How to make it in your chosen career: Architecture

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The Independent Online

Job description (what it says): A designer who prepares plans for buildings and supervises their construction. Architecture combines art and science, and requires drawing skills, building and construction knowledge plenty of creativity. The aim is to design a functioning structure that is superficially pleasing, to you that is. Architects are trained to produce detailed working drawings and specifications in response to a client's brief. Architects are expected to control a project from start to completion. As an architect you would have the power and the responsibility to shape the environments in which people spend their daily lives. This makes architecture a very influential profession in today's society.

Job description (what it says): A designer who prepares plans for buildings and supervises their construction. Architecture combines art and science, and requires drawing skills, building and construction knowledge plenty of creativity. The aim is to design a functioning structure that is superficially pleasing, to you that is. Architects are trained to produce detailed working drawings and specifications in response to a client's brief. Architects are expected to control a project from start to completion. As an architect you would have the power and the responsibility to shape the environments in which people spend their daily lives. This makes architecture a very influential profession in today's society.

Perks: Seeing your designs on paper become a reality.

Drawbacks: Four to five years of courses, followed by two to three years of work experience before sitting the professional Riba (Royal Institute of British Architects) exam. Trying to do everything for everyone and losing yourself in the confusion.

Qualifications: You will be expected to present a portfolio of your work at the interview, and for many schools, this is an important factor in offering you a place on an architecture course. The portfolio should present a broad mixture of your relevant work experience, (including sketches and freehand drawings). You should also be proficient in technical drawing and computer-aided design. Employers don't expect skilled architectural work in your portfolio, but evidence that you have the potential skills to produce it.

Way in: You should be able to sketch and draw freehand. You will also need a portfolio. Most architecture students try to get work experience during summer vacations. A minimum two years of professional training employment is an essential part of the architectural course. You need to study on a validated course in order to become a fully qualified architect.

Starting salary: Around £25,000, although salaries vary across the country, according to the size of the practice and any specialist skills that are required. Larger practices tend to pay more than smaller ones. Salaries differ between the public and voluntary sectors, local government, housing associations or in-house architects working for a commercial or industrial company. There may also be added benefits such as a company car, pension, private medical insurance and a performance-related bonus.

More information: Visit the Royal Institute of British Architects website at www.architecture.com; or e-mail them at bal@inst.riba.org

Role model: Norman Foster (British Museum's Great Court, the "wobbly bridge"), Richard Rogers (The Dome, Lloyds building, Pompidou Centre).

Need not apply: If you lack an imaginative streak, you are easily frustrated and have no negotiating skills.

Career prospects: Architects' skills are in demand in all areas of the construction and design industries. A graduate can pursue a career in other areas such as teaching, engineering, designing and surveying. The economy significantly affects the amount of work available. Competition for year-out jobs is fierce, especially in cities.

Do say in interview: "In a rapidly changing world, we need to keep pace with progress. I am excited by change and I would jump at the chance to build the future."

Don't say: "I don't really hold with this modern stuff. Give me a nice Georgian vicarage any day..."

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