Blog / BIM & Construction Management

Architectural Professionals in the UK: Job Roles Explained

Architect, architectural technologist, architectural technician - when browsing the job offers in the UK we often come along those titles. For foreigners, it might be a real pain in the neck to understand for which job they should apply for with their existing degree, as well as for those interested in studying architecture in the UK trying to figure out the most suitable study pathway.

In this post, we are going to discuss in detail the differences between these three professionals.  

Who is who?

Architects are at the center of the design and construction process. Their task is to design buildings that are safe, attractive and as environmentally friendly as possible. They must also stay involved throughout the construction process in case it becomes necessary to adapt the plans as the budget, environmental factors or the client’s wishes might change. Architectural technologists and technicians are there to assist them in every way. Architectural technologists are in charge of the technical aspects of design work and make sure they comply with regulations. In this sense, their role is similar to that of a civil engineer. Architectural technologists may also be hired by the practice to oversee a project from start to finish. Architectural technicians are there to prepare drawings, compile technical information such as surveys, and help put together proposals and contracts. As might be expected, most architects, architectural technologists and technicians work in architectural practices. There are also vacancies with large construction employers and in the public sector.  

What sets them apart?

One of the main differences between those professionals is the length of studies as well as the institution that qualifies their high standard. When the architecture professionals enter the profession it is expected from them to work towards a ‘professional qualification’. This is an on-the-job qualification that tells the world that the professionals are qualified to a high standard: Architects study to become chartered with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Working under the title of “architect” in the UK involves studying in a recognized architecture school for three to four years (RIBA Part I). After that, the student must gain at least a one-year working experience. Once completed, the student must then earn a postgraduate degree (usually the student will gain a ‘MArch’ qualification) which takes about one-and-a-half to two years (RIBA Part II), followed by an extra working year. Only then is the student allowed to take the RIBA Part III exam, which, upon passing, allows him/her to become a registered architect. Therefore, we can observe that it takes at least seven years to become a registered architect in the UK. However, it is pretty common to need ten or more years to complete all the steps and take the Part III exam. Architectural technologists study to become chartered with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT). Most architectural technologists have completed a three-year degree program approved by the CIAT. Architectural technicians study to become technician members of CIAT and have typically studied a Higher National Degree (HND) or Higher National Certificate (HNC) before applying for a job. The advantage of these courses is that they are vocationally focussed and therefore can lead straight on to a career. A full-time HND takes two years to complete, while a full-time HNC takes one. With further study, technicians can become technologists.  

What do they have in common?

Saying that all those professionals come together to work on the project is probably beyond obvious. However, we can’t underline enough the importance of collaboration and project management skills necessary to work in the most efficient and successful manner. Besides, nowadays this maybe more general-sounding skill-set is almost always accompanied by the need for an extensive understanding of Building Information Modelling (BIM). We can say that the UK is a step ahead of Europe and the rest of the world when it comes to BIM initiatives. We have already covered more extensively the current state of BIM in the UK and reflected on how the British government’s new construction strategy which demanded that all projects delivered after 2016 were to be in accordance with BIM Level 2 affects big infrastructure projects such as London Crossrail. During their years of studies and internships in different practices, the would-be architects in the UK become rather well-acquainted with different BIM platforms, which sets the bar high and demands considerable BIM skills from everyone wishing to work as an architectural professional in the UK, whether he is an architect, architectural technologist or technician.  

How can I up my BIM game to make my profile stand out?

There are many different online courses and Master’s programs on BIM to help you get started. Nevertheless, the possibility to practice on real-life projects and work collaboratively with professionals from different backgrounds is vital to gain a comprehensive knowledge of BIM processes. Zigurat recognizes the importance of hands-on learning. Our Master’s in Global BIM Management and Master’s in Global BIM Management for Infrastructure Projects help our students to build the necessary capabilities and capacities to exceed in the profession and achieve proficiency in using BIM authoring solutions. It is also worth knowing that thanks to Zigurat’s partnership with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists of the United Kingdom, our students gain a distinctive, quality, values-based education that prepares them for the demands of tomorrow. CIAT has accredited Zigurat’s master's degrees, passing an exhaustive academic quality control following the university standards of the United Kingdom. Students will also have the opportunity to take BRE courses on BIM Level 2 standards during the course of the master, as a bonus, the students have the possibility to become certified by BRE later. So, whether you are an architect, architectural technologist or technician, the knowledge of BIM is essential for your career in the UK, as well as beyond these shores.    

Zigurat Global Institute of Technology