A Guide to Studying Architecture

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Date of Publication: 15 December 2020

Thinking of studying Architecture at university? 

Architecture can be a hugely rewarding career path. But it’s also considered one of the most challenging – with long training programmes, a huge workload, and examinations needing to be completed before you can even think about practising professionally.  

So, if you are considering studying an Architecture course at university and carrying it beyond, it’s vital you know everything about what the training involves and the challenges it demands. 

Take a look at our essential guide for prospective students below, which covers some of the most commonly asked questions students have about the subject, including its university entry requirements and potential career paths for the future. 

What is Architecture?

Architecture is a highly creative, respected and interesting career path, which allows you to explore ideas ‘outside of the box’ and apply logical thinking to a variety of scenarios. 

The role of an architect can be varied, but ultimately, these are the professionals who are expertly trained to take a building idea from concept to design, creating technical plans and drawings which are used in the construction industry. 

 

How do you become an Architect?

In the UK, becoming a licensed architect requires a lot of training, taking around a total of seven years in training. 

This typically begins with a five-year undergraduate degree in Architecture. For your degree to earn you an official license in the UK to practise, you will need to ensure it is recognised by the Architects Registration Board (ARB). 

To gain a place on a UK university architecture course, you will need to have at least 5 GCSEs graded 9 to 4 (A*-C) and usually 3 A-Levels (or the equivalent) in a mix of creative and technical subjects (more on that later).

Once you have completed your degree, you will then usually take part in a further 12 months of work experience, before completing a final postgraduate degree for two years.

After your final university qualifications, you will then have to seek year of practical experience in the workplace, which culminates with a final examination. Upon completion of this, you will then become a Chartered Architect by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and will be allowed to start practising professionally as an architect in the UK. 

Although the amount of training may seem overwhelming at first, it’s important to note that your university course provider will be on-hand to help guide you through your training and offer support whenever you may need it.

architect-doing-technical-drawings-on-laptop

What are the best A-Levels to take for Architecture?

Although the design and planning aspect of an architect’s role make it an incredibly creative role, it also demands a lot of technical knowledge to ensure any buildings that are constructed are safe and mathematically sound. 

In this respect, you will want to have a good A-level subject combination to equip you with the skills to help you succeed at your university course, including a mixture of any of the following subjects:

For international students looking to apply to study Architecture in the UK, most universities will also require a high level of English, so you may need to look at also taking an English Language course before applying. 

It’s important to note that different universities have different entry requirements, with many not even specifying any preferred subjects. Therefore, you should always spend some time researching different university architecture courses before finalising your A-level options

Can you study Architecture at Oxford?

Surprisingly, Architecture is one of the few subjects that the University of Oxford does not offer. 

Which course is best for Architecture? 

Although there are currently no Oxford Architecture courses available to study, there are lots of other highly respected universities in the UK which offer degrees recognised by the official Architects Registration Board. 

According to the Complete University Guide, the top 10 UK universities to study Architecture in 2020/21 are:

  1. University of Cambridge
  2. University of Bath
  3. University of Strathclyde
  4. University of Sheffield
  5. UCL (University College London)
  6. Cardiff University
  7. Newcastle University
  8. Loughborough University
  9. Queen’s University Belfast
  10.  University of the Arts London

You can take a look at the full list here

man-drawing-technical-plans-for-architect

What to write in a personal statement for Architecture?

When you apply to study architecture at a university in the UK, you will be required to provide a supporting personal statement which you submit with your application. 

Your personal statement is the short section of your application with which you can really demonstrate your personality and express your passion for architecture. It should discuss your future ambitions – why you want to study Architecture and what skills and strengths you have that make you the perfect candidate for the course.

If you’re unsure about the types of qualities, skills and experiences universities look for on applications, then take a look at a few course descriptions to gauge what types of things you should include on your personal statement.

For further information and support on how to structure your personal statement, then please visit the UCAS website.

Important: Your personal statement can be no longer than 4000 characters in length, including spaces and blank lines. So keep this in mind when writing yours.

Is Architecture hard to study?

Studying for an architecture degree can be hugely rewarding, but it is also rated as one of the most demanding of courses to study at university. The general consensus is that the subject requires long hours of focused study to complete big projects with accurate attention to detail. A seven-year study period means you will have to be really committed for the long-run and dedicated to what you do. 

Of course, every university offers slightly different, as so you want to make sure you choose a course that’s tailored to your expertise. For example, some courses can be very technical, while others can focus more on the theoretical aspects of architecture and its history. Therefore, you need to take care to research and pick a course which you think will best suit your interests and strengths. 

Work experience as part of your Architecture training

As we’ve already mentioned, studying architecture requires two separate industrial placements (work experience) in order for you to become qualified. 

Not only are these essential for your professional progression, but they’re also a great opportunity to develop an understanding of architectural practices and the industry from the inside. Your work experience will be a time to build a network of important contacts, specialise your skill, and gain experience in a variety of sectors and fields. 

Some students know that their end-goal is to qualify and work as an architect. If this sounds like you, then try searching for placements in architectural, design or construction firms. These will allow you to decide which sector you want to work in, and gain professional experience to add to your portfolio. 

For those who are open about what they may want to study upon earning their chartership, then try gaining placement in related areas such as landscape design, conservation planning and other design practices. These will keep up-to-date with current trends, open up opportunities to build your experience and discover new career avenues, whilst allowing you to continue practicing our drawing and design skills. 

What can I do with an Architecture degree?

Once you have earned your official certificate and become a Chartered Architect, there are lots of paths you can direct your career in. 

Some of these include:

  • Architect (Commercial, Industrial, Landscape, Public, Residential)
  • Architectural technologist
  • Building surveyor
  • CAD technician
  • Conservation officer/Historic buildings inspector
  • Estates manager
  • Interior or spatial designer
  • Production designer
  • Town planner
  • Urban designer

During your training, it’s advisable to gain some work experience working in a variety of these roles, so you can begin to think about what avenue you may want your career to take once you are fully qualified. 

woman-looking-at-surveyor-plans-on-mac

Summary

If you enjoy both the creative and academic aspects of school work, then architecture could be the perfect profession for you. Combining practical craft and historical theory, your daily work will be the perfect blend of the arts and technical science subjects. 

In order to gain the skills and knowledge needed to become a Chartered Architect, you need to undertake around seven years of training, combined of university and work experience placements. 

Your training will not only help you master the technical expertise and design skills needed for day-to-day training, but the industrial placements will allow you to put those skills into practice, keep up-to-date with current trends, and explore potential career paths. It will be highly demanding, but satisfying at the same time if you’re passionate about the subject. 

Once you qualify, architecture can be a very exciting and highly rewarding career path, both in satisfaction and pay. You’ll have options to pursue a whole range of job roles and specialise your training further, so you can enjoy a career doing something you truly enjoy. 

Experience life as an Architecture student with a summer school

Interested in studying architecture at university? Get a taste of what to expect on a university course with our Architecture summer school. 

Available to students aged 13-15, 16-17, and 18-24, your course will take place in the historic city of Cambridge – which is currently home to the UK’s top-ranked university architecture course.

Whether you want to gain a professional edge for university applications, or simply want to sample the subject as a potential future career path, our course will give you hands-on experience and insights into the subject at university-level, giving you a foundation of knowledge with which to build on in the future. 

Find out more about our Architecture summer courses here.

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