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Insights Can I work as a foreign architect in the UK? Tips from inside Atkins

Meet Cova Maldonado Suarez, a qualified architect with the Royal Institute of British Architects. Originally from Spain, Cova graduated from the University of Alicante and went on to do an Erasmus scholarship at UWE in Bristol. After finishing her academic studies in Spain, she moved to the UK.

Cova has been at Atkins for over three years. Her day-to-day work involves communicating architectural concept designs and ideas through three-dimensional graphics and visual representations. A background in Fine Art, Book Illustration and Graphic Design gives her a unique vision of architecture as visual stories told through drawings.

Photo of Cova smiling towards the camera

What got you interested in working in the UK?

After my year abroad as a student in Bristol, I fell in love with the place, culture, and people. I wanted to improve my English, meet new people, and try something new. I attended an Atkins recruitment event, which led to my employment here.

What drew you to Atkins, and what keeps you here?

I wanted to work on large multi-disciplinary architectural projects in different sectors. And as a large consultancy, Atkins also offers great work benefits, including remote working and flexible hours. I enjoy a good amount of responsibility for a young professional and opportunities to grow within the company. I really enjoy the diversity of projects and our personal relationships with colleges.

What is your team like in Bristol?

Since most of my family and friends are in Spain, my colleagues at Atkins are among my closest friends in the UK. I was welcomed warmly to the team, and everyone was excited to have someone from another country on board.

What has career progression been like for you at Atkins?

I joined Atkins around three years ago as an Architectural Assistant. The experience I have gained from Atkins has allowed me to become a qualified Architect with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and a Conservation Registrant (CR) with RIBA. My experience with the company has been rewarding, and I always look forward to new opportunities.

What are you working on at the moment?

The architectural projects I work on at Atkins are designed to create a more favourable future for people. I'm on an exciting project with the Department for Education (DfE) related to NetZero in Schools in the UK. We're working with data and digital solutions to decarbonize and uplift the DfE's building portfolios.

What advice would you give construction professionals thinking about moving to the UK?

I suggest you check your credentials and conversion as the UK has different regulations on what constitutes a 'chartered or qualified' professional. I qualified in Spain and was a member of the 'Colegio de Arquitectos' when I moved to the UK. Still, I had to work as an Architectural Assistant for two years before I was able to register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) and call myself an architect.

In other words, architects and engineers qualified in other countries will have to convert their courses to chartered professionals in the UK. This may be a paperwork process or require further academic study. The good news is Atkins will give you all the support you need as you work towards chartership, including formal mentoring.

Interested in opportunities in the UK? Learn more about life inside Atkins and search live jobs.