The Role and Opportunities of the Commercial Architect

Photo by See-ming Lee

In earlier posts we learned about the Assistant Engineer role and the five career pathways for the aspiring Engineer. We also explored four future-proof professions for the new economy.

In this article, we take a closer look at Commercial architects and the opportunities and requirements of this promising career.

Commercial Architects are responsible for designing specifications for buildings used for commercial purposes such as retail stores, banks, offices, shopping malls, transportation buildings, medical buildings, lodgings and sports facilities. Residential Architects focus on designing homes and apartment buildings.

Both have the opportunity to create beautiful and more sustainable urban landscapes that reflect and affect our society.


Before you go dreaming of utopian cities, in order to get a job as a commercial architect, you need a Bachelor’s degree in architecture from an accredited college or university at the minimum. Architecture programs last from four to five years, and cover topics such as construction materials, computer-aided design (CAD), building design and structural systems.

After you gratuate, a three-year internship is required before taking the Architect Registration Exam. License requirements vary from state to state and country to country, but most require similar experience. To practice as an architect, you will need a license from the overseeing state or equivalent.


Architects often act as the go-between for clients and contractors. Environmentally-conscious architects can help clients make decisions for their design needs and demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. They also advise on building materials and renewable sources of energy.

Commercial architects specialize in niche areas such as sports facilities and prepare sketches and proposals to initiate a building project. They may do a variety of studies to discover the feasibility of a project or site.

During the building project, an architect will work with the client to update them on the progress, while helping the customer understand steps needed to build the areas of the building. People skills are needed to resolve inevitable conflicts and misunderstandings between client and builder.


Commercial architects may have their own design and development projects or project manage an entire team. Architects and their teams create scale models from their drawings and blueprints or sketches to present to the client and city managers. They coordinate the array of specialty contractors from HVAC specialists to plumbers to electrical engineers.

There’s bookkeeping involved as well, in collecting estimates and building a quote for the client from this data.


As project managers, commercial architects advise their clients on which contractors to hire for specific jobs, negotiate contract terms and manage budgets. The profession can weild a lot of power and authority, coordinating and supervising the contractors for the building project ensuring that the contractors understand the designs and specifications required by the client.


As you can see, being a Commercial Architect is a major endevour that requires specialised knowledge and skillful interactions with other professionals. It’s a profession that must advocate the respect, protection, preservation of the environment and to develop, share and promote best practice in environmentally sustainable construction.

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