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How to Become an Architect Without a Degree: Step-by-Step Guide

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By Scott Winstead

how to become an architect without a degree

Are you looking for advice on how to become an architect without a degree?

Buildings are everywhere. They are our homes, our workplaces, and our places of worship. They are also some of the most complex and expensive things that we as humans create. The science and art of designing and constructing buildings is known as architecture.

If you’ve always wondered how those towering skyscrapers and awe-inspiring bridges are built, then a career in architecture might be for you.

Interestingly, you don’t necessarily need a degree in architecture to become an architect. In today’s digital era, the path to becoming a successful architect is no longer confined to the walls of a university. In fact, with learning platforms like Skillshare, it’s possible to become an architect without completing a professional degree in architecture.

While a formal education can undoubtedly provide a solid foundation, the field of architecture has evolved, and so have the opportunities to enter it. With the advent of online resources, open-source software, and community-driven initiatives, aspiring architects now have an array of alternative paths to explore.

In the guide below, we’ll outline a step-by-step alternative plan that will set you on the right track to becoming a successful architect, all without obtaining a college degree. From acquiring knowledge through online courses and mentorship programs to building a robust portfolio and establishing a network, we’ll cover it all.

So, get ready to take control of your destiny, unleash your creativity, and embark on an unconventional yet rewarding journey toward an architectural career you’ve always dreamed of!

Here’s everything you need to know about how to become an architect without a degree…


What is an Architect?

An architect is a professional who designs buildings and other structures, ensuring that they are safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.

Architects work with clients to determine the specific needs and requirements of a project, and then they develop plans and designs accordingly.

The role of an architect goes beyond simply designing buildings. Architects also oversee the construction process, making sure that the project stays on track and within budget.

In some cases, architects may even be involved in the construction process itself.

Architects work with many industries,  from construction and engineering to real estate and interior design. They often collaborate with other professionals, such as landscape architects, urban planners, and civil engineers.

The day-to-day tasks of an architect can vary greatly depending on the stage of a project. During the early stages, architects typically spend most of their time meeting with clients, conducting research, and developing conceptual designs.

As a project moves forward, architects may be responsible for creating more detailed drawings and specifications. They may also need to obtain the necessary permits and approvals from government agencies.

During the construction phase, architects typically provide on-site supervision to ensure that the project is progressing according to plan. They may also need to make changes or adjustments to the design as construction progresses.

Once a project is completed, architects may be involved in its maintenance and upkeep. In some cases, they may even be called upon to renovate or expand existing structures.


What Skills Do You Need to Become an Architect?

A career in architecture requires certain skills. It’s a huge responsibility to design and oversee the construction of buildings, so you need to be up for the challenge.

Here are the essential skills needed to become an architect:

  • Technical skills. First and foremost, architects need to have strong technical skills. They need to be able to understand and use complex engineering and architectural concepts and principles. Math is also a big part of the job. Architects use mathematical skills to calculate things like dimensions, angles, and load-bearing capacities. They must also be proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) software, as this is increasingly used in the field of architecture. Many architects also use building information modeling (BIM) software, which allows them to create three-dimensional (3D) models of buildings.
  • Creativity. While technical skills are essential, creativity is also key in the field of architecture. After all, architects are in the business of designing new and innovative structures. They need to be able to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to design problems. For example, they might need to find ways to make a building more energy-efficient or accessible.
  • Communication. In addition to being creative and technically savvy, architects also need to have strong communication skills. They need to be able to explain their ideas clearly and concisely, both in writing and in person. They must also be able to listen to the needs and wants of their clients. After all, architects are designing buildings for other people, so it’s important that they understand the specific needs and requirements of each project.
  • Problem-Solving skills. Architects must also have strong problem-solving skills. There are often many challenges that need to be addressed during the design and construction of a building. For example, an architect might need to find ways to reduce costs without compromising the quality of the project. Or, they might need to come up with solutions to construction challenges that arise during the building process.
  • Organizational skills. Since architects often work on multiple projects at once, it’s important that they have strong organizational skills. They need to be able to keep track of deadlines, budget restrictions, and other important details. It’s also important that architects can delegate tasks and manage teams of workers. After all, they’ll often need to rely on other professionals, such as engineers and construction workers, to help bring their projects to life.


