So you want to be an Architect?

Dear Readers,

I’m writing this guide as universal as possible so that anybody who’s interested in pursuing this field can get a definitive idea of what to do, where to go and how. I will update this as frequent as possible. There have been several inquiries on studying architecture, so I wish I could redirect them to this topic. Although I’m attached to UTM, my intention is purely altruistic and to provide information as neutral as possible.

The Architecture Profession: A Brief Introduction

1.0 What is an Architect?

Architecture is one of the oldest profession in the world. An architect is a designer of buildings. They don’t actually construct them, because they have builders working for them. Architects are the leader in the construction industry, usually second only to the client or developer. They don’t just design buildings, architects also take into consideration the clients needs and requirements and protects their rights.

2.0 Governing Bodies

The architecture profession in Malaysia is protected by law. The regulating and governing body of the architecture profession in Malaysia is known as Lembaga Akitek Negara (LAM). They govern the entire profession starting from the definition of an architect under the Malaysian Constitution, licensing, practice, acts and enactments as well as education.

The other body that concerns the well being of architects themselves is Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia. It functions as an association that takes care of its members, organize functions and manages the professional development of an architect from the lowest to highest qualification.

3.0. Practicing Architecture

Just like Bar exams for lawyers, architects also require certain level of qualification that is a standard worldwide. The qualifications are known as PAM Part 1, 2 and 3. The equivalent of this is RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), AIA (American Institute of Architects) and RAIA (Royal Australian Institute of Architects).

Pre-University (STPM/A-levels eq)
Part 1 Degree (3 years)
Part 2 Degree/Masters (2 years)
Part 3 Examination

The diagram above shows the career path of an architect. After graduating with Part 2, a person is known as an architect, and will be able to practice according to the job specification of an architect. This should be the minimum target of anyone pursuing this profession. Anything less is a waste of time.

These qualifications can be obtained in two ways:

  1. Obtaining a fully accredited degree (or equivalent) that carries Part 1 or 2 equivalent.
  2. Sitting for individual exams after obtaining a non-accredited degree for Part or 2.

Part 3 can only be obtained after practicing as an architect for a minimum of 2 years and fulfilling all the project requirements set by LAM. Fulfilling these needs, the architect will then submit themselves to a series of interviews and exams to determine that they are capable and absolutely qualified. These exams are conducted by PAM.

So how do one study to become an architect?

4.0. Common Paths to Studying Architecture

Click on image for bigger view

BLUE – degrees that lead to LAM accredited Part 2 architecture.
GREEN – degrees that lead to LAM accredited Part 1 architecture.
YELLOW – degrees that in currently unaccredited by LAM, but is of Part 1 or 2 equivalent.
ORANGE – diplomas that are sub-Part 1.
GREY – pre-university certificates.
RED – LAM qualifications exams to be taken independently.

List of Abbreviations:

UTM – Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
USM – Universiti Sains Malaysia
UM – Universiti Malaya
UiTM – Universiti Teknologi MARA
UIAM/IIUM – Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia / International Islamic University Malaysia
UKM – Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
UPM – Universiti Putra Malaysia

LUCT – LimKokWing University of Creative Technology
UCSI – University College Sedaya International
Taylor’s – Taylor’s University College Malaysia
Alfa – Alfa International College (formerly known as Alif)
IUCTT – International University College of Technology Twintech
ITP YPJ – Institut Teknologi Perindustrian, Yayasan Pelajaran Johor
Poli KPM – Politeknik Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia
UCI – Unity College International

The diagram above illustrates, as simple as possible, the route to become an architect after SPM. There are several ways to do so, and it is totally up to a person. The choices are quite open, where students can generally study fulltime in Malaysia, partly in Malaysia+overseas, or fully overseas.

Each of the choices above have its own advantage and disadvantages. This I will elaborate further in the future. Most important factors are time and money. So the next question would be: where can you study architecture?

4.1. Schools, Accreditation and Level of Qualification

LAM in collaboration with Lembaga Akreditasi Negara (LAN) frequently assesses schools (once every 5 years) in order to maintain the standard of education for architecture. New schools will need to be assessed fully before given accreditation. As I’ve mentioned before, to obtain Part 1 and 2 qualifications, the diploma or degree must be accredited by LAM and LAN.

Locally, schools that have obtained PAM Part 1 are:

UTM, UiTM, UM, USM, UIAM, UPM, UKM, Taylor’s and UCSI

Schools that have obtained PAM Part 2 are:


Schools that are recognized to conduct architecture education but not yet accredited by LAM are:

Limkokwing,  Alfa College (formerly Aliff College), IUCTT (L&G Twintech) and Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure University College (KLIUC)

Schools not currently accredited usually have a partner or twinning programmes with other accredited universities. LUCT for example is partnering with Curtin University, which by the time a student graduates from Curtin, they will acquire a PAM part 2 equivalent qualification.

