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Architectural Technician

Architectural technicians and technologists specialise in making sure construction designs are practical and usable. They work closely with architects and other building professionals on a range of residential, commercial and industrial projects.

  • Architectural technicians support the work of technologists by developing design proposals, collating technical information including project specifications, and preparing and updating all site documentation.
  • Architectural technologists have broader skills. As well as negotiating construction project contracts, a chartered architectural technician could manage the design and construction process from concept to completion. This can include producing surveys, advising on regulatory aspects, obtaining tenders, preparing design proposals and conducting site inspections to check building progress.

Architectural technicians/technologists usually work Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, with additional hours to meet deadlines. Most work is office based, with time spent travelling to visit clients and sites, in the UK and possibly overseas.

Salaries can range from between £15,000 and £42,000 or more a year.

An architectural technician/technologist should have:

  • drawing skills and ability to interpret a client's vision
  • ability to pay attention to detail
  • planning, project management and good organisational skills
  • mathematical ability
  • an interest in building science and technology.

Most work in architectural technology or architecture practices. Other employers include property developers, building and construction companies, government agencies and housing associations.

There are both academic and work-based entry routes into architectural technology. Architectural technicians may begin work as a trainee with a minimum of around five GCSEs (A*-C) or through an Advanced Apprenticeship in construction. To qualify fully as an architectural technician requires a Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/D) or foundation degree, followed by up to two years' assessed professional practice.

Chartered architectural technologists need a CIAT recognised qualification at degree level, followed by three years' recorded professional practice.

Some may also study towards an NVQ Level 4 in built environment design. Once qualified, continuing professional development (CPD) is encouraged.

There are good progression opportunities, which may include taking on supervisory or management responsibilities. With further experience, training and professional development, architectural technicians may become a chartered architectural technologists. Chartered technologists can set up their own practice. Working overseas is possible.

What is the work like?

Architectural technicians and technologists specialise in making sure that construction designs are practical and usable. Working on residential, commercial and industrial projects, they work very closely with architects and other construction professionals, including surveyors, site and project managers, as well as clients themselves.

Architectural technicians specialise in the investigation, collation and organisation of technical information used in project design. Their role is to support the work of architectural technologists and other professionals by:

  • developing design proposals
  • preparing plans and drawings, using computer-aided design (CAD), as well as traditional drawing methods
  • preparing specifications for construction work
  • preparing meeting documents and making site visits.

Architectural technologists have a broader range of skills. As well as negotiating construction project contracts, chartered architectural technologists can manage the design and construction process from concept to completion. Specific duties may include some or all of the following:

  • meeting the client to agree a project brief
  • producing feasibility studies, land and building surveys and design solutions
  • advising on environmental, legal and professional regulatory requirements, ensuring that all design aspects of the project comply with them
  • obtaining tenders for construction work and negotiating contracts
  • advising on the choice of materials
  • producing documentation for statutory planning permission
  • preparing and presenting CAD or traditional design proposals
  • creating design drawings for use on site
  • managing and co-ordinating the design team in the detailed design stage
  • taking responsibility for health and safety requirements
  • regularly checking building progress and carrying out site inspections at various stages.

Architectural technologists and technicians also evaluate and advise on the refurbishment, repair and maintenance, reuse, recycling and deconstruction of existing buildings.

Hours and environment

Architectural technologists and technicians usually work Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm. Working additional hours may sometimes be necessary to meet deadlines. There is a limited amount of part-time work available.

Most work is office based, with time spent visiting clients and sites. The work is likely to involve being outdoors in all weather conditions, climbing ladders and scaffolding. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a hard hat, high-visibility jackets and boots, is a legal requirement when visiting building and engineering projects and sites.

Some duties will involve travel and may require spending periods away from home, both in the UK and overseas. A driving licence is useful.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending upon the employer and location of practice.

  • New entrants earn on average around £18,000 a year, with salaries ranging from between £15,000 and £22,000.
  • Professional architectural technicians with three years' experience may earn up to £30,000.
  • Experienced chartered architectural technologists can earn between £35,000 and £42,000 or more.

