US Architect moving to the UK


Hi, I'd like to get some advice about working as an architect in the UK.

I’m a US licensed architect and have been working for 10 years. I work for a firm with experience in residential projects, medium-sized commercial projects, master planning, and university housing.

I have an opportunity to move to Cambridge, England, because my fiance has been offered a job with the university.  It would be a good career move for him, but we want to make sure that I would be able to find employment before we decide to move.

I would really like to find work in or near Cambridge.  A commute from Cambridge to London is possible, but I'm wary of the long commute.

Here are a few questions:

1.  What is the job market like Cambridge?  In London?  How quickly am I likely to find a job as an architect? Am I likely to find something in 1-3 months?  3-6 months?  Longer?

2.  How do firms there value an American degree and experience?

3.  Is it important to get registered in the UK?  I have heard that I'd have to take the Part III course.

Thanks for your help!

Sep 15, 12 11:30 am

Registration part would be a nightmare. Friends who tried and failed (all of them) were stuck at such trivial questions such as, "how come you don't have your first year project to show and talk about like it was designed by an experienced architect". It's a protection racket (like everywhere else). They'll ensure you fail. Having just done a project in the UK, the arch babblespeak and technical terminology shift alone is a mindfuck. Are you good at picking up languages?

I'd say commute from Cambridge to London is mathematically impossible in a profession where you don't leave at 5.

Your best bet is to dump your fiance, but failing to do that, prepare yourself for an awesome adventure! Embrace the highs, drink away the lows. You'll have a blast. Aaand eventually you'll come back. They all do.

ps. best way to move to UK is if you already work for a global mega arch firm that has offices everywhere.

Sep 15, 12 3:56 pm  · 
Maria M

I would like to encourage you and give you some useful information but I’m afraid the work situation in the UK is extremely bad at the moment. I have a similar kind of experience as you (registered in the UK and worked here for over 10 years), I have been made redundant a month ago and I find the job search completely soul destroying. The market is flooded with high quality architects looking for work and the competition is tough.

Ok, moving to Cambridge: very nice, beautiful in fact; not sure there are many architectural firms there but there bound to be a few. Have a look on the internet; check on the RIBA practice registry

Still, you would have been better off moving to London – the majority of work is here, not in the regions. You could commute but it’s very frustrating (trains are complete nightmare) and very expensive – have a look how much the season ticket will cost. I don’t know, maybe it still can be an option.

Registration: yes, you have to be UK registered (ARB). The interview is expensive and I know a lot of people have failed; but it’s doable (especially after a few month working in a UK practice) so it’s the least of your problems. Again, as far as I know practices in London sometimes are happy to take on unregistered architects, but you will not be able to call yourself “Architect”.

I would say - contact recruitment agencies (Bespoke, Adrem, etc – you can have a look at Building Design website: ) and see if you can find contract work first. And apply to as many practices as you can yourself.

I would suggest speaking with your fiancé and seeing if you also can find work in the university. It would be your best bet.

Good luck! :)

Sep 17, 12 5:03 am  · 
Maria M

Yes, your experience: from the design point of view, probably exactly the same. Technically, maybe slightly different but I’m sure you will be able to work it out in no time. Regulations, requirements etc – especially in housing – tricky. But again, I’m sure would not be a problem. Put together a nice CV with information on what jobs you worked on, value, and what stages (RIBA stages of work); info on what kind of programs you use; and add some project pages.

Oh yes –VERY IMPORTANT -  if you know Revit you will find work in no time. A lot of companies getting into it at the moment and there are not enough Revit specialists to go round.

Sep 17, 12 5:09 am  · 

I ma a licensed architect of over 40 years in the United States of America and have an NCARB Certificate. I would like to get my license to practice architecture in the UK. I have been informed that I must receive a "right to Work" letter to file for  me reciprocal license to practice architecture in the UK.

How do I go about requesting this required "Right to Work" letter?

Jun 1, 23 1:25 pm  · 

Go away bot. 

Jun 1, 23 1:55 pm  · 

"Right to Work" letter would be related in some way to your work visa in the UK; ie. once you have a valid visa in hand you would then be able to produce a letter that proves your right to work in the country.

Jun 1, 23 2:06 pm  · 
1  · 

Well that is a “Catch 22”. I need the “Right to Work letter to get my license. I need a Visa to get my “Right to Work letter. I cannot even advertise as an architect until I have my license and cannot get work until I advertise for a project. Therefore I cannot get a Visa which I need to get my license. 

Jun 1, 23 4:25 pm  · 
1  · 

Google is your friend.

Jun 1, 23 4:32 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

Yep, if you are planning on opening your own firm in a new country, rather than going to work for someone else, then you will almost certainly run into this exact "Catch-22" or something similar. It gets even more confusing if, like me, you took an "alternate path" to licensing and don't have the degree they're looking for.

Jun 1, 23 5:36 pm  · 

It’s a point based / tiered -system for work permit in the UK . Unless you are a business owner with capital to invest and employ locals , then that’s another class of Visa altogether. Not easy.

Jun 1, 23 7:53 pm  · 

Its not that roundabout. You fundamentally have two options, 1) get hired through a visa process to work for a firm and then get your license via that acenue, or 2) begin the process of setting up your UK business entity first, which would provide you with the right to work in the country. Probably worth asking the RIBA directly about this

Kinda makes sense that they don't just hand out licenses through equivalency like you're describing, since anyone in the world could start offering services there. Like some people (person) on this forum think.

Jun 2, 23 9:56 am  · 

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