Architecture is notorious for its sleepless nights, expenses, headaches but also being a hands down respectable career. Upon gleaning on its hard work and time requirements… is going for architecture still worth it?
If one is passionate in an aspect of the field of architecture, it is definitely worth it in the skills acquired and long term stability in career. It needs passion to endure the lengthy process and wait for the financial return. There are also several career paths one can take having graduated architecture, whether licensed or not.
We go into detail on what the degree and profession requires of you in “Why is Architecture Hard?”. Here we’ll give a summary to later connect it to the career and final assessment on whether it’s for you.
You will have the most amount of time put in. Most likely, among your group of friends pursuing other degrees, they’ll get to enjoy the college party life and you’ll have to stay in to study or refine your work further. (1)
This leads to having more or less only architecture student friends and only having the time for who you can work with. Not to mention it greatly helps to share the struggle with those you can relate to.
This also leads to the high competitive nature in the design studio. The role of “architect” in the real world is being the leading professional and “chief builder” in construction. In one building, there can be many engineers but only one architect, one vision, one design. (By this I’m referring to the lead architect or “architect of record” in the project. I’ll get to the different kinds of architects later on). Therefore architecture school fosters this competitive culture for students to continually improve their work to be the “best” and “chosen” design.
The added difficulty in being an art and science is that… it being an art, there’s no “right” answer. Architecture is just a well researched and educated guess on whether the aesthetic will sit well with the public once the idea has been transferred from paper to concrete. (1)
The benefits of studying architecture is that it’s a creative field that still provides several technical skills and a foot in the professional world. Bombarding you with studying several subjects will equip you with an expansive set of skills from presentation, design, math and critical thinking, dealing with suppliers, consultants, managing a budget and timeline, assessing site work, etc.
The job satisfaction will be high in producing work that will benefit the public. You can create a diverse network with all the different people you’ll have to deal with. It also gives you a direct career path after graduation, which can be viewed as a positive or negative thing. (2)
Although the degree is respected worldwide, it also gives a specific curriculum that would make it difficult to easily switch into business or marketing should you wish for a career change.
A lot of your time and money goes into the university phase. It’s not just the course tuition that’s expensive. It’s also the design books, art materials, model making, printing and investing in a good laptop that can carry the heavy rendering in specifications. (2)
This is the tricky part architecture presents in that so much time and money is put into this initially and only getting to reap the rewards years down the line.
The full architectural journey is 5 years school, followed by 2 years internship and then preparing for the board exam before actually being an official (legal) “architect”. So it’s already a longer undergraduate course than usual, but with the added intern hours, examinations, several documentation and occasionally even needing a Master’s degree, it’s quite a long journey. More on why the license procedure is necessary and so stringent. (3)
However, it’s important to note that not every successful architecture journey means going through each step. A lot can be gained from just finishing your degree as we saw earlier how many skills you’ll be drilled/ exposed to. Because the course is so difficult, there’s a general respect toward earning that hard degree. (3)
This is plausible and quite common to not follow the direct architecture path all the way. Possibly because the amount of architects graduating every year are far higher than the number of jobs available. The profession also relies on the economy doing well for the industry to be booming. (3)
This led to several of my friends going off into different careers after graduating and are doing well, which is a nice to know comforting thought that your money is surely not wasted on architecture school.
With regards to the salaries of architects, it’s a slow growth and even then dependent on where you live. In the U.S. the base salary for an entry level job is $40,000 – 50,000. Meanwhile in the Philippines it’s as little as $300 on average. (4)
Although if you’re very patient and climb up the ladder in the architectural scene, the rewards can be big. The AIA Salary Survey Calculator, estimates those who passed the board exam and are officially licensed will earn between $60,000 – $90,000 yearly. (4)
Why does it take so long?
This is because in the arduous process of building up that reputation, you’ll encounter clients that will run away with your design or see others replicating your ideas; peers who find your work “ugly” or worse run into some money and legal issues in construction. (5)
These are the skills only gained in the practice after those initial 7-8 years and being knee deep in the business. You’ll endlessly be looking at laws to make 100% sure that what you drew and specified in design will have little errors in construction, as they become a legal document with your signature and seal. (5)
Architecture being a highly complex subject requires the combination of layers and layers of different professions simultaneously integrated into one building. Should technology advancement progress to accomplish this in the future, the “human” aspect of architects is what makes spaces great.
