The different types of architect in the UK

Types of architects in the UK – picking your specialisation

Picking a career path is not easy on its own, but once you become an architect, your decision-making is far from being over. Sooner or later, every architect comes to the point where they need to pick their specialisation, and things get even more confusing.

Without giving you specific career advice, let’s go over all the major types of architects UK professionals can evolve into.

What are architectural specialisations?

There are several different main types of architects in the UK. According to Barker Associates, the most common ones are

Residential architects

As the name suggests, these are the architects who specialise in designing homes and other residential buildings. You can niche down even further here, working with specific scales and sizes of residential buildings.

Considering that under 10% of all new homes in the UK are designed by architects, there is enough space to grow in residential architecture. Good old residential architecture can be very lucrative with proper branding and demand generation.

Commercial architects

These are the architects that design non-residential properties. The most common projects include office buildings and business centres, retail shops, government and public service buildings, galleries, hospitals, and other non-residential properties. 

Each type of commercial building allows an architect to narrow their expertise even further.

With commercial architecture you will have to deal with a lot of stakeholders, co-consultants, and contractors on a regular basis and on a large scale. You need to automate a lot, outsource tasks to assistants, use robust project management software, advanced apps, and stay updated with all the latest tech. 

The stakeholders in commercial architectural projects are usually very driven and profit-centric. You can make decent money in commercial architecture, but you need to update and maintain your expertise constantly.

Sustainable/Green design architects

These architects specialise in designing environmentally friendly buildings and structures. Sustainable architecture and building design are major trends that you can’t afford to stay out of. 

Consider getting BREEAM or LEED accredited to have the necessary credentials to your name – and picking sustainable architecture as a specialisation is a smart move in 2023.

Check out our post on sustainable architecture and building design if you want to get started with this field.

Industrial architects

This type of architect specialises in designing structures such as factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings.

Conservation architects

These professionals specialise in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings and structures. 

Considering the amount of architectural heritage in the UK this is a great specialisation to take on. If you are interested in becoming a conservation architect, study the necessary accreditation and steps to take.

Landscape architect

These architects design outdoor spaces like parks, gardens, and other public areas.

Interior architects

Some clients often confuse these. Interior architects focus more on structural design, materials, and the logic of the interior, while an interior designer’s job is to make an existing structure feel a certain way inside.

It is worth noting that qualified and licensed interior architects, who have the right to use the term ‘architect’ in their job title, usually get paid more than interior designers.

How to pick an architectural specialisation

Young architects can pick their specialisation based on various factors, including personal interests, career goals, and market demand. 

Here are a couple of ideas for the logic to guide your choosing process:

Personal interests and passions

Some architects may be drawn to a particular architecture type based on their interests and passions. For example, an architect who loves certain historical styles and works with cultural heritage needs to consider branding and growing as a conservation architect.

Career goals

Where do you see yourself in several years? Who do you enjoy working with? What are your dream projects? What would you be comfortable doing every day? Answer these questions for yourself, and picking will get easier.

Market demand

You need to keep your eyes open for emerging trends in your practice area. Big projects, demographic tendencies, the economy – consider everything for a clearer picture.


Young architects may also be influenced by the architects they work for or those who mentor them. That’s fine; take a sober look at your decision and understand why you are doing what you are doing.

Take a complex approach to specialisation

No matter if you are working for agencies or growing your own architectural business, you can always take your career and revenue to the next level by specialising the smart way.

Make data-driven decisions, know your goals, and plan ahead.