5 Best countries for Architects to work in and how to get your foot in the door

Architecture jobs abroad can be very competitive, as more and more architects are turning abroad in search of the most exciting job opportunities. Finding a job abroad can be a life changing decision and the chance to construct the project of your dreams.

As the work opportunities of an architect are linked to a good state of real estate or construction, a recession in the construction sector not only reduces the demand of enterprises for labor, but also represents the lost of work places for these professionals. Thus architects seek countries with high real estate activity which is not necessarily concentrated in a single continent. They are not necessarily developed countries, but they are the ones requiring real estate development for the development of the national economy.

Technically, you can find architecture job opportunities pretty much anywhere in the world. However, some markets present much more profitable jobs for architects than others. Architects from industrialized countries are often frustrated by the amount of red tape and limited number of major projects that they have access to. On the other hands, in many developing countries architects are guided by less bureaucracy, more building, in most cases.

Whether you are planning to establish your overseas architectural career in the developed or developing country, there is no better time than the present to take action. In this article, you will have the opportunity to discover five of the best countries for architects to live and work abroad.

  1. Canada

Legal/visa requirements

By law, you are not allowed to practice as an architect in Canada, or use the title “architect,” if you haven’t been licensed as a full member from the regulatory body in the province or territory where you intend to work. However, it is not necessary to be registered or licensed to work in an architectural firm if you are working under the direction of an architect. The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) is the national association and the voice for architecture and its practice in Canada.

To improve your chances of success to practice your profession in your future country try to contact the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB) and the provincial or territorial regulatory body in the area where you intend to settle and work, and enquire about the specific procedure to follow and the potential costs and time required to obtain a permit. As well, ask about the steps in the licensing process that you can take prior to immigrating and afterwards.

To practice the profession, you need to have advanced English or French (depending on your destination province) language competency. Even if you’re a good speaker of English or French, it’s helpful to improve your language skills and enroll in language classes while you are in your home country and continue them after moving to Canada. You can assess your language skills by taking an online self-assessment test on the Canadian Language Benchmarks website.

The CACB requires specific educational documents such as your degrees and original transcripts to assess your education against Canadian standards. These documents have to be sent directly by your academic institution(s). It is much easier for you to gather and organize your official education, work and identity documents while still in your home country. When contacting them, inquire as well about any other documents you need to bring for employment purposes or to continue education and verify the translation of these documents. You might need to use a professional translation service in Canada.

Job Outlook

Generally, job prospects for Architects in Canada are positive. The number of architects is expected to increase slightly over the next few years as a result of the anticipated growth in construction and the demand for architectural services.

Though most Canadian cities offer employment opportunities in the architectural sector, you may find more opportunities in the fast-growing provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. When looking for jobs, broaden your geographic area to include smaller cities and towns close to your target city. Before deciding where you want to settle in Canada, research and find out where there is a higher demand for your area of the profession.

  1. United States

Legal/visa requirements

You cannot practice architecture in a U.S. jurisdiction without acquiring a license to practice in that jurisdiction and there is no reciprocal registration between foreign countries and United States except for Canada. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands has an architectural registration board that regulates the profession in their jurisdiction. There is also the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) is, a nonprofit corporation comprising the legally constituted architectural registration boards.

NCARB offers an alternative for certification through its so-called “foreign architect path to certification”.  At a minimum, this program requires:

  • Education: Have a degree from an accredited/validated/officially recognized architecture program that leads to registration/credential in a foreign country.
  • Registration: Hold a credential in a foreign country that has a formal record-keeping mechanism for disciplinary actions in the practice of architecture.

There are a variety of options for obtaining a US work visa for architects. Even if you are not a licensed architect, you could still qualify for a work visa in the United States in the field of architecture.  In order to qualify for a work visa, you must have sponsorship from an employer in the US, unless you are seeking to manage and direct your own architecture related firm via the E-2 visa.

