What A-Levels do you need?
Architecture is a bit of a unique one, in that it helps to have a mixture of both scientific and artistic skills. Because of this, many universities won’t ask for specific A-levels (although some will express an interest in students whose A-levels reflect strengths in both areas); the University of Nottingham, for instance, prefer students who have a combination of either Art & Design or Design & Technology. When it comes to courses in building or town planning most universities are fairly flexible.
What are your study options?
If you want to study architecture, you’ve got a fairly long road ahead of you – it takes a full seven years to become a fully qualified architect – which includes a three-year undergraduate course followed by a year in industry, followed by a postgraduate course, followed by another year in industry!
Building and planning courses tend to be the usual three years in length, although it’s worth noting that to become fully chartered you’ll need to complete more on-the-job training after you graduate. Many building and planning courses also offer the option of a sandwich year (meaning your course would be four years in total and you’d spend a year in industry between your second and third year), which would help you work towards your chartered status.
Why study Architecture, Building & Planning?
All three options are incredibly satisfying, as they allow you to actually create something tangible that you can be proud of. Architecture, building and planning all stand out from many other jobs in that you actually have something solid to show for your efforts at the end of a project – whether it’s a structure or a carefully planned development.
If you’re interested in maths and problem solving (and if you have a creative or artistic streak), then a degree in one of the above subjects could be well suited to you.
After your degree...
For building and planning students, most graduates will go on to gain their fully chartered status by working on the job (some companies will even allow you to work part-time while completing your training). If you study architecture, chances are you’ll want to complete your seven years and become a fully qualified architect. However, if you realise after the first three years that you actually don’t want to pursue architecture as a career, don’t panic – you can always take your undergraduate degree and go into a different field (such as engineering or construction), or re-train by doing a postgraduate qualification.
Salary-wise, if you study architecture you probably won’t be raking it in at first, but as your career gains momentum you could stand to earn a very high wage (and you can even set up your own practice once you’ve gained some experience and made a name for yourself).
If you study building or planning, you’ll most likely end up applying for graduate level jobs in these areas (although your degree will have equipped you some good transferable skills, which means a change in career is always a possibility). Building grads tend to earn an average of just over £20K, while planning grads average slightly less.
Q & A with an Architecture lecturer
Matthew Butcher is a lecturer in architecture and the BSc Programme Leader at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL)...
Why should students study a degree in architecture?
It provides a very concise and open introduction to the disciplines of architecture and design. Architecture is a very expansive profession and therefore students gain a very broad set of skills, experience and knowledge.
What kind of skills will students learn on the course?
Lots – architecture is a very broad discipline. Architecture engages students in technology and design as well history, so students receive a very dynamic education and skill set, including the ability to design and realise complex buildings, spaces and forms. Students will also gain skills in writing and research. Students now are increasingly focusing on the production of their work digitally, which is changing the way we think about architecture.
What key modules can students expect to cover in their first year?
Architecture degrees tend to be focused around design, which can account for about 50% -80% of students’ time, depending on the exact course. Alongside this, students take modules in the history and theory of architecture as well as modules focusing on technologies of construction and building fabrication. Students will also have modules introducing them to the professional practice of architecture.
What kind of careers do students typically go into after they graduate?
Doing a degree in architecture can lead to many types of career. Lots of students do end up becoming architects but others can go into disciplines such as graphic design, product design, fashion, film, and fine art. I have also known students to move into advertising and journalism.
Q & A with an Architecture Student
James is currently in his third year of a BA (Hons) Architecture at Plymouth University...
What was your entry route?
I didn’t do too well in my A-levels and ended up taking a gap year. When I returned, I knew I wanted to study architecture but I didn’t meet the entry requirements for the degree, so I studied a foundation year. This then enabled me to access BA (Hons) Architecture at Plymouth University.
What are the best bits about the course?
Plymouth University provide every BA (Hons) Architecture student with your own desk in a studio, and you can set up and tailor your desk to your own personal requirements. The studio culture here is amazing, integrating both a working and social environment into one place.
Have you undertaken a work placement?
I had the choice between taking a work placement and studying abroad this summer so I opted to go on a study trip to Japan. Whilst in Japan, we analysed a range of buildings in Tokyo and Kyoto and learnt traditional Japanese carpentry techniques – techniques we then used to help build a timber structure for a restaurant being built in Tokyo.
Why should prospective students consider the course, and would you give them any advice prior to starting?
Studying architecture at Plymouth allows you to pursue your own interests and provides a lot of freedom around the direction of your studies. Tutors are also on-hand at all times to give you expert guidance and support when you need it. The lecturers here are fantastic and as a collective team have a broad range of specialisms, which ultimately benefits students.
I would recommend anyone studying this course to be open minded about new ideas. My personal pre-conceptions about studying architecture were challenged but what I was presented with was something very special. I would also recommend practicing ‘free hand’ drawing, as it’s a useful skill to develop prior to and during your studies.
What have you taken from the course outside of academic knowledge?
I feel that studying BA (Hons) Architecture at Plymouth University has provided me with a massive choice of pathways to pursue, and on graduation I feel I will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to enter any design occupation anywhere in the world.
What makes Plymouth University a good place to study?
The University offers a range of facilities that are open to all students, ranging from wood and metal workshops to screen and 3-D printing. Plymouth as a city is great, but what I like best is what’s on your doorstep. It’s really easy to get out of the city and visit the coast or Dartmoor.