Skills and personal qualities

An architectural technician/technologist should have:

  • drawing skills
  • attention to detail
  • good spatial awareness and ability to interpret another person's vision into 3D
  • excellent planning, project management and organisational skills
  • good interpersonal and leadership skills
  • confidence using and adapting to new IT and design software, including programmes such as AutoCAD, SketchUp, Studio Max and Photoshop
  • mathematical ability for making technical and financial calculations
  • excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • practical problem-solving skills
  • good team-working skills.

Interests

It is important to be interested in:

  • the scientific and technological aspects of buildings
  • buildings, the built environment and materials technology
  • the relationship between people, buildings and the natural and built environment.

Getting in

There are over 8,300 members, including students, of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT).

Most work in architectural technology practices or architecture practices. Other employers may include property developers, building and construction companies, government agencies and housing associations. Work is available throughout the UK and worldwide.

Job vacancies are advertised on the CIAT website. CIAT also works in collaboration with The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) appointments, so jobs do appear on www.ribaappointments.com as well as in industry magazines and journals such as Architects' Journal and The Architectural Review.

Entry routes

There are both academic and work-based entry routes into architectural technology.

  • Architectural technicians may begin work as a trainee with a minimum of around five GCSEs (A*-C) in relevant subjects such as English, maths, science, art and design and technology. A levels or equivalent in science, technology, building services engineering and construction are useful. They can eventually progress to study a BTEC Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/D) or foundation degree in architectural design or architectural technology.
  • Architectural technologists are required to study a degree approved by the CIAT, such as architectural technology or construction. See the CIAT website for listings.

Entry requirements for degree courses are usually three A levels and at least five GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent. Useful A level subjects include maths, physical sciences, IT, art and design and technology. Candidates should check specific entry requirements with individual institutions, as they do vary.

The Diplomas in construction and the built environment and in environmental and land-based studies may also be useful for this type of work.

It may also be possible to enter work as an architectural technician through an Advanced Apprenticeship in construction.

Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer and, from August 2009, pay at least £95 per week. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available on the Apprenticeship page on this website, from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Training

Architectural technicians and technologists who have completed an approved CIAT programme in architectural technology and are in employment can become Associate members of CIAT. They can then work towards achieving either:

  • technician membership (TCIAT)
  • chartered membership (MCIAT).

This involves completing an assessment against the CIAT's professional standards, known as a Professional and Occupational Performance (POP) Record.

For architectural technicians, the POP Record is likely to take between one and two years. Successful technicians can then use the title TCIAT. They could then continue to develop their skills and progress to qualifying as a chartered architectural technologist.

Qualifying as a chartered architectural technologist usually takes three years, followed by a Professional Practice Interview. Successful candidates can then use the title MCIAT.

Those with previous industry experience or other qualifications may also be able to apply for chartered or technician status.

An NVQ Level 4 in built environment design is also available, which covers a wide range of design disciplines, including architectural technology, building surveying and architecture.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is encouraged once qualified, to keep skills up to date.

CIAT members automatically qualify for the ConstructionSkills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Professionally Qualified Persons Card. The PQP Card is for non-site-based professionals who have health and safety responsibilities and gives proof of their competency to work on site. The card is valid for five years and is then renewable.

Getting on

There are good opportunities for progression into senior positions, which may include supervisory or management responsibilities.

A professional architectural technician with further experience, training and professional development may become a chartered architectural technologist.

With experience, many chartered architectural technologists set up their own practices or work in partnership with other construction and built environment professionals.

Experienced chartered architectural technologists can also work as consultants or specialise. CIAT has three specialist registers, including chartered environmentalist, accredited conservationist and energy assessor. There are also some opportunities to teach and carry out research in universities. Working overseas is possible.

Further information

Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT), 397 City Road, London EC1V 1NH. 020 7278 2206. Website: www.ciat.org.uk

ConstructionSkills. 0844 844 0046. Websites: www.cskills.org and www.bconstructive.co.uk

ConstructionSkills Certification Scheme (CSCS). 0844 576 8777. Website: www.cscs.uk.com

The National Heritage Training Group (NHTG), Carthusian Court, 12 Carthusian Street, London EC1M 6EZ. 0300 456 5517. Website: www.nhtg.org.uk

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

 

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