You do not necessarily need to be licensed to obtain a work visa to work in an architecture related role in the US.  However, it is important to note that if you are not licensed and you will be working for an architecture firm, you will need to work under the direct supervision of a licensed architect.

Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics employment of architects in US is projected to grow 7% from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, the competition for jobs will be very strong because the number of applicants continues to outnumber available positions.

There should be demand for architects with knowledge of green design as rising energy costs and increased concern about the environment has led to many new buildings being built according to environmentally friendly design.

Opportunities are also geographically sensitive, and some parts of the country may have fewer new building projects. Also, many firms specialize in specific buildings, such as hospitals or office towers, and demand for these buildings may vary by region. Among the cities offering the highest paid in the architect profession are Lancaster, San Francisco, Atlanta and Sacramento.

  1. Australia

Legal/visa requirements

Generally, all qualifications in architecture obtained outside Australia must be assessed in terms of equivalence with an Australian qualification as the majority of overseas architecture qualifications are not recognised in Australia. Currently, the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia lists only a handful of non-Australian recognised degrees from New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore that they consider to be equivalent to an Australian architect’s qualification. All other degrees are assessed through their rigorous review system. Like the United States, architectural practice is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Unlike the United States, only title protection is given in Australian states.

Notwithstanding, you would still need to pass the APE examination in order to be registered and fully recognised over here. But just because you don’t have a formally recognised degree, it does not mean that you can’t work in the industry. Experience is more important than a piece of paper and any experience would place you at an advantage over new local university graduates.

The vast majority of architecture firms will not hire you unless you have Permanent Residency status. It is not out of the question that a company would be willing to sponsor your working visa, but there is a lot of paperwork and fees involved which turns off most people. For more on the legal requirements about working in Australia, you should contact the Australian Department of Immigration.

Job Outlook

Employment for Architects and Landscape Architects rose moderately in the past five years and Looking forward, to November 2020 is expected to grow very strongly.

For any type of position of responsibility, an architect needs to be knowledgeable of the local rules, regulations and construction techniques. Knowing about the building approval system through local councils, the role of building surveyors and generally how building procurement works in Australia is a necessity in a position of responsibility in any architecture firm. Thus Australian architecture firms usually require local experience and they may be hesitant to employ overseas architects without the working experience and knowledge of these areas.

Although job opportunities for Architects are available in many regions, Australia seems to have excellent opportunities is certain cities and absolutely none in others. In recent years for example Melbourne was considered being slow, while Brisbane and Perth were growing.

  1. Norway

Legal/visa requirements

Architect is not a protected title in Norway and thus you can call yourself that if you like to but you might not get a lot of job opportunities and there will be some obstacles on your way, e.g. the local authority may not allow you to submit building applications etc.

The title Sivilarkitekt (civil architect) is however a protected title, and reserved for graduates of Norwegian schools of architecture backed by a 5-year university study, or people who have presented proof of equivalent education from other countries.

To get your education recognized as an “sivilarkitect” you would need a 5-year architect education. Nokut is the government agency in charge of assessment of foreign higher education. They might approve your M.Arch degree without any further requirements, or they might ask you to do extra courses/exams in Norway.

Job Outlook

As Norway is reported to have a deficit of architects, the demand for skilled proffessionals  is high. For foreigners architects however, the Norwegian job market is not easy, and they may find it difficult to find a job in Norway. Immigration into Norway has only grown in the last few years, and previously, Norway never had a tradition of immigration. This results in Norwegian employers feeling quite reluctant to hire foreigners.

There are many large foreign companies who operate in Norway where the working language is English, however, for the vast majority of jobs in Norway including those in architecture fluency in Norwegian is usually an essential prerequisite. You can find Norwegian language courses in every Norwegian city, and you should note that depending upon what job you are applying for, enrolment in Norwegian courses may be compulsory.

Nevertheless, as Norway was recently named the best place in the world for young architects to find work, it seems worth considering.

