How to Become an Architectural Designer

Architectural designers are the people who design buildings, internal and external architectural features, and are directly involved in all stages of design, planning and construction. An important element in architectural qualifications for designers is that architecture is a particularly demanding profession. The designer's professional credentials are extremely relevant to employers, as well as clients.

Education and training

Architectural designers are fully qualified architects, often with advanced degrees. Their level of training is particularly important, because their work relates to all architectural procedures. The usual qualifications and certifications for architectural designers are:

  • Masters Degree in Architecture: This is usually the baseline qualification for architectural designers. In some cases additional advanced design training, internships in architectural design, etc. are common extra qualifications and experience. 
  • CAD (Computer assisted design) proficiency: This is basic to architectural studies, but in the design process plans are created from scratch. Architectural designers require excellent skills in this area. This is another area where advanced training is common, because the design element is extremely detailed in many respects. It requires high levels of accuracy and detail.  

To become a working architectural designer, you require professional credibility and a very strong portfolio proving your skills. Architects are trained directly in design, as well as academically. This practical training is very important in the development of design skills. 

Basic training

Architectural designers, start from the ground up, doing basic designs under supervision with experienced professional guidance. This is very necessary to ensure a design is of a professional standard. Architectural design is very demanding work. It must be done properly, in accordance with statutory building codes, and construction requirements.

This is progressive training, until the architectural designer is fully competent in all aspects of design. When fully trained and having the required levels of practical experience, the designer can then move on to doing original designs. 

Career progression

Skills have to translate into career success for designers. A career as an architectural designer is competitive by definition. This is a "portfolio" career. Your designs are who you are, to employers and clients. Some designers thrive in this environment. Some of the extremely ambitious designs in modern architecture are true innovations, doing things that have never before even been attempted in architecture. Like an artist, an architectural designer's work is their professional reputation, which is also a defining factor in their commercial success. Career advancement is based on several factors:

  • Nature of projects completed: Architectural design can include specialist design areas like industrial, leisure, residential, commercial and other forms of architecture.
  • Budgets: A big factor in architectural design is the size of construction budgets. This is a true progression based on quantified achievements. The ability of an architectural designer to work with budgets is a fundamental practical consideration for contracts.
  • Publicity and reputation: Some architectural designers are "superstars" of the profession. Frank Lloyd Wright was the first modern superstar of architectural design. A strong professional reputation adds a lot of commercial potential to architectural designer's careers.