A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming an Architect

how to become an architect without a degree

Four-year colleges cost a lot of money these days, and many people are looking for alternatives that will allow them to save on tuition and time while still being able to build a career. For those interested in a career in architecture, there is good news: it is possible to become an architect without a degree from a four-year college.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to becoming an architect without a degree:

1. Take Up Online Courses

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One of the most exciting developments in education is the rise of online course websites like Skillshare (free 30-day trial), which have opened up a world of possibilities for aspiring architects.

These platforms offer a vast array of architecture-related courses taught by industry professionals, allowing you to learn from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace.

The best part? They are often significantly more affordable compared to traditional university programs, making quality education accessible to a wider audience.

By enrolling in online architecture courses, you can gain access to a wealth of knowledge and practical skills.

From architectural design principles and drafting techniques to 3D modeling and project management, these courses cover a wide range of topics essential for a successful career in architecture. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from experienced instructors who have hands-on experience in the field, providing you with valuable insights and industry-relevant guidance.

One of the greatest advantages of online courses is their flexibility.

Unlike the rigid schedules of traditional universities, online learning allows you to tailor your education to fit your lifestyle. Whether you have a full-time job, family commitments, or other responsibilities, you can design your study schedule around your existing obligations.

This flexibility not only makes learning more manageable but also enables you to maintain a healthy work-life balance while pursuing your architectural aspirations.

Moreover, online courses often provide practical, hands-on training through interactive assignments, projects, and even virtual simulations. These practical components allow you to apply the theoretical knowledge you’ve gained, giving you a taste of real-world architectural challenges. By working on practical assignments, you’ll develop the skills necessary to solve complex design problems, collaborate with others, and present your id

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2. Gain Some Experience

While a degree may provide structured internships, you can still pursue valuable opportunities by volunteering or interning at architectural firms or construction companies.

Even though online courses can give you a theoretical understanding of architecture, there’s no substitute for getting some real-world experience.

Volunteering or interning allows you to immerse yourself in the architectural world and learn directly from professionals in the field. You’ll get a chance to observe and participate in real-world projects, gaining practical knowledge that complements the theoretical concepts you’ve learned through online courses. It’s an excellent way to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and practical application, enhancing your skills and understanding of the architectural process.

When seeking volunteer or internship opportunities, don’t be discouraged if you encounter initial rejections. Persistence is key. Reach out to local architectural firms, community organizations, or even individuals working in the industry. Showcase your passion, willingness to learn, and any relevant skills you have acquired. Many professionals appreciate the drive and enthusiasm of aspiring architects and may be willing to provide mentorship or guidance.

Remember, this experience is not just about adding lines to your resume. It’s an opportunity to network, build relationships, and demonstrate your dedication to the field.

By establishing connections with architects and other industry professionals, you’ll gain valuable insights, recommendations, and potential future opportunities.

So, don’t underestimate the power of hands-on experience and the impact it can have on your architectural journey.


3. Get a License

Most states require architects to have a license to practice.

Licensing ensures that architects possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and ethical standards to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

The requirements for getting a license vary from state to state, but luckily they sometimes involve merely passing an exam. Generally, the process involves completing an accredited degree program, gaining professional experience through internships or apprenticeships, and passing a licensing examination. The licensing exam typically consists of multiple parts, including a rigorous examination of architectural knowledge, design skills, and code regulations.