Negotiating with contractors and handling clients’ wishes in a dream home on budget are difficult for artificial intelligence to take over. Advanced scheduling and BIM, 3D software can in fact make an architect’s life easier. (4)
Not to mention the sensitivity toward how spaces are shaped to cater to our emotions, make us shocked or feel solemn. Buildings need to adapt to the environment and serve public life.
As per the National Career Services of UK, one who wants to be architect should acquire the following qualities:
- Design skills
- Creative thinking
- Customer service
- Project management
- Analytic/technical thinking
- Computer literacy
- Mathematical excellence”
Due to the many topics you have to study, there are several avenues of a career to explore. Sure it’ll be harder to switch into economics or business, but there are plenty of other fields that an architectural mind can make better. (1)
Different specializations for architects: (6)
- Landscape Architect
- Urban Planner
- Restoration Architect
- Research Architect
- Lighting Architect
- Political Architect
- Extreme Architect
Careers in Art & Design
- Industrial Designer
- Furniture Designer
- Textile Designer
- Graphic Designer
- Video Game Designer
- Production Designer
Careers Out of Design
As per the AIA (American Institute of Architects), there are several career paths one can take with an architectural degree:
- Principal Architect
- Project Architect
- Staff Architect
- Senior/Junior Architect
- Architectural Consultant
- Model Maker
- Architectural Illustrator
- Corporate Architect
- Facilities Architect
- Public Architect
- University Architect
- College Professor
- Architectural Historian
- College Dean
- Architectural Researcher
Arts and Design:
- Architectural Photographer
- Architectural Creative Director
- Interior Designer
- Industrial Designer
- Museum Curator
- Landscape Architect
- Furniture Designer
- Toy Designer
- Clothing Designer
- Exhibit Designer
- Graphic Artist
- Film Maker
Science and Technical:
- Building Pathologist
- Civil Engineer
- Structural Engineer
- Computer Aided Design Operator
- Building Inspector
- Marine Architect
- Building Official
- Project Manager
- Land Surveyor
- Fire Protection Designer
- Real Estate Developer
- Architectural Critic
- City Manager
- Environmental Planner
- Architectural Lawyer
- Project Assessor
- Public Official
- Real Estate Agent
- City Planner
- Urban Planner
- Regional Planner
- Architectural Writer
Architecture may not be for everyone and you may not know if it’s for you till you’re in the 3rd year of university or even after graduating the course. What’s absolutely certain is that pursuing the path will teach you a whole new way of thinking and looking at the world.
I personally struggled throughout those years, constantly questioning whether I was meant to be an architect, since I didn’t “envision” buildings in my head. I realize, you don’t need to be an architect by standard societal definition. You can be an equally great architect if you simply have a passion for improving the built environment.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t finish it to the end of getting that professional license. The tidbits of architectural thinking you pick up along the way will surely make for a creative and unique career ahead.
- *. (2022). 11 reasons architecture is the hardest major (W/ high quit rate!). Architecture Two Cents. Retrieved March 2022, from https://architecttwocents.com/why-is-architecture-the-hardest-major-course/
- archisoup. (2021, October 21). Is architecture & being an architect worth it? – archisoup: Architecture Guides & Resources. archisoup. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.archisoup.com/is-architecture-worth-it
- Hummus, S. (2020, December 24). The truth about an architecture degree… YouTube. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7Wbm-A1M6I
- Paul, T. (2022, February 10). Is becoming an architect worth it? architect questions. Architectural Foundation. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.archfoundation.org/architect-worth/#What_is_the_Growth_Scope_of_an_Architect
- Riscica, M. (2020, June 25). 10 reasons why you should not become an architect. Young Architect. Retrieved March 2022, from https://youngarchitect.com/why-you-should-not-become-an-architect/
- Zilliacus, A. (2016, November 7). 21 careers you can pursue with a degree in architecture. ArchDaily. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.archdaily.com/798632/21-careers-you-can-pursue-with-a-degree-in-architecture