Architecture majors are generally concerned with the design, drafting and construction of buildings, structures, and other spaces. A college degree in architecture can lead to several potential careers depending on the level of the degree and the graduate’s area of focus. In addition to working as architects, graduates may be able to find work in drafting or industrial design. Career requirements vary, but employers generally look for individuals who are creative and work well with other professionals, such as engineers or construction managers.
Architects design buildings and living spaces for public and private use. They create initial design sketches, detailed building plans and models of the buildings they work on. To create plans, architects may use software programs like computer-aided design and building information modeling. Besides planning and design, architects may also be concerned with the legal, financial and scheduling aspects of a project.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for architects in general are excepted to increase 7% from 2014-2024. Contributing factors include the construction of new educational and healthcare facilities and retail spaces. Architects with a background in green or sustainable design may be more in demand. In May 2015, the BLS reported that median annual salary of an architect was $76,100, with the top 10% earned more than $125,120 in the same month. Successful architects may go on to start their own firms where they may have the opportunity to earn more.
Industrial designers, also referred to as commercial designers, are versatile professionals who design products for many industries. They may create a new product or optimize one that already exists. The projects industrial designers work on can include the design of furniture, consumer electronics, medical equipment and appliances. Products are designed according to both consumer needs and the manufacturers’ requirements. Although industrial designers create individual products rather than full buildings, some of the design concepts taught in an architecture degree can also be applied to this field. The BLS reports that a bachelor’s degree in architecture can qualify graduates for entry-level positions. They may also have to submit a portfolio of their work.
The BLS expects employment opportunities for industrial designers to increase 2% from 2014-2024. Candidates with experience designing medical equipment and precision instruments or working with 2D and 3D CAD programs may have more opportunities.
In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median salary of an industrial or commercial designer was $67,130 annually. The top 10% of workers earned $104,730 in the same month.
Drafters work in architectural, engineering and construction offices. These individuals assist other professionals by creating drawings and plans that provide important guidelines, such as dimensions and construction steps. Drafters often use the data calculated by professionals, like engineers or architects, as the basis for their drawings. Many drafters are knowledgeable about the specific technical components of the industry they work in.
The BLS reports that employment opportunities for drafters in general are expected to decrease 3% from 2014-2024. Opportunities will vary according to the field. For example, electrical and electronics drafters can look forward to a 5% increase in job openings during the same ten year period. In May 2015 the BLS reported that the median annual salary for an architectural or civil drafter was $52,720. The top 10% of drafters earned over $83,850 in the same month.
Architectural Degree Programs
Drafters usually complete a certificate or an associate’s degree program in drafting. Most jobs for industrial designers or drafters require at least a bachelor’s degree in architecture or a related field. Architects need to complete either a specialized Bachelor of Architecture program or a master’s in architecture program.
A bachelor’s degree program in architecture includes lecture-based learning in the history, major concepts and foundational principles of architecture. In addition to coursework, students work in studios and labs, developing their skills in modeling, drawing and computer-aided drafting and design. Courses that cover environmental factors and building materials may also be included.
Aspiring architects may want to consider programs that have been approved by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). This organization accredits programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. According to the NAAB, a degree from an accredited program is required by many state licensing boards for architects.
Let’s review. A degree in architecture can help students prepare for a career as an architect, industrial designer or drafter. At a 7% increase, architects will see the highest rate of job growth, while drafters will experience a 3% decrease in employment overall through 2024.