Licensure offers several advantages. It allows you to legally use the title “architect,” which can be crucial when seeking employment with architectural firms or pursuing high-profile projects. Many clients and employers prioritize licensed architects due to their proven competence and adherence to professional standards. Additionally, licensure opens up opportunities for specialized roles, such as working on government projects or overseeing large-scale developments that require licensed professionals.

While licensure may not be mandatory for all architectural career paths, it significantly enhances your professional credibility, marketability, and earning potential. It demonstrates your commitment to the field and your dedication to meeting rigorous standards. As you progress in your architectural journey, consider the licensing requirements in your region and evaluate the benefits it can bring to your career aspirations.

If you want to become licensed without attending a four-year college, you can take an online prep course to help you prepare for the exam in states that only require experience and knowledge of certain courses to apply for a license.


4. Start Freelancing

Another way to gain experience in the field of architecture is to freelance.

By taking on freelance projects, you can choose the type of work that aligns with your interests and goals, allowing you to further specialize in areas that intrigue you the most. It’s an opportunity to explore different project types, collaborate with diverse clients, and expand your portfolio.

To find freelance gigs as an architect, start by leveraging your network.

Let friends, family, and acquaintances know about your architectural services and expertise. Word-of-mouth recommendations can often lead to promising opportunities.

Additionally, consider joining online platforms and communities dedicated to connecting freelancers with clients in need of architectural services. Websites like Upwork, Freelancer, or specialized platforms like Architizer can be great resources for finding freelance gigs.

When showcasing your skills and experience to potential clients, it’s important to have a compelling portfolio. Organize your best work, including design concepts, drawings, and any completed projects, into a visually appealing and well-presented portfolio. Highlight your strengths and demonstrate your ability to deliver quality architectural solutions.

When bidding on projects, be sure to highlight any relevant experience you have in your proposal.

When starting out as a freelancer, it’s natural to face challenges and competition. However, with persistence, professionalism, and a focus on delivering exceptional results, you can build a strong reputation and expand your client base. As you gain more experience and positive feedback from clients, you’ll find it easier to secure higher-paying projects and establish yourself as a sought-after freelance architect.

Remember, freelancing requires not only technical skills but also strong communication and project management abilities. Effective client communication, meeting deadlines, and delivering on client expectations are crucial aspects of freelancing success.

With time and experience, you’ll refine your freelance approach and develop a reputation as a reliable and skilled architect.


5. Build Your Network

Networking is a critical part of becoming an architect, as it is in any other field. You’ll need to make connections with other architects, engineers, contractors, and clients.

Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and volunteer for committees and boards.

Get involved in your community and make sure you’re seen as a thought leader in the architectural field.

You can also join online communities and forums related to architecture. This is a great way to make connections with others in the field, learn about new developments and trends, and get your name out there.

By actively engaging in networking events, conferences, and online communities, you can expand your professional circle and establish meaningful connections. These interactions can lead to referrals, collaborations, and even job opportunities.

Moreover, networking helps you stay abreast of emerging opportunities in the architectural industry. Through conversations with peers and professionals, you may discover new project openings, emerging design trends, or upcoming developments.

These insights give you a competitive edge and help you position yourself strategically in the field. Networking also allows you to collaborate with professionals from different disciplines, fostering multidisciplinary approaches and expanding your knowledge base.


A Final Word on Becoming an Architect without a Degree

A career as an architect can be extremely rewarding. It’s a creative field that allows you to design homes, buildings, and other structures that will be used by people for years to come.

And, while it does require a lot of hard work and dedication, it is possible to become an architect without completing a traditional four-year degree program.

So if you’re interested in a career in architecture, don’t let the lack of a degree hold you back.

Start by signing up for online courses or finding an accredited degree program that offers the option of taking the exams without completing the degree.

Then, make sure you’re networking and getting involved in your community.

And finally, if you find out you can qualify without experience, study hard for state licensing exams you can take without a degree. If you do all of these things, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career as an architect.

Do you have any questions on how to become an architect without a degree? Let us know in the comments below!

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