The role of an architect assistant is varied. It may range from sorting out initial design possibilities to creating a plan for a large-scale project, such as an urban renovation project. It could also mean designing a piece of furniture for someone. People with degrees in architecture take it in all different directions. For example, the gifted award-winning clothing designer Tom Ford earned a degree in architecture before turning to fashion design.
In the main, however, an architectural assistant draws up a lot of plans and works as a liaison between the client and the people working on the project. In today's more eco-conscious world, an architectural assistant needs to have knowledge of and experience with sustainable design and building practices as more clients demand structures that are as ecologically benign as possible.
Professional registration is not required for the architectural assistant. Though an assistant is not as independent in carrying out assignments as an architect, he or she does often apply the full range of design techniques to architectural work as it is required. Under the direction of an architect, the architectural assistant may do the following tasks:
- design plans for buildings
- design plans for alterations to buildings
- design plans for additions to buildings
- work as a liaison between the client and the architecture firm
- create schematic diagrams of buildings
- prepare detailed working drawings of various projects
- research materials, methods, and construction techniques
- inspect projects during construction
- prepare inspection reports
If this sounds like a career you would like, here are the things you need to do to pursue it.
If you are in college, earn a bachelor's degree in architecture or in design with a minor in architecture. Your academic adviser can provide more details for you. Choose coursework that includes architectural history, design, cost estimating, mechanics of materials, and computer aided design. Learning AutoCAD software and other design software is essential. While you're still in school, try to find internships and summer employment with architectural and engineering firms. Even unpaid internships can provide valuable work experience.
Additional experience in design, drafting, and cost estimating will benefit you in finding a job as an architectural assistant. A master's degree in architecture will usually count as one year's worth of experience. It is a good idea to join one or more professional organizations for architects, such as the American Institute of Architects. Students often can join with reduced fees.
Training to become an architectural assistant in an architecture firm is intensive and can be financially draining. However, for those with a natural love of design - particularly building design - no other career except perhaps being a licensed architect will do. It is a challenging and rewarding career because it is immensely satisfying to see the results of your work in use every day. An artistic sensibility, technical proficiency in design, and the ability to communicate clearly in writing and in person are all required of an assistant to a licensed architect.
If your education is not specifically in architecture, then a professional background in graphic design or working for an architect can be beneficial. Knowledge of building codes and use of AutoCAD software are very important also. The best architectural assistants are the ones who have the ability to see a project through from beginning to end. Because an architectural assistant is not licensed, he or she cannot do the things that a licensed architect can do. In addition to technical proficiency, the job of architectural assistant requires creativity and initiative. It is the job for a well-rounded person who is both "technical" and "artsy." Demonstrated creative ability, initiative, and follow-through are traits that will help a job seeker land a great job as an architectural assistant.