So you want to be an architect... We’ll need to see a licence first! It hasn’t always been this way, but most people working within the architecture field today are registered professionals, similar to medical doctors or accountants. 

That means if you want to practise architecture and offer architectural services to clients, you’ll need to become registered with the country’s official regulator: the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP). 

Sound complicated? Keep reading to find out more.

Let’s talk basics

In South Africa, you can obtain architecture qualifications through a university or university of technology, and your course of study and career outcomes may differ depending on the tertiary institution you choose.

You might already know that tertiary education takes place at different levels: undergraduate and postgraduate.

At the start of your study path, you’ll begin an undergraduate degree. This is a foundation programme in the design of buildings and the environments around them. Depending on your chosen tertiary institution, there are different qualification options available.

The undergraduate years: What to expect

  • Courses are frequently studio and project-based, with students working individually or in groups
  • You’ll be encouraged to develop solutions to design problems, often presented for discussion as models and drawings, as a way of bringing together theory and practice
  • General subjects include design, construction, the history and theory of architecture, environmental studies, theory of structures and more
  • An introduction to computer-aided draughting is part of the course   
  • Courses will develop your representation skills – how to present your ideas and work

Exit ahead?

The path to becoming a registered architect can be long and demanding … and not everyone can follow along right to the end. What if you change your mind? Or what if tricky life circumstances mean you’re forced to stop studying? Here’s the good news: many architecture students nowadays develop careers in design-related industries even if they don’t (or can’t) go on to obtain their professional registration. Once you complete your undergraduate degree, you’ll have the skills and expertise to pursue a range of exciting career options. 

Find out more. 

Going the distance…

Once you’ve armed yourself with an undergraduate degree, you’ll be able to progress on the path to professional registration. To become a registered architect, you need to complete postgraduate-level programmes that extend over two years of full-time study.

Architecture all-sorts

    There are many different paths you can follow within the architecture profession. During your studies you may discover a particular interest in landscape architecture, interior architecture or urban design. Some architects branch off into furniture design and manufacture whilst others pursue careers in the design and making of objects. In a rapidly changing world, architects are able to adapt to the demands of people and society and many fulfil roles as facilitators and negotiators within the built environment.

    So what exactly does an architect do?

    Put simply, architects design the buildings and other spaces where we live, work, play and learn. But the work of an architect involves so much more than producing design and construction drawings – they also handle the administration of projects, oversee the construction process, ensure their clients get the best value for their money, and approach the project in an imaginative and creative way, all while ensuring work is delivered on time and on budget.

    Things to cover in the interview:

    • Basic definition of their job
    • We design buildings but also so much more … [safety, aesthetics, etc]
    • Common features of an architect’s job
    • General skills that are required (also: architects are diverse. Their work depends on where they live - big city or small town - the kind of firm they work for, and lots of other factors)
    • Examples of different clients
    • An example of ‘a day in the life’

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