Plan, design, create and shape the skyline of tomorrow, today.
An architect is defined as a person who can design buildings. They also supervise their construction, manage teams of varied sizes, and play a vital role in urban and rural developments.
It’s a rich and varied career that can take many different forks from private practice focusing on homes through to urban planners and creators of vast skyscrapers. It is certainly one of the more glamorous career choices in South Africa today. If you play your bricks and mortar right, you can become a household name and reshape South Africa’s growing city skylines.
The role of architect is varied and has undergone some changes over the past few years in terms of type of qualification and what training you need to achieve it. According to an article penned by Gerald Steyn, a Research Professor in the Department of Architecture at the Tshwane University of Technology, there are four categories for you to choose from: Professional Architect, Professional Senior Architectural Technologist, Professional Architectural Technologist, and Professional Architectural Draughtsperson.
This list is longer on the official government website that also includes: Candidate Architect, Candidate Senior Architectural Technologist, Candidate Architectural Technologist, and Candidate Architectural Draughtsperson.
Each of these categories requires different skills, training and education.
Architects are in high demand in South Africa and abroad, which means you can not only carve out a solid career locally but you can transfer your skills overseas if you want to travel and explore the world. It’s a challenging and demanding job that expects you to be extremely focused, passionate about design, and committed to painstaking attention to detail. You’ll also need to be a good communicator because your work will include liaising with clients, third-party service providers, construction teams and, depending on the size of the project, your own teams.
As an architect, the following talents and skills will really stand you in good stead:
- Problem solving skills. You will have to work within complex environments and deal with difficult people and challenges. Problem solving skills will go a long way to ensuring you thrive in this world.
- Managerial skills. You will deal with people, a lot. And the more successful you become, the bigger your teams and the more you’ll have to learn how to manage others.
- Social literacy and emotional intelligence. It’s important to know how to relate to other people not just as their leader, but as another human being. People who have high emotional intelligence and social literacy skills tend to go further and be appreciated more.
- Imagination and creativity. Yes! Architects can transform homes, lives, businesses and cities. This is a challenging career but also an incredibly creative and rewarding one.
- Organisation skills. Be prepared, have a checklist, know how to project manage, and pay close attention to detail.
- Mathematical skills. Architecture may be creative but it’s also precise. You need to know how to handle your numbers in this role.
There are numerous architecture roles so the salaries vary but some examples are:
Boost your skills while at school
A matric pass is essential to studying to becoming an architect, even if you go onto study for a diploma rather than a degree. Completing your matric year with strong maths, design and language skills will put you on track to really thrive in this career. You should work on getting your maths in excellent shape and consider developing your language skills in Zulu, Afrikaans and English, as well as your computer literacy and design skills. You will also want a solid foundation in computing, art and a good overall grade average to gain acceptance to university.
To boost your skills, visit the free Vodacom e-school portal for extra lessons and helpful guides. You can use the portal to also further your skills in English and other languages. Visit TopDog for even more training courses that will help you with your studies.
Vodacom e-school does ask you to register first but the process is as simple as entering your name, a password of your choosing, and the one-time-pin that they send you. Then select your grade (you can change this at any time) and start learning. Read our comprehensive breakdown of the accountancy profession below to find out which role best suits you and your career aspirations and to help you choose the right subjects at school.
How to train to become an architect
Training to become an architect requires quite a bit of forethought. There are several tracks available to you and the one you choose will depend on your career goals, the environment you would like to work in, the time spent studying and the institution you choose.
You can study architecture either through a university or a university of technology – sometimes the former offers a variety of different architecture courses – and your study path will be directly influenced by your final qualification.
When you’ve completed your studies you will have to register with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) – it’s actually illegal to operate as an architect without this registration.
As for your studies, well, what you study will depend on the type of architect you would like to become and the qualification you choose. It’s a good idea to speak with the different education institutions to find out what they offer and how their courses will fit in with your career goals.
The following institutions offer accredited and recognised architect diplomas and degrees.
- Tshwane University of Technology – Department of Architecture
- University of the Free State – Faculty of Architecture
- University of Cape Town – Architecture and Planning
- Cape Peninsula University of Technology – Architectural Technology
- Nelson Mandela University – Department of Architecture
- University of Pretoria – BSc Architecture
- University of KwaZulu-Natal – Discipline of Architecture, Planning & Housing
- Academic Institute of Excellence – School of Architecture and the Built Environment
- University of the Witwatersrand – Architectural Studies
The multiple career paths of an architect:
- Architectural technologist
- Professional architect
- Urban designer
- City and Regional Planning Professional
- Interior Architect
Professional bodies and associations:
- The South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) – this is not the same as SACAP but it’s a highly valued resource and organisation. They’ve even created a helpful list so you can see the difference between the two organisations.
- The Gauteng Institute for Architecture (GIfA)
- The Cape Institute for Architecture (CIFA)
- The South African Institute of Architectural Technologists (SAIAT)