Architects manage, supervise, lead, and/or perform professional architecture work involving the art and science of conceptualizing, planning, developing, and implementing designs, they ensure that buildings and structures are responsive to human activities and needs, are structurally sound and permanent, and economical to acquire, operate, and maintain.
The federal government employs 1,839 architects of which 81 work overseas. The Departments of the Army, Navy and Air force employ 1,000 civilians followed by the General Services Administration (GSA) with 181, and the Interior Department with 132. There are architects employed at most of the cabinet level agencies and in a few large independent agencies.
Federal Government Requirements:
- You must be a U.S. citizen to apply
- The yearly salary range for a GS-11 is $60,210.00 to $78,270.00/per year
The following information is excerpted from the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) published by the Department of Labor:
- Meet with clients to determine objectives and requirements for structures
- Give preliminary estimates on cost and construction time
- Prepare structure specifications
- Direct workers who prepare drawings and documents
- Prepare scaled drawings, either with computer software or by hand
- Prepare contract documents for building contractors
- Manage construction contracts
- Visit worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans
- Seek new work by marketing and giving presentations
Architects discuss the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project with clients. In some cases, architects provide various predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses, and design requirements.
Architects develop final construction plans after discussing and agreeing on the initial proposal with clients. These plans show the building’s appearance and details of its construction. Accompanying these plans are drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems; and plumbing. Sometimes, landscape plans are included as well. In developing designs, architects must follow state and local building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those requiring easy access to buildings for people who are disabled.
Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) have replaced traditional drafting paper and pencil as the most common methods for creating designs and construction drawings. However, hand-drawing skills are still required, especially during the conceptual stages of a project and when an architect is at a construction site.
As construction continues, architects may visit building sites to ensure that contractors follow the design, adhere to the schedule, use the specified materials, and meet work-quality standards. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are conducted, and construction costs are paid.
Architects may also help clients get construction bids, select contractors, and negotiate construction contracts.
In all states, earning a professional degree in architecture is typically the first step to becoming an architect. Most architects earn their professional degree through a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program, intended for students with no previous architectural training. Many earn a master’s degree in architecture, which can take 1 to 5 years in addition to the time spent earning a bachelor’s degree. The amount of time required depends on the extent of the student’s previous education and training in architecture.
A typical bachelor’s degree program includes courses in architectural history and theory, building design with an emphasis on computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), structures, construction methods, professional practices, math, physical sciences, and liberal arts. Central to most architectural programs is the design studio, where students apply the skills and concepts learned in the classroom to create drawings and three-dimensional models of their designs.
Currently, 34 states require that architects hold a professional degree in architecture from one of the 123 schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). State licensing requirements can be found at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). In the states that do not have that requirement, applicants can become licensed with 8 to 13 years of related work experience in addition to a high school diploma. However, most architects in these states still obtain a professional degree in architecture.
All state architectural registration boards require architecture graduates to complete a lengthy paid internship—generally 3 years of experience—before they may sit for the Architect Registration Examination. Most new graduates complete their training period by working at architectural firms through the Intern Development Program (IDP), a program run by NCARB that guides students through the internship process. Some states allow a portion of the training to occur in the offices of employers in related careers, such as engineers and general contractors. Architecture students who complete internships while still in school can count some of that time toward the 3-year training period.
Interns in architectural firms may help design part of a project. They may help prepare architectural documents and drawings, build models, and prepare construction drawings on CADD. Interns may also research building codes and write specifications for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of finishes, and other related details. Licensed architects will take the documents that interns produce, make edits to them, finalize plans, and then sign and seal the documents.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states and the District of Columbia require architects to be licensed. Licensing requirements typically include completing a professional degree in architecture, gaining relevant experience through a paid internship, and passing the Architect Registration Examination.
Most states also require some form of continuing education to keep a license, and some additional states are expected to adopt mandatory continuing education. Requirements vary by state but usually involve additional education through workshops, university classes, conferences, self-study courses, or other sources.
A growing number of architects voluntarily seek certification from NCARB. This certification makes it easier to become licensed across states, because it is the primary requirement for reciprocity of licensing among state boards that are NCARB members. In 2014, approximately one-third of all licensed architects had the certification.
After many years of work experience, some architects advance to become architectural and engineering managers. These managers typically coordinate the activities of employees and may work on larger construction projects.
- Analytical skills. Architects must understand the content of designs and the context in which they were created. For example, architects must understand the locations of mechanical systems and how those systems affect building operations.
- Communication skills. Architects share their ideas, both in oral presentations and in writing, with clients, other architects, and workers who help prepare drawings. Many also give presentations to explain their ideas and designs.
- Creativity. Architects design the overall look of houses, buildings, and other structures. Therefore, the final product should be attractive and functional.
- Organizational skills. Architects often manage contracts. Therefore, they must keep records related to the details of a project, including total cost, materials used, and progress.
- Technical skills. Architects need to use CADD technology to create plans as part of building information modeling (BIM).
- Visualization skills. Architects must be able to see how the parts of a structure relate to each other. They also must be able to visualize how the overall building will look once completed.
