Being a Female Architect
Hours: 40-50 per week
Starting salary: Usually £18-22,000 depending on location
Qualifications required: RIBA qualifications: Part 1 (3 year degree) Part 2 (2 year Masters degree) Part 3 (1 year part time professional qualification) plus 2 years practical experience.
The number of women on the ARB register now represents 21 per cent of the overall profession, up from 19 per cent in 2010 (reference).
What's it like being an architect?
George lives in South London with her husband, 1 year old daughter and two very ginger cats. She grew up in the Midlands, studied in Manchester, then moved to London for her first job and has been there ever since. In her spare time she loves to meet friends and eat and drink her way around the city or take in a gallery or two.
Job title: Architect
Current employer: Marks Barfield Architects
Hours: 40 hours per week on average
How long have you been practising in this field? 10 years.
Where are you based for work or which regions do you cover?
I’m based in London but we do work all over the world.
What’s it like being an architect?
There are so many different aspects to being an architect but I spend most of my time either drawing or organising people.
What does a typical day look like?
I get up at 7am and myself and my daughter ready. We leave the house around 7.45am and after dropping her off at Nursery I am at my desk for 8.30am.
I will start my day going through any emails that have already come in, if I'm working on a project that is on site then the builders have already been working since 7am and there are already lots of questions for me to answer!
I will set out the tasks that I have to get completed by the end of the day. My work varies considerably depending on what stage the project is at. For example, it can take years to take a project from concept to reality and each stage is different so every few months the role tends to change, which keeps it really fresh.
At the moment I’m working on a concept for a marketing suite, which involves lots of scribbling on tracing paper and liaising with the client to try and work out exactly what they want, whilst also designing an interesting and exciting building. Whereas a few months ago I was finishing a project on site, which means lots of time out of the office, walking around a building site to make sure that the builders have created what we had drawn and addressing how to change it if it looks different.
As an architect you are always learning new skills or about a different material or how to construct your design, and you meet so many different people in all different fields to teach you along the way.
Are there any specific qualifications you are required to have in your field?
Yes, lots! To be an architect in the UK you have to pass all three parts of the RIBA qualifications: Part 1 (3 year degree) Part 2 (2 year Masters degree) Part 3 (1 year part time professional qualification) along with 2 years practical experience. But it’s not as scary as it first sounds, after doing your degree that’s when you get your first job in architecture as a part 1 assistant.
What did your career journey look like - how did you get to where you are today?
After I finished my degree at Manchester University, I went to work for Hopkins Architects LLP in London as a part 1 architectural assistant. I stayed there for nearly 7 years working in the summer holidays between university years and qualified as an architect in 2012.
I started working at my current practice in 2014. Its much smaller than Hopkins with only 25 people but they do lots of fun, creative, beautiful projects. I have recently had the pleasure of being project architect on an Observation tower in Brighton called the British Airways i360 which was designed and conceived by the practice over 10 years ago and has finally come to fruition.
Was there anything you liked doing at school that helped you get to this career?
I always loved art and maths - neither are essential to being an architect but both feature in the job.
What did you want to be as a child when you 'grew up'?
An Artist or a Lawyer.
Can you remember your parents or teachers wanting or encouraging you to go into a specific career when you 'grew up'?
I was lucky enough to go to an all girls school where we were told we could do anything! I had some great teachers that really pushed me to achieve and gave me the confidence to take anything on.
Has anyone ever been surprised when you told them that you were in this role?
Yes. Female architects, especially young ones, are more common but it is still a very male-dominated industry, especially on site where the majority of the contractors and builders are men.
What do you think are attitudes towards and expectations of women in your profession?
Unfortunately, a female architect doesn’t necessarily command as much respect in the role as their male counterpart. For example, I have been on site with a less experienced male colleague but subcontractors directed their questions at him as they assumed he was in charge. It doesn’t happen all the time but isn’t uncommon.
What are the challenges and benefits of being an architect?
The job itself is very challenging. There are so many facets to the role that there is no way you can know everything, so you have to make sure you know enough to ask the right questions. It can be feel scary when you feel out of your depth, but electrifying when you get it just right.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I draw and create everyday and get paid for it!
What are 3 things you have to like to do your job? eg. problem solving, working alone, working with people etc.
You need to like being creative, working in a team and problem solving. Liking architecture is useful but I’d say it’s not actually essential.
What advice would you give to young girls who are aspiring to be in your role, or who maybe haven't even considered it as a career?
Architecture has so many fantastic career opportunities - don’t be put off by how long it takes to qualify there are so many different jobs you can do with just the degree as training. If you are interested in it, try to get work experience in an architect's office and talk to people about how and why they got there. You'll be hard pushed to find one that doesn't love their job.
"My favourite part of the job is ultimately that I draw and create everyday and get paid for it!"
The Royal Institute of British Architects resources, advice and support.
UCAS: architecture as a career
Prospects.ac.uk: More information about architect responsibilities and job role.
3 steps to becoming an architect.
Career addict: More careers advice about becoming an architect.
Architectural review: A subscription based selection of the best architectural ideas in the world "to inspire your mind and feed your soul".