Becoming a Building Designer: Job Description & Salary Information

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A building designer's median annual salary is around $74,000, but is it worth the lengthy education requirements? Read real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a building designer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Building Designer Career

Building designers, also known as architects, are responsible for designing the construction of commercial and residential structures. Examine the pros and cons of a career in building design to determine if the path is the right choice for you.

Pros of a Building Designer Career
High salary (annual median salary of about $74,000)*
High projected employment growth (projected growth between 2012 and 2022 is 17%)*
Opportunities for self-employment*
Comfortable work environment*

Cons of a Building Designer Career
Long work hours may be needed to meet building project deadlines*
Professional degree usually required in most states*
State license required*
Stiff competition for positions*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Building designers design the construction of residential and commercial structures. Architects work with clients to determine the requirements for the building, such as the need for space. To develop the plans for a building design, architects analyze the costs, materials, land and the requirements of the client. The plans and drawings building designers produce detail the exterior appearance of the structure and the heating, plumbing and ventilation systems. Architects may create models to present to clients.

Architects monitor the construction of the building to ensure construction contractors build the structure according to the plans and drawings. Designers visit the building site to ensure the construction crew stays on schedule and that contractors use the materials outlined in the plans.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for architects would be expected to grow by 17% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also stated a demand for building designers with knowledge in environmental building techniques and materials. In 2014, the BLS also reported that the annual median salary for architects was approximately $74,000.

What Are the Requirements?

A bachelor's degree in architecture is a requirement to work as a building designer. A Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) requires up to five years of study to complete. Some building designers complete a master's degree in architecture to meet the education requirements. Architecture degree programs include coursework in building design, architectural history, mathematics, physical science, construction techniques, building materials and drafting. Many schools require you to complete several architectural design studio sessions and architecture labs. Architects must be knowledgeable in the building codes and regulations in their area.

Architects must obtain a license to practice in all states, which requires a professional architecture degree and training before qualifying to take a licensure examination. Beginning architects may complete the training requirement by working in an internship in an architectural firm. As an intern, budding architects work under the direction of professionals in the field and assist in creating drawings and plans. An internship provides the opportunity to work with computer-aided design software.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Employers searching for architects or building designers prefer job candidates with experience using computer-aided design software. Some employers list the building type in the job posting. Below are some examples of building designer jobs available in May 2012:

  • A California employer is looking for an architect with 10 years of experience in the retail development industry. Candidates must have skill and experience using computer-aided design software and in producing presentations for clients.
  • A Texas architectural firm is seeking a project architect to manage the firm's projects. The project architect must have 5 years of experience in multifamily architecture and a professional degree in the field. In addition, the employer seeks a state registered architect for the position.
  • An employer in California is looking for a project architect to manage the firm's project managers. The candidate must have a master's degree in business management and experience as a manager in an architectural firm.
  • A Connecticut employer is seeking an architect to work in their consulting service. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree in architecture or civil engineering and 5 to 10 years of experience in renovations, design and construction management.

How to Stand Out in the Field

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards offers voluntary certification for professional architects. Employers may not require certification from the national board, but obtaining the credential helps architects qualify for licensure in multiple states. State licensure requires continuing education courses to maintain the credential. Licensed architects may pursue courses in green building design and energy efficient techniques to meet the demand for environmental building designers.

Other Careers to Consider

If a career designing structures is appealing, but you don't want to be restricted to residential and commercial buildings, a civil engineering career allows you to plan, design and oversee the building of bridges, roads and water treatment facilities along with buildings. Civil engineers must complete a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. States require licensure for engineers providing services directly to the public. The annual median salary for a civil engineer was $77,000 in 2011, according to the BLS.

If a lengthy degree program is a deterrent for a career as a building designer, an architectural drafter career may be a better choice. Drafters work under the direction of architects to prepare drawings for building designs. Architectural drafters must have an associate's degree in drafting to qualify for a position. A position as an architectural drafter provides an opportunity to work in the building design field before pursuing a professional architecture degree. The BLS reported that the annual median salary for an architectural drafter was $47,000 in 2011.

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