GS-0808 Architectural Series (Excerpted from OPM.Gov)
Individual Occupational Requirements
- Degree: architecture; or related field that included 60 semester hours of course work in architecture or related disciplines of which at least (1) 30 semester hours were in architectural design, and (2) 6 semester hours were in each of the following: structural technology, properties of materials and methods of construction, and environmental control systems.
- Combination of education and experience — college-level education, training, and/or technical experience that furnished (1) a thorough knowledge of the arts and sciences underlying professional architecture, and (2) a good understanding, both theoretical and practical, of the architectural principles, methods, and techniques and their applications to the design and construction or improvement of buildings. The adequacy of such background must be demonstrated by at least one of the following:
- Related Curriculum: Degree in architectural engineering may be accepted as satisfying in full the basic requirements, provided the completed course work in architectural engineering provided knowledge, skills, and abilities substantially equivalent to those provided in the courses specified in paragraph A. The curriculum for a degree in either architecture or architectural engineering covers function, esthetics, site, structure, economics, mechanical-electrical, and other engineering problems related to the design and construction of buildings primarily (but not exclusively) intended to house human activities. The courses required for a degree in architecture generally place emphasis upon planning, esthetics, and materials and methods of construction, while the courses for an architectural engineering degree place equal or greater weight on the technical engineering aspects such as structural systems, mechanical systems, and the properties of materials. Because of this difference in emphasis, persons with degrees in architecture may have a preference for work assignments that offer greater opportunities for them to express their artistic and creative abilities. As a result, they may be more concerned with planning and design aspects of architecture, and persons with degrees in architectural engineering may be more engaged in aspects emphasizing technical engineering considerations.
- Experience: An applicant lacking a degree in architecture must have had l year of experience in an architect’s office or in architectural work for each year short of graduation from a program of study in architecture. In the absence of college courses, 5 years of such experience is required. This experience must have demonstrated that the applicant has acquired a thorough knowledge of the fundamental principles and theories of professional architecture.
Alternate Requirements for GS-7:
- Successful completion of a 5-year program of study of at least 160 semester hours leading to a Bachelor of Architecture or higher degree in an accredited college or university is qualifying for GS-7.
- Applicants with an architecture degree who have appropriate experience as a technician equivalent to grade GS-5 or higher may have such experience credited for grade GS-7 only on a month-for-month basis up to a maximum of 12 months.
(Note: These provisions also apply to graduates of architectural engineering curricula.)
Registration: Candidates registered to practice architecture by one of the State registration boards, using standards in compliance with the basic minimum provisions recommended by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, are recognized as meeting the full requirements for eligibility at GS-11.
Nonqualifying Experience: The following kinds of experience are not acceptable as professional architectural experience: professional landscape architecture work consisting mainly of the layout, design, construction, or maintenance of land areas and landscape features, including ground and water forms, vegetation, roads, walks, incidental structures, and other landscape features; experience in the application of artistic embellishment to practical design such as the decoration of interiors, including the construction, layout, and selection of furniture and furnishings that do not alter the basic architectural design of the interior; city and community planning work that relates to the broad social and economic growth and development of such community services and facilities as industry, commerce, transportation, streets, utilities, and parks.
Architectural Registration as a Selective Factor: Registration as a professional architect is an appropriate selective factor for appointment to certain, typically high-level, architect positions. The key consideration is that registration must be essential for acceptable performance of the work of the position to be filled. Accordingly, it is an appropriate requirement for positions with duties and responsibilities that satisfy one of the following criteria:
- Responsibility for final approval of design standards and criteria for designs of major buildings and related structures involving public safety where such compliance with State laws meets an essential need of the architectural organization to provide objective evidence to agency management and the public that the work is performed by architects of proven competence.
- Responsibility for architectural determinations concerning contract awards or other major aspects of design and construction work to be performed by architects in the private sector where registration is essential to have their full confidence and respect to achieve cooperation on critical architectural issues.
Some architect positions in the Federal service have duties and responsibilities that would support a requirement for registration. The position description should clearly document the basis for the registration requirement. It would not be appropriate to require that candidates be registered for positions with less responsibility than that indicated above, for positions that involve responsibilities and functions such as research, or for the sole purpose of improving the “image” of architects in the Federal service. Because of the importance of registration for those positions where it is an appropriate requirement, such positions have been characteristically filled by registered professional architects. If a currently filled position is newly identified as requiring a registered architect, the requirement for registration should be waived for the duration of the employee’s incumbency.
Additional Qualification Requirement: (Excerpted from USAJobs Announcement)
At least one full year of specialized experience comparable in scope and responsibility to the GS-09 level (obtained in either the public or private sectors). This experience must include activities such as: 1) examining architectural drawings, plans, designs, specifications and exhibits for construction projects; (2) performing architectural work in the development and/or design of buildings, runways, utility systems and unimproved, semi-improved and improved roads and grounds; (3) reviewing design calculations, cost estimates, drawings, and specifications to ensure project compliance; and (4) coordinating all design phases with appropriate managers and staff.
Per the Bureau of Labor Statics, architects held about 112,600 jobs in 2014, with 69 percent employed in architectural, engineering, and related services. About 1 in 5 were self-employed.
Additionally, architects spend much of their time in offices, where they meet with clients, develop reports and drawings, and work with other architects and engineers. They also visit construction sites to ensure clients’ objectives are met and to review the progress of projects.
Architects are a growing field and will be in demand for many years to come.
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