A Principal Architect's Job Description


Architecture is a field that blends creativity with practicality. Architects design buildings that are both beautiful to look at and functional in their design. The principal architect is both a designer and a manager. She completes her own projects and also leads a team of architects and support personnel charged with additional projects. Her team could be large or small, depending on the size of the organization she works for.

Architectural Duties

  • The principal architect works on the overall look and functionality of buildings and other structures. He aims for aesthetically pleasing designs as well as safe, economical and useful spaces. The architect considers the overall needs of his clients as he designs. He meets with clients before the design process begins and throughout the project, and he also interacts heavily with construction contractors, inspectors and other people involved with the construction of the building. Staying within budget; adhering to applicable building codes, zoning laws and other ordinances; and delivering the project on time are important aspects of this work. Most commonly, architects used CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) and BIM (building information modeling) technology rather than paper and pencil.

Managerial Duties

  • The principal architect manages a staff, which usually includes junior and senior architects and administrative support personnel. She is responsible for delegating projects, overseeing group work plans, monitoring work flow and developing and enforcing goals, policies and procedures. She regularly checks up on her subordinates' progress to ensure quality standards are met and deadlines are achieved. She might hire, fire and discipline staff members, and she ensures her team has the tools, training and resources it needs to be effective in their work. The principal architect must expediently deal with the conflicts and problems that arise under her charge.

Work Environment

  • The majority of a principal architect's time is spent working in an office on solitary, often computer-based tasks. He does, however, visit construction sites to evaluate the progress of his projects. When on a construction site, he wears protective clothing, such as a hard hat, due to the risk of injury. The hours in this field can be long; a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report in 2008 found approximately one in five architects puts in more than 50 hours per week. The job is also stressful; the pressure to meet deadlines can be high.


  • Before being promoted to principal architect, an individual needs to successfully work as a junior and then a senior architect. Most architects complete a five-year bachelor of architecture degree program. Many follow that up with a master's degree in architecture. An architect completes a training period, under the supervision of a licensed architect, before taking a state licensing exam--all 50 states require licensure. This training period could be done as an internship while in school.

    A principal architect must possess the analytical and artistic qualities essential for designing buildings as well as leadership qualities like assertiveness, independence and resourcefulness. She should additionally be a good motivator and a decisive decision maker.


  • According to Indeed.com, $110,000 was the average annual salary of a principal architect as of April 2010.

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