Would you like to become an architect? What classes should you take in school? How do you get started in your career? And (we have to ask) how much will you earn?
This page answers some of the most frequently asked questions about
careers in architecture. The advice comes from several architects who
participate in our discussion forum, and from Dr. Lee W Waldrep, an
Architectural Education Consultant and author of Becoming an Architect.
1. It’s a lifestyle, not a job.
Architects typically tend to think about architecture all the time, I
know I do. Not just the big ‘A’ type of buildings or projects, but every
little thing from every where I go. I go somewhere and start looking at
materials, form, massing, lighting, etc. If I take a trip somewhere, I
start by planning it around the buildings I want to visit. Probably 90%
of all the books I buy (not including children’s titles) are about
architecture – I even put them on my Christmas list.
2. People respect architects.
Even if they don’t really understand what we do, there is a perception
that architects are ethical and responsible and will endeavor to make
the right decision to our own detriment. It’s part of the reason that
‘architect’ is chosen so often as the vocation for title characters in
movie and TV roles. Architects aren’t generally viewed as driven by
financial rewards like doctors or as scurrilous as lawyers (can be).
3. Job is constantly evolving.
Architects are not artists – we have to address building technology and
programming. There are constantly evolving materials and construction
methods out there and we are required as a profession to address the
demands of the public at large (building performance, energy
consumption, incorporating recycled materials, etc.). Architects create
new design concepts that push how modern day construction is executed.
Architecture is one of the few professions that is never static.
4. Artistic freedom and personal expression.
As an architect, we are given certain project parameters that help guide
the direction of our projects. We are then given the freedom to pursue
the artistic embodiment of those parameters. 10 architects with the same
client and the same project parameters will provide 10 different
solutions. Every time.
5. You can be your own boss.
You can be your own firm of one and still be a viable service provider
on almost any size project. You can enter contests and win commissions
for major projects by yourself – I can’t think of another vocation that
can provide similar latitudes. I have also seen a team of 3 people
design and prepare construction documents on a mall over 1,000,000
6. There are tangible (and sometimes euphoric) results.
Anyone who has ever seen a building that they worked get built knows
exactly what I am talking about. I am still excited to watch one of my
projects getting built – it’s like having your own laboratory where you
can experiment and refine things that you consider to be important and
worthwhile. It ties into the artistic freedom listed in #4 but
architects generally have a sense of ownership on every project they
7. We can positively impact peoples lives.
It is rewarding to develop a personal relationship with your client,
particularly when you know that the process will yield a more fruitful
end product. By understanding the process, our clients appreciate the
product. By appreciating the product, they are acknowledging the role it
8. Experimentation is expected.
Despite architecture having to contain building sciences and technology,
the final esoteric product does not have a definitively right or wrong
answer. Because no two architects will ever come up with the exact same
solution given an identical set of parameters, there is a liberating
sense that you are here for the purpose of imparting your own
personality on the project. We are expected to try new things, explore
different materials, and incorporate emerging technologies into every
9. Longevity of Career.
You can practice the profession of architecture for as long as you want –
you’ll always be an architect even when it isn’t your job anymore. Most
architects don’t really start to become good until later in life – I’m
talking in their 50′s. I imagine that you have to come to some sort of
understanding as to who you are as an individual before you can start to
be consistent with imparting your imprint onto a building.
10. Incredible variety of options within the profession.
Unlike other professions, you graduate with a degree in architecture
without having to know what type of architecture you are going to focus
on. This is really great because when you graduate, you don’t know
enough about the possibilities to know what you want to do. You can
float between big and little firms, the role of project architect,
designer, or management. You can work on building types from different
market sectors like hospitality, residential, civic, retail, etc. and
will still be an architect. Your degree will have a marketable value
beyond the time of your immediate graduation.
Bonus. We can wear ridiculous eye wear and get away with it.
People expect architects to be a little bit
nerd mixed with creative artist. This conflict of known social paradigms
allows generous liberties to be taken with your personal billboard (but
you have to earn it).
Thursday, August 16, 2012
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