no substitute for being there.” 

What is the workplace culture like?

“I think people in architecture want to do a good job and that’s what comes across as being the most important and everyone supports each other in doing that,” said Mark. 

It takes a while to progress as an Architect since you might be working on one project for 3 years so Architects have a mutual understanding and respect for each other. 

Mark told us that he’s been very fortunate to have some great mentors who he has learnt a lot from throughout his career.

“I think it’s kind of that master and apprentice type of dynamic, often where you fall in under someone who has hopefully a lot of experience and has done a number of projects,” he concluded.  

Tanna Nankivell is a Senior Content Writer at Art of Smart Education and is currently in Germany completing a year of study for her double degree in Communications (Journalism) and Bachelor of Arts (International Studies). She has had articles published on Central News – the UTS Journalism Lab and wrote a feature piece for Time Out Sydney during her internship. Tanna has a love for travel and the great outdoors, you’ll either find her on the snowfields or in the ocean, teaching aqua aerobics or creating short films. 

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