The architectural profession is varied and although most qualified architects elect to work for private practice, some choose to explore opportunities in other areas such as the construction industry or property development. Private practices can vary enormously in size and you may find yourself working alone or as part of a large team. A number of experienced qualified architects opt to work freelance with a proportion of these electing to work as sole traders.
Since architects are actively involved from the outset of a project until completion, the recent increased demand for adaptable homes, home extensions and multi-functional open-plan spaces helps this sector to remain largely positive, with the RIBA receiving anecdotal commentary from private practices that workload pipelines remain healthy.
Where do I start?
Within the architecture sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Jobs roles in this sector include:
You could also consider the jobs listed below:
- Building surveyor
- CAD technician
- Commercial/residential surveyor
- Construction manager
- Higher education lecturer
- Historic buildings inspector/conservation officer
- Landscape architect
- Planning and development surveyor
- Production designer, theatre/television/film
- Structural engineer
- Town planner
- Urban designer
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- Royal Institute of British Architects - Royal Institute of British Architects professional body has jobs, careers advice, news and events.
- ArchDaily - Latest architectural news: projects, products, events, interviews and competitions among others.
- The Architects Newspaper - Source of information on the latest projects and commissions, unfolding politics and debate, and cultural developments related to architecture.
- The Guardian - Architecture news from the Guardian.
- bdonline.co.uk - Architecture news and commentary. Also lists job openings.
- dezeen magazine - Architecture and design blog which provides a carefully edited selection of the best architecture, design and interiors projects from around the world. Also lists job vacancies.
- Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) - A leading voice of consultancy and engineering providing general industry news
- The Architects' Journal - An industry journal with news, information and the latest architectural ‘Competitions’.
- Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists - The qualifying body for architectural technologists and technicians. Website includes a careers and jobs section.
- Creativepool - Online magazine for the creative industries includes feature articles, news and advice, events and a searchable database of current vacancies.
Competition for jobs in this sector is fierce and work experience is integral to securing a graduate job within the field of Architecture, so any pre-entry work experience in an architectural, design or construction environment is desirable and highly regarded by recruiters. As well as being an important way to develop your expertise and understanding of architectural practices, completing a variety of work experiences will help you gain the all-important transferable skills, which employers want. Employers look for good communicators with a strong maths, CAD and scientific skills.
Many firms offer internship opportunities over the summer break, which can provide invaluable experience however, since lots of architect practices are small organisations which might not promote their opportunities as widely as some other graduate employers, you'll probably have to be a bit more proactive in finding opportunities.
Don’t just limit yourself to architectural practices - remember the range of areas related to architecture, e.g. construction companies, organisations in the built environment such as landscape and urban design/regeneration practices, 2D/3D specialisms and other spatial design work, including interior design and graphics, in fact any other areas where you can practise architecture-related skills.
Most internships are short-term (usually a fixed period between three months to a year) and generally unpaid, but will give you a more hands-on experience. Many employers will treat internships in the same way as full-time employment, so when a job role asks for 'at least one year’s experience' you can include this type of experience in you calculation.
They offer a snapshot of what the industry is like. Find out more about which companies have openings and potential career paths by attending fashion career fairs.
Placements give you a long-term look at an organisation, and help you to build contacts and experience. On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth let you to complete a one year work placement or self-employment placement.
Work experience weeks are a good way to get a short but intense feel for how a particular role works and are a helpful way to find out more about a job you think you’d like.
This is an introduction to many areas of architecture, here you spend time with an experienced professional, learning about what they do.
Speculative applications for work experience
In order to write a good speculative letter/email you will first need to do some research into the organisation you are writing to, this way you will be able to target your application to their needs and demonstrate your passion for the company, role and industry. It is a good idea to write to a specific named individual, if necessary phone to clarify who the best person to contact would be before sending your letter/email (company websites, twitter and LinkedIn profiles may be useful for this).
Remember to give a clear reason as to why you are contacting each employer and in your letter demonstrate that you have relevant skills, perhaps through extra-curricular activities, and explain how by offering you work experience they will benefit. Also demonstrate that you understand what they do as an organisation, really tailor the application to each particular organisation.
The ability to market yourself effectively is a skill you will use throughout your career so why not create an online presence that could assist with targeting your speculative applications, use social or professional networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and Instagram.
A good starting place to secure work experience is with the university, some courses offer the opportunity to undertake a work placement with a sector specific company, so speak to your tutors to see what is available.
It is also worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience. Careers and Employability offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies.
If you wish to instigate voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to ‘External sites’ on the voluntary work experience section on our website.
