Starting a Career in Building Design: Your First 5 Steps

Updated December 2023

Interested in architecture, building design, and the construction process? Like the idea of being part of a design team and watching your concepts come to life as real buildings?

You've got a few different options in terms of design training and careers. You can go to university and complete a bachelor's or master's degree in architecture. Or you can focus on the inside of buildings and homes and become an interior designer.

Another option is to become a building design technician. This typically involves a one-to-two-year diploma program in drafting and design technology.

If you're looking for a shorter training option, becoming a building designer makes more sense than becoming a licensed architect. 

Let's take a closer look at what it takes to start a career in this field.

1. understand the role and Responsibilities of a building Design Technician 

You'd be surprised how many students actually skip over this step! There are a lot of assumptions about what building design technicians actually do. You should really nail down an accurate job description before making any major decisions.

Most people don't realize that building designers/drafters are involved in every stage of the building process. From that very first idea and rough sketch to the last brick of construction: building designers have an important part to play in each phase.

Here are some of the key responsibilities you would have in this job:

  • Consult with clients about their design goals and create initial concept sketches
  • Visit building sites to take measurements for renovations or new constructions
  • Apply for building permits
  • Come up with creative solutions to technical design challenges
  • Work with architects and engineers to create finalized 2D and 3D architectural drawings, blueprints, cross sections, and elevations
  • Ensure all building plans adhere to the Ontario Building Code
  • Prepare cost estimates for materials and labour
  • Keep clients updated on progress
  • Coordinate with construction teams to ensure the building process goes according to plan
  • Take care of administrative tasks at the design office

So while a lead architect or engineer will come up with the overall vision for a project, the designer is the person who actually creates the blueprints and ensures they're up to code.

They often deal closely with clients, answering questions and keeping them updated on the progress of the new build. Plus, many designer/drafters oversee construction to make sure the structure is developing exactly as it should according to the approved design plan.

You could work with an architecture or engineering firm, construction company, or as a freelance building design technician.


2. Research job outlook and salary for building designer/drafters

Nobody wants to invest in training, work hard to earn a diploma, and then realize there are no jobs in their field after graduation.

So one of your first steps should be to research local demand for building designers and see what kind of salary you'll be earning. Money isn't everything...but you should have a rough idea of what to expect before you get started with training.

We took a look at the latest career outlook report from the Government of Canada Job Bank. The forecast for design technician/drafter is positive for Ontario—three out of five stars.

The Job Bank also notes that designer/drafters in Ontario make a median hourly wage of $29.23 (roughly $61,000 a year). At the highest end of the pay scale, designers in the province are making $40 an hour or around $83,000 a year.


3. Check out the skills and characteristics you'll need to succeed

It's always a good idea to consider the natural attributes you'll need to succeed at the career you want—skills you might not learn in class, but are really key for the role you've chosen.

Obviously , you should have a real passion for building design and genuine interest in the construction process. But there are other important characteristics that stand out for designers, including:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong time management and organizational abilities
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Creativity
  • Technical aptitude (with computers, measurements, calculations, precision work, etc.)
  • Very detail-oriented
  • Teamwork


4. Preview architectural design courses: are you interested?

So let's say you match up with the skills and characteristics listed above. What about the day-to-day work of a building design technician? What theory will you have to know, what tools will you have to use, and what kinds of problems will you be dealing with on a daily basis?

One good way to find out is by looking at a course list for a building design program. Preview the knowledge and practical skills you'll be learning in class and make sure they spark interest for you.

For example, a typical building design and drafting program includes training in:

  • 2D and 3D AutoCAD software
  • Revit building information modelling software
  • SketchUp
  • Design theory, principles, and drafting standards
  • Drafting professional blueprints and architectural drawings
  • Exterior design and landscaping
  • Pitching design projects to clients
  • Project management tools
  • The Ontario Building Code (you'll need to take a certification exam)

This is the foundation of your training and career in building design. If these topics and skills sound intriguing to you, you're ready for the next step.


5. Compare colleges and select a building Design program

You have several options available for building design training. It will come down to cost, program length, college reputation, and overall fit.

Every student has their own priorities and goals when it comes to choosing a program. We've worked with thousands of students over the years, and strongly recommend meeting with admissions before you make your final decision.

Important questions to ask include:

  • Who teaches the building design program (what is their professional background, credentials, experience, etc.)?
  • What's the average class size?
  • How many months is the program?
  • Can you study online?
  • What are your financial aid options? Any grants or scholarships available?
  • Does the college provide extensive career support services to help you land your first job?
  • How long has the college been in operation?
  • What do building design graduates have to say? Are there positive reviews?

Get all your questions answered and compare your top choices.


Explore Building Design Training at Herzing College

Interested in learning more about Herzing's Building Design Technician program? We offer an intensive, full-time diploma you can complete in just 12 months.

Chat live with an advisor right now, or click below to explore the program in greater detail. We're here to help!

Explore the Building Design Technician Program


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