Is Architecture a Good Career?
In the below blog post I’ll talk about the following pros and cons to give you the inside track on what it’s REALLY like to work as an architect:
- you can be creative
- no project is ever the same
- it’s well respected
- it can be rewarding
- travel is encouraged
- you meet cool people
- there is not that much maths
- big dependancy on the client
- takes a lot of time to qualify
- the amount of time spent on design
- it’s demanding
- stressful deadlines
- the pay is not that good
- uncertainty in times of recession
- it’s very competitive
- threat of automation
- the risk involved
- it’s combative
Is Architecture a Good Career? PRO #1: You can be Creative
Architecture is a challenging job, but it can also be a very creative one.
As you gain more experience you spend more time on design work, and less on technical issues and construction documents.
If you like to find aesthetically pleasing and functional solutions to various different issues, then architecture could be the career for you!
As an architect, seeing your creativity and vision take shape in a tangible building can be incredibly rewarding.
Is Architecture a Good Career? PRO #2: No Project is Ever the Same
As an architect, no two days will be the same.
You will be working on different projects with different demands, different clients, different issues, etc.
Clients will come with last minute demands and requests which are hard to anticipate.
A typical day could consist of any or all of the below:
- drawing building plans
- dealing with a client’s latest request
- looking at a contractor’s quote to see how you can make the costs work
- meeting with clients and contractors
- ensuring the construction work is following your plans
- planning a project’s budget and timelines
- looking at 2D drawings and understanding what the 3D space will look like
You could have four projects building four different office blocks and each of them would be very different jobs.
Also, Architecture is constantly evolving.
There will be new technologies, techniques, materials so architects constantly have to keep up with developments in the industry.
Is Architecture a Good Career? PRO #3: It’s well Respected
When you tell people you are an architect, people will think that is a cool job and give you respect.
Architecture is a blend of math and creativity so you people definitely think it’s a cool profession.
Being an Architect is generally a well-respected job, up there with Doctor, Accountant, Lawyer
It can be argued that architects make more of a contribution to society than the afore mentioned.
Architects probably get caught up in less scandals than lawyers or accountants!
Also, because there aren’t as many architects as accountants, or lawyers, when you do meet one, you think they must be very smart to become one!
Is Architecture a Good Career? PRO #4: It can be Rewarding
Architects interact with people from a broad spectrum of society; from wealthy clients and companies, to middle class families, to contractors, builders, safety inspectors, even members of the public if your work is eye catching.
To get praise for your work off any of the above can be a rewarding experience.
As an architect, you can help shape the area or city you live in and have a truly lasting effect.
I’m not sure an accountant or lawyer could say the same.
Some architects might get high profile projects that makes them even more proud.
Senior Architects can look back on their career and be proud of the various projects they have worked on.
I’m not sure some of the other ‘respectable’ professions can say the same.
Is Architecture a Good Career? PRO #5: Travel is Encouraged
Working as an architect gives you the opportunity to travel with your job that many people don’t have.
Understanding how buildings are designed and built in different countries and cultures makes you a better architect.
Travelling will give you inspiration.
You can take from different architectural styles you see abroad and let it influence your work back home.
Is Architecture a Good Career? PRO #6: You Meet Cool People
Working as an architect you will cross paths with some cool people.
Many of your clients might be very rich, successful or just interesting people.
For example, if you are designing hospitals, you will get to know lots about healthcare.
Maybe you are working on a football stadium, a university or a town hall, each of them will have interesting characters to interact with.
You might work on a very wealthy person’s home and get to know how they have made their money and became successful.
Working with interesting people makes your life more interesting.
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Is Architecture a Good Career? PRO #7: Not that much Maths!
People have a preconception that to be an architect you must be good at math.
It helps, but there is not that much math involved.
You will have to do some sums in your head during the day and do some standard calculations, but you don’t need to be a Math Wizard.
You need a good logical brain, and to remember certain figures like good sizes of bedrooms, kitchens, desk heights, but nowadays you can rely on computers and engineers to do any detailed calcs.
Any specific calculations will usually be done by software packages.
Doing calculations by hand by computer instead of just leaves more room for error.
Are you interested in a career that involves Maths, but are not sure which one? Check out my post on The Pros and Cons of Investment Banking
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #1: Big Dependency on the Client
One of the biggest headaches you will face as an architect is difficult clients.
Some issues you will have with clients are:
- they don’t know what they want
- expectation that the work should have been done yesterday
- everything is urgent or an emergency
- they take a completely hands-off approach
- ‘that should only take 5 minutes’ attitude
- ‘I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want that anymore’
If the client doesn’t have the money, changes their mind or disagrees with your vision then it can be a stressful process.
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #2: It takes a Long Time to Qualify
To become a qualified architect, it takes 7-8 years.
- 3 years for a RIBA part 1 qualification (ARB accredited bachelor’s degree)
- 1 year for RIBA stage 1 (practical experience in a workplace)
- 2 years for RIBA part 2 qualification (two-year full-time university degree usually a BArch, Diploma, MArch.)
