Wednesday, November 25, 2015

To the Student in Architecture (Part One)

Over the years I have had contact with aspiring young architects from grammar school to university.  Student groups of all ages have come through my office, I have given talks at career days, and I have counseled young people thinking about a career in architecture at every invitation.  For a few years I taught architectural design at the college level and even taught architectural drafting at a trade school. Whenever these young students ask me what I think of their contemplated career choice in architecture, my answer is always the same: run in the opposite direction as fast as you can!   Most people have deep misconceptions about what an architect does - how he or she spends a typical day and, especially, what they earn. Architecture is viewed favorably among professions, with few negative connotations. That’s because it is perceived as something far more glamorous and financially rewarding than the reality.

Of course, my usual follow-up when discouraging a career in architecture is, unless you truly have a passion for it. That would be true with most jobs. However, it seems to me to be especially true of architecture because the path to obtaining a license is very long and the remuneration rather dicey.  Is there enough reward for the investment? Some careers might be a logical choice because the money and benefits are so great you can put up with a lot of BS and some degree of delayed gratification (early retirement, for example).  That’s probably not going to happen with most architecture-related jobs.  Unless you are a star architect working internationally (think Gehry, Liebskind, or Hadid) the hours will be long, the pay meager, and the opportunities for creativity few. Think, young student in architecture, if six years of college, an extended internship, and low pass rates in the professional exam are worth the time and expense.  Career paths in law and medicine are much faster and more lucrative. Or get an MBA and open doors in business and finance. Perhaps go into construction or development where the decision-making power in architecture truly resides.  Anything but architecture itself!

And yet, do I regret my own choice of career? No. Because I didn’t have a choice. I had to be an architect. The kind of passion I had for architecture drove me to get the education and experience I needed to become an architect. It sustained me in seeking out clients to support that ambition.  So, if you truly have a passion for it, nothing will stop you from becoming an architect. These next couple of  blog entries are addressed to that young student in architecture.

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