  1. China

Legal/visa requirements

To work legally in China you must apply for a working visa (Z visa), through the employment license route. Cities like Beijing and Shanghai generally require also that you must have a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of post-graduate related experience and no criminal record. The basic process begins in China, the company willing to hire you needs to go to the Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security to apply. Once you arrive in China you will finally have to convert your Employment License into a Working Permit.

When your Alien Employment Permit is made you’re all set to work in China, and can easily change jobs. Last, there is no visa for people working on a freelance basis. Although we do not recommend it, there are some architects doing freelance work in a half-legal way offering to work for a local company on a part-time basis for a reasonable salary in exchange for help in obtain a visa.

Job Outlook

There are three types of architectural firms in the Chinese market, i.e. large state-owned design institutes, small/medium-sized private design institutes, and foreign design firms. Bid and Competitions are common ways for foreign architects to get projects in China.

As most of the key projects in China have already been completed, such as airport, large museum, performance center, library, etc, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to acquire landmark projects in the first-tier cities and the second-tier cities, but not exclude all possibilities.

China, despite of its worst air pollution compared to other countries in the world, is an active promoter for environmental protection. The green building concept is promoted by all local governments and developers, which opens new opportunities for foreign architects with experience ingreen design. Another of the new expanding markets for architects in China is healthcare facilities. Private hospital development, some analysts say, could replace corporate facilities as the strongest service sector in the architecture industry.

Traditionally Shanghai and Hong Kong were suggested as the best cities for foreign architects to kickstart their practice in the country, however, as the trend of increasing investments in the second-tired cities continues, it’s good to look for some opportunities in cities like Chengdu, Wuhan or Changsha.

I hope this look at the most interesting countries have inspired you in some way. I’d love to know if you agree that these are the most important places for architects to consider  / and if you agree with my choices as well /, or if you have other thoughts on what’s important. Please add to the discussion by commenting below!

12 thoughts on “5 Best countries for Architects to work in and how to get your foot in the door”

  1. best work as an architect is freelancing …. and for sure these countries are not great for that …. it really is not worth so many years of university to become slave in a corporation :/

  2. Not good idea comparing apples to bananas…. Most European countries have civil engineering in the architect education as a strong part of the profession. Good designer is one thing, but understanding structures is another.

  3. Totally disagree with the fact that the best country to work as an architect is Canada. I am in Canada, we have all the hands tidied up by builders, by big corporations who think about money and not the people. Very high liability and very little income, expected to work overtime for free, design control by local authorities and people who think that architects are drawing beautiful pictures only. If you are ready for this welcome to Canada. As a foreign trained architect for sure will be very difficult to find a job.

    1. I m so shocked and sad to find out this!! as I was about to apply to immigrate to Canada as an architect, I will be glad to know your experiences more about Canada! which province are you living in?

  4. HI ALL,


  5. As someone as already said, Canada is not a place for good architecture at present. Whole of Canada may has less than 35Million people and for Architecture to thrive you need demand and demand comes from people! So unless Canada increases its population drastically the demand for good design (aka architects) will remain low for times to come. I think the developing countries have better propects for architects as two things are going for them – population/demand and less red tape as the author indicates. I am an architect in Canada so I know first hand that the profession is controlled by others – developers, real estate agents, city planners, engineers. Its also very difficult to even run your own design-build firm due to red tape and control by licensing bodies that under the guise of protecting public are actually promoting mediocrity. You can go to a lot of cities in Canada and very quickly understand why all buildings are non-descript and just boxes. City planners do not even encourage best design practices and the developers and builders are all in for the money so donot want to spend anything on design fees.

  6. I’m in Australia almost 10 years now.I’m in Perth .I’m experienced overseas qualified Architect.I think here also mostly like Canada.Builders taken over whole Residential Developments.People consern more about money and interior design only ,not spacial quality of the interior.Most of houses doing by Draftee and all the Houses type plans.
    So it’s very hard to get Job over here.Without 02 years local experience can’t get registration still i’m trying to find a Job,same problem for many overseas qualified Architects.

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