- 2 years for RIBA stage 2 (more practical experience to give you more responsibility on projects)
- Lastly RIBA part 3 (case study, written and oral exam)
It’s a lot of full-time education and working as a part qualified architect which means you won’t be paid that well.
It can be difficult to see your friends do a university degree, and start to earn some decent money while you are still studying and working long hours for not much reward
Ever wonder how long it takes to become an ‘expert’ in other fields? or how long it takes to become even qualified? If so, check out my blog post How Long Does it Take to Become A….
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #3: Amount of Time Spent on Design
When you are studying architecture in university you will learn about the design of many different types of buildings and be free to do what you want in terms of your designs.
You don’t get the same freedom when working as an architect unfortunately. Planning regulations, public objections, client demands, budget and time constraints are all things you must contend with on your projects.
Once you’re in the workplace, you can end up spending a lot of your time just implementing the designs of someone else which is not ideal.
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #4: It’s Demanding
Working as an architect is not easy!
You will encounter issues every step of the way on a project.
Anything can and will go wrong. Architects usually have lots of insurance to protect themselves if they get into a dispute with a client.
You work long and hard only for the client to give you grief about something, or to be challenged by the contractor or to get squeezed on cost.
Sometimes sites can take time to travel to, but you will still have to get your work done. These can mean time away from your loved ones.
Then there are the deadlines. Unfortunately, being a project and deadline driven industry this means architects usually must work long hours to get the job done.
Often, they will be juggling multiple competing priorities at the same time which is never easy.
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #5: Stressful Deadlines
Architecture can be stressful
When you are doing private work, it’s people’s life savings that are getting invested into the project.
Tradesmen are trying to make as much money as they can for themselves.
Sometimes you can get caught between the two.
Corporate work can be even more stressful.
Clients give you a hard time and want you to do a better job in less time.
There is also the economy, as architects are very vulnerable to any downturn in the economy.
Architects will have to deal with numerous recessions over the course of their career.
If you don’t lose your job during a slowdown, chances are some of your colleagues will, it all weighs on your mind.
Deadlines are possibly the most stressful part of being an architect.
Project turn around times are very tight.
Architects are expected to do more and more for less money. This all adds to your stress levels.
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #6: The Pay is not that Good
An architect in the UK can expect to earn:
Part 1 Architectural Asst. £18-22k
Part 2 Architectural Asst. £24-35k
Newly-qualified Architect £32-45k
Senior Associate/Director £45-70k
In some Architecture practices, you might not get paid for overtime, so you are effectively working for free.
For the amount of study and work experience you have to do to become an architect, the pay is comparatively low in comparison to other professions like law and medicine.
This can be frustrating when you are putting in just as many hours as your contemporaries in law and medicine.
You must have a passion for architecture as it’s not the most financially rewarding profession.
People in other professions (i.e. Finance) will work a lot less, with less education and make double what an architect makes
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #7: There can be Uncertainty in Times of a Recession
How the architecture industry does is very much tied to how the economy does.
When the economy is doing well, there are plenty of projects and architect jobs.
However, when construction slows down, developers are not going to hire architects, which means there are less jobs.
If you compare that to Finance, even in times of a recession, there will always be jobs for finance people.
Looking for more certainty when the economy dips? If so, check out my post on How To Become a Finance Director
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #8: It’s very Competitive
Architecture is very competitive.
Often you will have architects who are not as talented as you but put in three times the amount of work you do.
Other architects might not be the best, but they are great at marketing themselves and winning work.
You are competing against other colleagues in your practise or company, and you are competing against rival competitors.
If you start giving low quotes just to win new work and end up working long hours to get the job done, you will just make yourself miserable.
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #9: Threat of Automation
Rapid changes are happening within the architecture industry on both the design and construction side.
Software packages are having a dramatic impact on the day-to-day running of architecture firms and practices around the world.
Planning and administrative tasks currently carried out by architects could well be automated, but some of the more nuanced activities are going to be difficult to be done by computers.
Take for instance design, an architect takes information from different sources and then constantly tweak the design based on feedback.
This process would be complicated to automate.
However, there are activities like reviewing construction work that could potentially be automated. i.e. cameras could be set up on a building site, which architects could review without paying so many visits to the site.
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #10: The Risk Involved
Architects plans are specifications that are considered legal documents.
If these plans are not accurate then it can really come back to bite the Architect.
Some contractors will find small errors in the Architects drawings and turn them into costly change orders for the client.
Inevitably some projects will go wrong. As an architect you need to mitigate as much risk as you can.
Good architects obsess over construction drawings. They have to be well co-ordinated with the engineer’s drawings and the building/site drawings.
Even the smallest error can prove very costly.
Is Architecture a Good Career? CON #11: It’s Combative
Sometimes people will work against you as an architect:
- Contractors can pick holes in your drawings or try to rip off your clients
- Clients may decide to not to pay you or withhold some of your fees
- People will try to take credit for your ideas.
- A project you spend a lot of time on may never get built
- Some people can just rude, ignorant or indecisive