Architecture As A Career

Architecture is the design of the human environment, mostly buildings, groups of buildings and the spaces between the buildings. The activities of the architect include the design of buildings, their urban context, their gardens, their interiors and sometimes their furniture; the documentation of designs; and the inspection of the construction works. Architectural design projects range in size and complexity from small alterations for a single house to large, multi-level commercial, industrial or public buildings, complexes and even parts of cities.

Architects are expected to develop and practise a wide variety of skills. Except for design and planning skills, architects should have technical, problem-solving, managerial, social-literacy, communication, co-ordination and entrepreneurial abilities. As the profession of architecture becomes more complex to meet rapidly changing climatic and socio-economic conditions, architects are expected to work in interdisciplinary teams with multiple stakeholders.

Qualifications In Architecture

South African qualifications are highly regarded and many of the degrees and diplomas also enjoy international recognition. Qualifications in architecture are subject to accreditation by the SA Council for the Architectural Profession, and must meet the standards set through legislation and by the profession. Architecture can be studied at several South African Universities and Universities of Technology.

The Architectural Profession

Persons in the architectural profession serve clients who might need buildings for themselves, or who could represent users e.g. of hospitals, schools, community centres or private corporations. They assist clients in drawing up a brief and plan for their needs with the assistance of quantity surveyors, engineers and project managers. They then prepare sketch designs and models, cost projections, project documentation, submit plans for approval by the authorities, acquire tenders and then administer the building contract. Besides the time spent in the office, the architect moves around between various building sites and is in constant contact with clients and the many disciplines active in the building process.

Personal Checklist

You will need:

  • Imagination
  • The ability to organise ideas and communicate them to others
  • Creativity (not necessarily artistic ability)
  • Problem solving skills
  • An interest in human behaviour, our habitat and the natural environment.

Entry Requirements And Tertiary Education

Courses in architecture are continuously evaluated to meet the demands of developing technology and changing society. General subjects include design, construction, the history of architecture and a host of technical subjects ranging from water reticulation to electricity. Computer aided draughting (CAD) and more complex Building Information Modelling (BIM) programmes are part of the course.


In order to be accepted at one of the six Universities to study architecture, one requires a Grade 12 exemption. Mathematics is generally a requirement. The course at University is structured in three parts: the first is a three-year course leading to a B. Architectural Studies or B.Sc. (Architecture) degree; the second is an additional year of study leading to an Honours degree; and a final professional Master’s degree in Architecture qualifies you to become an architect. A student who studies at university is able to exit university after obtaining the Bachelor or Honours degree and will be able to become a technologist or senior architectural technologist. View the list of South African Universities here.

University Of Technology

To study architecture at a University of Technology, a senior certificate or equivalent is required. A pass in maths and a science subject is required by some institutions. The courses in architecture are a three-year National Diploma in Architecture and, after an additional year of study, a B. Tech degree in Architecture can be obtained. This will enable a student to become an architectural technologist or senior technologist. Some of the Universities of Technology also offer an Honours and a Master’s degree in Architectural Technology. View the list of South African Universities of Technology here

In-service Training/ Candidacy

After receiving a qualification in architecture, one enters an in-service training period as a candidate. The minimum length of training is prescribed by the South African Council for the Architectural Profession, SACAP, in any one of the categories. After passing a Professional Practice entrance examination, one may register with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession as a professional. This is a requirement by law for practising architecture in South Africa.

Professionals In Architecture

Architecture can be practiced in one of four categories of registered person, namely Professional Architect, Professional Senior Architectural Technologist, Professional Technologist or Professional Draughtsperson. The possibility of progression from one category to the next has been provided for in the Regulations.


Practices in South Africa range from those run by a single person, to firms that employ more than 100 people. A medium sized office generally consists of two or three professional architects who design and manage the projects with the assistance of technologists and draughtspersons. Administrative staff provide the required support to the entire practice. Lecturing staff at universities and universities of technology are often registered Professional Architects and may also be in private practice. Opportunities are available to join the in-house professional team of a developer. Large corporations also employ architects in various positions. Career opportunities exist in the public sector for suitably qualified people of the construction professions.

Starting Your Own Business

To become self-employed, you will need the usual office equipment as well as the necessary electronic equipment and draughting software associated with modern architectural practice. You will also need your own transport. Before practising on your own, you are required to pass the Professional Practice entrance examination after two years in-service training. You will need to register as a professional with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession.

More information | Becoming an Architect