Commercial Architect: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Commercial architects apply artistic, construction and engineering skills to design a variety of commercial buildings and structures. They may take part in every step of the building process and work with a team of other professionals to complete projects. To practice in the U.S., architects must obtain licensure from their state's architect board, which usually requires formal education, an internship or training and passing a licensing exam.

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Job Description of a Commercial Architect

Commercial architects are licensed professionals that design buildings and structures for non-residential use, such as retail and office buildings. Aside from aesthetics, architects must consider an array of factors during the design process, such as functionality, building codes, safety regulations and construction costs. Commercial architects typically work in offices, developing building plans and consulting with clients; however, they often visit building sites to monitor construction progress. Some architects work for architecture or building construction firms, while others are self-employed.

Duties of a Commercial Architect

Commercial architects participate in the entire building process. They typically begin by consulting with clients to determine factors such as design requirements, project site and budget. After creating the design and building blueprints, commercial architects coordinate the building process, collaborating with other professionals, such as engineers, interior designers, landscape architects and construction contractors. Commercial architects may also provide other post-construction services, such as ensuring that workers are paid and that buildings are tested and inspected.

Job Requirements of a Commercial Architect

All architects are required to obtain licensure from their state's architect registration board. While specific licensing requirements vary according to state, most registration boards require architects to hold a professional architecture degree, pass a licensing exam and complete an internship.

Education Requirements

Aspiring architects often earn a Bachelor of Architecture from program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Available at 117 colleges and universities across the U.S., these degree programs typically take five years and are intended for students with no prior education in architecture. Curricula may focus on practice and theory topics, such as building design, structural systems, computer-aided design and construction materials. Individuals who have earned an undergraduate degree in other areas may enroll in a Master of Architecture program.

Internship Experience

All states require architects to complete an internship program or period of practical training that meets the guidelines of the Intern Development Program (IDP), which was established by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). These programs usually last three years, during which interns work under the supervision of a registered architect.

Architect Registration Examination

Upon completion of an internship, prospective commercial architects may take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Developed by NCARB, the 7-part exam consists of multiple-choice and graphic vignette questions focused on topics such as site planning, schematic design and construction documents. Candidates must pass all seven sections of the exam to be eligible for licensure.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed an average salary of $79,650 for architects in general, excluding landscape and naval architects. At that same time, those working in nonresidential building construction brought home $74,560 on average. According to the BLS, jobs for architects were predicted to increase by 17% from 2012-2022, which is slightly faster than average.

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