To summarise the key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. There is no centralised list of architectural practices who offer work experience, so you need to approach practices directly and ask. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations. Write to architects in your local area, many will take students for one or two weeks’ work experience. If you look in the RIBA Directory of Practices you will find names and addresses plus a short description of the kind of work they do; use this resource to generate a list of organisations to get in touch with. See our guide to speculative applications for tips on how to write a good speculative letter.
Employers receive many CV’s every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the our website
Useful key links for speculative approaches
- Riba Appointments - The Royal Institute of British Architects jobs board. Search and apply for Part 1 and Part 2 architectural assistant jobs.
- bd4jobs.com - Building Design's job website, with a selection of recruitment tools on offer to help you find the ideal job. Browse jobs by function to find current Architecture part 1 vacancies
- Mustard - Specialist recruitment agency working across the design sector in the UK and Internationally. Search for current vacancies by sector and location to find relevant part 1 and part 2 architecture jobs.
- Dexigner - Example architecture portfolios
Tips to build experience
Explore the various areas within the architectural sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- Get involved in relevant University or external groups or competitions, this is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of Faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you, as students are sometimes recruited to work on research projects over the summer.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers - see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
Finding a job
There are many different areas within Architecture and work can be varied. You could work in a range of establishments and sectors, perhaps producing a set of detailed plans to restore an existing building or design a more environmentally friendly working space using CAD; either way some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in, and the experience and skills required, will help you to target your job search. Joining one of the professional bodies, which usually offer free student membership, provides access to professional journals and information about vacancies.
Employers who recruit in these areas
- Local or central government (employ a significant proportion of the profession)
- Private sector housing and housing associations
- Commercial and industrial organisations in areas such as retail, leisure, tourism and banking may have in-house architectural teams
- Architectural practices and construction consultancies
- Major engineering consultants
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- Architecturejobs - Features vacancies for architects, CAD technicians, architectural technologists/technicians and assistants.
- bdonline.co.uk - UK magazine Building Design's online, providing news for architects. Includes information about events, people as well as a searchable jobs board.
- Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists - the qualifying body for architectural technologists and technicians. Website includes a careers and jobs section
- Riba Appointments - The Royal Institute of British Architects jobs board. Search and apply for architect and architecture jobs.
- Building4jobs.com - Building's official recruitment website. Use searchable database for current architecture vacancies.
- Career Structure - Advice and jobs for the construction industry with searchable jobs board which includes architecture vacancies.
- Local government jobs - Architectural jobs with local government.
- Creativepool - Online networking site for people working within the creative industries. Allows you to set up a personal profile with which to network online, as well as listing advertised vacancies in architecture and design.
- Dexigner - online portal for designers, architects, illustrators, engineers, artists, and creatives of all kinds. Useful searchable directory listing architecture firms, studios, museums
- MyCareer - Here you will be able to find graduate jobs across different sectors and locations.
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with architectural news and trends by following the professional bodies on twitter, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
- Keep your on line job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific sector within architecture check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies
- Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account follow practices and architects that interest you, register with them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted and where you can keep in touch with their current activities. Join in discussions, re-tweet interesting tweets, and generally get yourself known
- Adrem - A creative careers consultancy specialist in design and architecture recruitment.
- Argent Recruitment - Specialising in placements in the Construction Consultancy Sector including Architecture
- Bespoke - Recruitment agency specialising in architecture and design.
- Hays - Recruitment agency jobs across all civil engineering, property and construction
- Hunter Dunning - Architectural recruitment specialists providing architecture jobs for architects, technicians, and assistants at all levels across the UK
- Mustard - Specialist recruitment agency working across the design sector in the UK and Internationally
- Careers and Employability - Register with the University of Portsmouth's very own on-campus Graduate Recruitment Consultancy (exclusively for students and graduates of the University).
- EdenBrown - Technical recruitment agency for jobs in architecture, interior design, building services, engineering, town planning, charities, construction, education, housing and social care.
- Stock Harvard - Specialises in Architecture and Interior Design jobs. Cover London , the South East and East Anglia.
Freelancers use a variety of means to generate work: some rely on their portfolio, self-promotion and a good contact network, while others use a professional agent.
- people4businessrecruitment - Useful free management tools available on this site to help you get started as a freelance worker in architecture. Also search database for current vacancies.
- Dexigner - Example architecture portfolios
- The University of Portsmouth's student startup support – exclusively for students and graduates of the University (within the last 5 years). Team provide advice and support to help develop enterprising skills and set up your own business.
Useful Twitter feeds
Check out the following Twitter feeds for news and information about current architecture projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.
You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org