How to become an architectural assistant: Hannah's story

Meet Hannah, 22, from Kent, to find out more about life as an architectural assistant at Offset Architects. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Hannah at work.
"You need someone who’s happy to invest time in you when you first start."

How would you describe your job?

I design and draw up buildings for private clients. That could be houses or commercial projects like offices. A lot of my work is computer-based, using computer-aided design programmes. I also check on the progress of any planning applications, which can take weeks to process. Once a client has seen the designs, it's also my job to respond to any feedback they might have.

Every hour that I work is charged at a specific rate to our clients, so I have to be efficient with my time. I also have to collaborate well as colleagues may have ideas on how to improve my designs.

What subjects do you draw on in your job?

I studied Product Design at GCSE and at A-level and I use my design skills every day. We did lots of technical drawings at school, so I learnt the different styles of drawing.

Maths skills are needed for getting the measurements accurate in our designs. We use computer programs, so IT skills have also really helped me in this job.

I use English skills in order to communicate our ideas to clients and members of my team.

Hannah working on a design.
Hannah built a diverse portfolio of sketches from life drawing classes and visits into central London.

How did you get your job?

I was sure I wanted this job after doing work experience with an architect. I couldn't believe you could get paid to design buildings!

I studied Maths, Physics, and Product Design at A-level before starting my undergraduate degree. This is the first step and there are two more stages before I can qualify and call myself an architect. The training takes as long as it does to become a doctor.

I had a bit of a confidence crisis at university, but when I got my final results I was really happy with my grade. I didn't apply for jobs until I got my degree result so, when I did, I sent my CV and portfolio to every local architect I could find to help me land a role.

Top tips

  • Try it out. I did a week’s work experience with an architect and I thought I’d be making tea, but they got me to design a house and I went to client meetings
  • Girls shouldn’t be put off this career. There are lots of women coming into this industry and we're going to be seeing lots more women on building sites
  • Choose the right university for you. The course needs to be approved by the Royal Institute of British Architects, but I also thought about what kind of space I wanted to work in and made sure it was inspiring.

What to expect if you want to be an architect

When architects finish their education and training, there are many career routes open to them, for example designing new buildings and the spaces around them, or working on the restoration and conservation of existing buildings.

  • Architect's salary: £27,500 to £90,000 per year
  • Architect's working hours: 35 to 40 hours per week
  • Typical entry requirements: The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has more information on becoming an architect but you'll need to complete:
    • a degree recognised by the Architects Registration Board (ARB)
    • one year of practical work experience
    • another two-year full-time university course (usually called a BArch, Diploma or MArch)
    • further two years' practical training
    • a final qualifying exam.

You’ll usually need two or three A-levels (or equivalent) for the first part of the architecture degree.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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