Architect vs. Architectural Engineer: What’s the Difference?

While students and professors keep confusing architecture and architectural engineering, the difference is still undeniable. Of course, both professions play an essential role in creating buildings. More than that, these two career directions might suggest studying the same topics and taking similar courses.

But the focus of them is much different. So, architects and architectural engineers, what roles do they play in the construction of a building?

Architectural engineering career

First of all, what is the focus of architectural engineering? The answer is simple. Engineers focus on building’s engineering features. Therefore, a person with the qualification of an architectural engineer should have a functional knowledge of designing mechanical and structural systems, combined with the managing of its lightening and electrical systems.

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Architectural engineers work closely with the architects, but their area of specialization is pure engineering. Their sphere of specialization is limited solely to the building process. Therefore, the career of an engineer attracts people with a solid mathematical background and scientifically inclined minds.

To apply for a position in the field of architectural engineering, you should be a holder of at least Bachelor of Science (BSc.). For students, it means four years of full-time study and academic assignments. Most of the BSc. curricular consists of the courses required for their career with less attention to general disciplines. As such, a list of the disciplines includes:

  • Physics
  • Civil Engineering theory
  • Technical drawing
  • Calculus
  • Mechanics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Construction theory
  • Electrical circuits
  • Mechanical systems
  • Structural analysis

In addition to the main courses, students need to complete several optional courses and pass an internship of one or couple of years.

Career opportunities in architecture

Professional architects may specialize in particular fields of work or industries. For instance, health care industry, residential design, buildings remodeling or designing specialized buildings (schools, churches, hospitals, etc.).

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All in all, the architects are to design and manage highly detailed construction projects. Unlike the architectural engineering, earning only a bachelor’s degree in Science may not be enough for standing out on a job market.  Most architects are expected to complete their master’s to suit employers’ requirements.

In the US, colleges offer students to enroll in a five-year program to earn bachelor’s degree. The courses are focused on architecture history, design and technology. After fulfilling the requirements of a five-year program, students are eligible to apply for a license of a professional architect.

While the courses for professional architects may vary from school to school, the list of compulsory disciplines to gain bachelor’s degree for all colleges includes:

  • CAD for architecture
  • History of architecture
  • Project management
  • Construction techniques
  • Sustainable (green) building

The minimal requirement for applying for Master of Architecture (M.Arch) program is holding a pre-professional degree. For those who already have a career in Architecture, it is possible to enroll in a program that suggests specializing in their area, for example, sustainable building or urban planning. A typical student at this level has a list of courses that includes:

  • Architecture critique
  • Theory of architectural design
  • Basics of building science
  • Technologies of digital design
  • Environmental issues and building design

If it is challenging for you to decide between the two career paths in architecture, there’s no need to worry. Many students begin their training in architectural engineering and wind up their studies as architects. To the pleasure of many students, the U.S. colleges widely provide the opportunity to switch career direction at any stage.

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