Important note: In architecture education, there are two bodies awarding recognition/accreditation: LAN/MQA and LAM. LAN/MQA is responsible in ensuring that the course offered complies to the standard of awarding an academic certificate (diploma, degree etc). Not having a LAN/MQA recognition simply means the school does not have high enough standard to award a single degree, let alone an architectural degree. LAM on the other hand monitors the quality of architecture education, ensuring that a degree produces qualified architect for practice. Not having LAM accreditation means the degree still has value, but not enough to become a legally licensed architects. However graduates still have the option to take LAM exams independently.

4.2. Accredited International Schools

Studying overseas is one of the recommended option to study architecture. It is advised that an architect to travel as much as they can, to understand other buildings, arts and cultures. I personally would recommend studying in Europe, as you can really benefit a lot from travel. Listed below are accredited schools by LAN & LAM, which upon graduation, you will be automatically awarded PAM part 2, an additional qualification apart from the given RIBA equivalent.

(Meaning if you graduated from these schools, you can work both overseas and in Malaysia.)


Adelaide, Canberra, Deakin, Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW), New South Wales Institute of Technology, Queensland, Queensland Institute of Technology, Tasmania-Launceston, Sydney, South Australia, Curtin University of Technology and Western Australia.


University College Dublin


University of Hong Kong


University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington


Robert Gordon (Aberdeen), Bath, The Queen’s University (Belfast), Central England Univ (Birmingham), Brighton, Cambridge, Kent Inst. of Art&Design (Canterbury), Wales (Cardiff), Greenwich (Dartford), Dundee, Heriot-Watt (Edinburgh), Mackintosh (Glasgow), Strathclyde (Glasgow), Huddersfield, Humberside (Hull), Leeds Metropolitan, De Montford (Leicester), Liverpool John Moores, Liverpool, Architecture Association (London), The Bartlett (London), Kingston, North East London Polytechnic, Westminster (London), North London, South Bank (London), Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Nottingham, Oxford Brookes, Plymouth Polytechnic, Portsmouth and Sheffield.

List above are courtesy of Lembaga Akitek Malaysia

4.3. Common Paths after Finishing Part 1

The diagram above illustrates common paths that most architecture students with Part 1 took after finishing up their first degrees. Yellow choices indicate academic paths, and blue choices indicate work/practice paths. It is also common that students choose to work for a year or two before continuing for their Part 2. Having work experience tremendously boosts their chances to land a place in a university, not to mention the advantage of experience they have over other students who went straight from Part 1.

5.0. Planning Your Studies

5.1. SPM Subject Relevance

Due to so many questions about what subject(s) to take during SPM that would be considered relevant to architecture, I’ve tabled out all the SPM subjects (not including vocational subject category) and explained more or less on its relevancy to architecture education.

Click on image for bigger view.

    i. Subject – Subjects that have been categorized according to its similar contribution towards architecture education.
    ii. Category – Keywords of relevant knowledge or skills that is attributed to the subject in architecture education.
    iii. Description – A brief description on what the subject could contribute when studying architecture.
    iv. Relevance – The value of taking that particular subject in relation to learning architecture.

This table is not to be confused with the intake requirement for any university. This list compiles the relevance of the subjects according to the typical architecture curriculum. Meaning, not taking a “Very Relevant” subject does not put you at a disadvantage when applying for architecture compared to those taking it.

The other reason for this table is to demystify the common misconception that students need Math, AddMath, Physics and Arts in architecture, where in actual fact, those requirements are only needed when applying for the course. The purpose of this table is to provide general knowledge so anyone who just finished PMR could decide which subject they want to take for SPM in order to benefit the most during architecture education.

Updated :
(4 Jan) List of LAM Accredited International Schools
(4 Jan) Updated diagram 4.0 to include Taylor’s and LUCT paths
(4 Jan) Inserted spoiler tags to keep everything tidy
(26 Jan) Inserted item 4.3: Common paths after finishing part 1
(2 Feb) Added section 5.0. Planning Your Studies
(2 Feb) Inserted diagram 5.1.
(23 Mar) Updated diagram 4.0.
(17 Dec) Updated the accreditation list
(30 Jan 08) Updated diagram 4.0 with new information and format
(30 Jan 08) Updated diagram 5.1. with new relevancy
(30 Jan 08) Inserted Architectural FAQs
(30 Jan 08) Started Version 2 of the discussions
(2 Feb 08) Updated diagram 4.0. to include Kolej Negeri, Kolej Shahputra, ITP YPJ and UCI
(2 Feb 08) Added abbreviation guide
(20 Oct 08) Added UPM into the list of LAM Part 1 Accredited Schools
(5 Apr 09) Updated diagram 4.0 with new information and format
(5 Apr 09) Added UPM and UIAM into the list of LAM Part 2 Accredited Schools
(5 Jan 10) Updated some details
(9 Apr 11) Updated diagram 4.0. Included ITPert, Kolej Laila Taib and UTM SPACE (part time). Rearranged the structure and paths.
(9 Apr 11) Updated the accredited schools list
(5 Mar 13) Updated the accredited schools list

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