Douglas McKay was a student of architecture at The University of Queensland from 1963 to 1968, graduating in April 1969 with the degree of Bachelor of Architecture. As a UQ student, he won the Brian Johnstone Prize for Design in 1966, and with Donald Watson was awarded First Prize in the Australian Gas Association Urban Housing Competition in 1967. After winning an Open Fellowship to the University of Toronto in 1970, McKay continued his studies in Canada, completing a Master of Architecture in Urban Design. He began his professional career as an urban designer for the City of Toronto Planning Board. In 1974 he was appointed Director of John Andrews International Pty Ltd, based in Palm Beach, New South Wales, a position he held until 1990. During his years with John Andrews, McKay was responsible for architectural and urban design redevelopment in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Washington DC and Los Angeles, and master planning for tertiary education campuses in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Hong Kong and Lethbridge, Canada. In 1990 McKay founded Douglas McKay and Associates Pty Ltd, also based in Palm Beach. His practice undertook residential design projects in Sydney, the New South Wales Central Coast and Japan, and provided consultancy services in urban design and master planning. Over the course of his career, McKay won numerous architectural and urban design awards.