Architects are professional people who design, plan and decorate buildings, with a view to utility, durability, convenience, and aesthetic appeal. They use their knowledge of construction materials and methods, and architectural techniques to design and oversee the construction of safe, functional and attractive buildings.

They discuss the purpose, requirements and cost with the client and then prepare drawings. If these are accepted, the final design is prepared together with working plans for the use of contractors. The architect may assist the client in selecting a contractor. They may also help in the selection of building sites, preparation of costs, the carrying out of land-use studies and long-range site development planning.

Architects stay involved throughout the construction process, adapting their plans according to budget constraints, environmental factors or client needs. As such, they operate as part of an overall project team; they work closely with a range of construction professionals from quantity surveyors to building services engineers.  Architectural technologists also carry out this supervisory work.

Many architects today are limited by costs to designing rather more mundane buildings, although they do occasionally get the opportunity to branch out into more adventurous fields such as opera houses, skyscrapers, hospitals, railway stations, supermarkets, airports and so forth. Their everyday work is usually the designing of dwellings for their clients and renovations or improvements to existing domestic and commercial buildings.

They usually need to design buildings that are durable, functional, suit the needs of the owners, are as pleasing to the eye as possible, given financial constraints, and that fit in with the surrounding terrain as much as possible.

To summarise, typical work activities include:

  • creating building designs and highly detailed drawings both by hand and by using specialist computer-aided design (CAD) applications
  • liaising with construction professionals about the feasibility of potential projects
  • working around constraining factors such as town planning legislation, environmental impact and project budget
  • working closely with a team of other professionals such as building service engineers, construction managers, quantity surveyors and architectural technologists
  • applying for planning permission and advice from governmental new build and legal departments
  • writing and presenting reports, proposals, applications and contracts
  • choosing the materials to be used and specifying the requirements for the project
  • adapting plans according to circumstances and resolving any problems that may arise during construction
  • making sure the project is running according to schedule and budget
  • playing a part in project and team management
  • travelling regularly to building sites, proposed locations and client meetings

For the most part an architect’s working day will be office based. However, site visits and meetings with clients are frequent, so travel can figure prominently

A solid knowledge of how to use a computer is steadily becoming essential as many of the tools of this profession are now computer-aided. Environmental knowledge is often essential when creating new housing developments or industrial projects.

Personal Requirements

  • interest in new buildings, old buildings, history, design, art, drawing and drafting
  • an intelligent, logical mind
  • attention to detail
  • good grasp of Mathematics
  • able to get along with others and work in a team
  • aptitude for solving problems
  • creative and artistic but practical
  • ability to visualise, particularly in 3D
  • good sense of form and good eyesight
  • good communication skills, oral and written, especially giving clear instructions
  • scientific and technical knowledge
  • a steady hand

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics
Recommended subjects: Visual Arts,  Engineering and Graphic Design (EGD) or related subject is highly recommended as an art portfolio will be required for entry into an art school or college. 

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: Training is possible at the following universities: UCT, UKZN, Wits, UFS, NMMU, UP and UJ. The course’s duration is five or six years’ full-time study. Further training up to doctoral level is possible for those who are interested in an academic career.

Prospective architects must obtain one to two years of experience under the guidance of a registered architect before they can register with the Institute of SA Architects.

Diploma: The N.Dip. Architectural Technology is offered at the following universities of technology: CPUT, TUT and DUT. They now also offer BTech. and in some cases MTech. degrees.

A prospective architect must also obtain one or two years of experience as an architectural assistant, under the guidance of a registered architect before registering with the SA Institute of Architects.


  • architectural companies
  • real estate firms
  • building contractors and construction companies
  • government departments
  • such organisations as: Eskom, CSIR
  • universities and universities of technology
  • provincial services
  • self-employment, architects are often able set up their own practices

Further Information

South African Institute for Architects

Blue Wizard Park (Ground Floor)
31 Robin Hood Road
Robindale, Randburg
Tel: (011) 782-1315

South African Council for the Architectural Profession
51 Wessel Road, Right Wing,
Rivonia, Sandton, 2128
Tel: (011) 479-5000

Getting Started

  • do as much interior decorating and designing as possible
  • arrange to talk to architects and ask permission to observe them at work
  • try to get vacation work with an architect or building contractor

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

University of Johannesburg: Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture

Architecture at TUT

A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer