An architect designs new buildings and the spaces around them, designs alterations to existing buildings, works on building regeneration projects and advises on the restoration and conservation of old properties.
On every project, architects work closely with many other professionals. They work with the construction industry and they liaise with engineers and surveyors to make sure that buildings meet the necessary standards. These standards include health and safety and building regulations.
They oversee projects from beginning to end. They are involved at the beginning of a project, working closely with clients and officials to make sure that projected designs meet the requirements of these groups. The client must be happy, safety inspectors must be satisfied of the quality of construction and planning officers must agree the project meets planning standards.
Architects remain actively involved throughout each project as their plans are converted into real buildings. They must work closely with contractors on site, so that any issues are resolved and changes are carried out to specific standards.
The complex process of design and construction is even more challenging - and exciting - as architects need to consider ecological and sustainable factors in their work today.
The skills and aptitudes needed for a career in architecture are wide. They need a strong background in various fields of mathematics, but also need good design and creative skills, so art and technical design are useful. They have to be good communicators and articulate information clearly to a wide variety of people, from clients to builders. A knowledge of IT and business skills are also important.
As you would expect of such a challenging career, an architect's education is long and varied. They train for a minimum of seven years, which involves 5 years of degree study, 2 years of professional practice and a year studying for the professional qualifications.
Other routes open to someone with an architectural background include:
Building Inspectors (also known as Building control officers or building control surveyors) make sure that buildings meet construction regulations. These regulations cover areas like public health, fire safety, energy conservation and building accessibility.
They get involved in the planning and construction phases of a building project. These projects can range in size from a small housing extension to a large city centre redevelopment.
Industrial Designers mix the disciplines of engineering with art and design. They study the connection between a product and its user. Classic industrial designs are the VW Beetle and the iPod, so you can appreciate the variety within this sector! They usually work with partner with engineers (to make sure the product can be built and works) and marketers (to make sure it is a product consumers will want).
Interior Design is a profession dedicated to indoor spaces. This includes designing the look of walls, windows, doors, textures, light and furniture. They plan the spaces of almost every type of building including hotels, business offices, schools, hospitals, private houses, shopping centres, restaurants and airport terminals.
Interior designers tend to have varied experience and skills, including environmental psychology, architecture, product design, and traditional decorating skills.
A landscape architect is involved in the planning and design of an exterior landscape or outdoor space. Landscape architecture involves investigating the landscape and designing according to that particular environment. The profession includes site planning, environmental restoration, urban design and parks and recreation planning. It combines art and design, technical and construction skills with an aim to care for and be in sympathy with nature.
An urban planner works in the field of making best use of a community's land and infrastructure. They design plans for the development and management of urban and suburban areas. They consider many factors in this, including economic, environmental and social needs, to make the most effective use of the land. Community plans need to also take account of issues such as sustainability, air pollution, traffic congestion, crime and land values.