Architectural Designer Career Information

Architectural designers work across the spectrum of architecture, from the mundane to the magnificent. While architecture is a science, it's also an art, and art involves criticism and working with the preferences of clients. An architectural designer often has to turn a dream into a reality.

The work environment

Architectural design work has two basic elements: The designs, and the technical requirements of the designs.

The designs require:

  • Creative vision: The ability to produce concepts.

  • Functional understanding: Every building has a purpose, which must be achieved by the design.

  • Aesthetics: The imagery of the design.

  • Materials: The construction concept.

  • Site information: Working with the site's assets and liabilities.

  • Client inputs and feedback: Essential information regarding the client's needs.

The technical requirements are straightforward, but they involve a lot of work:

  • A complete plan of all aspects of the construction: For statutory and contractual reasons the architectural designer must prepare plans in a strictly formal way.

  • Data regarding materials: Load-bearing materials, cosmetic materials, and basic construction materials all integrate to form part of the design, and they need to be assessed for suitability in any design.

  • Costing: This is really an audit of the entire process from design to construction for the client. Architectural designers need to be able to cost accurately on an almost instinctive level.

  • In many cases, a complete visual presentation of the design for the client: This is a sales pitch to some extent, but it's also useful to help explain details of the design and other considerations to the client.

  • Site data for foundations, drainage, space considerations, building facings, etc. Essential information which can have a direct bearing on cost and design.

  • Technical designs must incorporate services like water and electricity, as well as functional elements of the plans. (An industrial warehouse design, for example, has to include the features of the building as a working operation.)

These are just the basics of an architectural designer's job. Each part can produce a large amount of information, all of which has to be organized into functional form. Designers don't start from scratch, however. They can use CAD and other software to streamline the design process and to check the technical aspects of their work as they go. An experienced designer, using existing designs, templates and with the right technology, can produce a complete formal design plan for a three storey house in a week, including specifications and costing.

Wages: Depending on experience, from $40,000 to about $100,000 or commission and/or contract rates.

Hours: Standard hours, with extra time depending on the jobs.

The career environment

This is a profession where self-employment is the top of the scale. Architectural designers can become millionaires, and do it quickly. The demand for advanced modern architectural design is extremely high. Designers working on contract-based commissions can find themselves working all over the world. (The big constructions in Dubai are an example.) CAD and construction technology have vastly increased the scope of architectural designers, and made even modest residential designs better business prospects. Technology has improved profitability for designer, as well as ridding the profession of its former time and money constraints.