Choosing a career is a big decision. You’re dedicating years of your life, and likely thousands of dollars in tuition money, to chasing after that one specific dream. Whether you’re considering architecture as a profession or still entirely up in the air about your future plans, here are four convincing reasons why you should consider choosing a career as an architect.
1. It’s interdisciplinary. Quick, what was your favorite subject in high school? Having difficulty picking just one? As an architect, there’s no choice required; any good architect gets to learn about a wide variety of subjects and incorporate them all into his or her career. There’s plenty of art in there, along with lots of engineering, science, history and computers. When you decide to become an architect, you’ll get to enjoy a fulfilling, interdisciplinary education instead of single-mindedly focusing on one or two subjects. After that, you’ll actually get to apply all of the things you’ve learned; designing a new building involves both inspiration and calculation.
Once you’ve left the classroom and found yourself in the world of work, you’ll be dabbling in an even wider range of skills that aren’t taught in the lecture halls of colleges and universities. There’s the interpersonal skills needed to deal with clients on a daily basis – you’ll be persuading them to hire you, negotiating deadlines and budgets, and reassuring clients throughout the process that their new building will be exactly what they wanted. If you’re one of many architects who choose to work in small offices or as self-employed contractors, you’ll be picking up on valuable business skills.
2. It’s flexible. Business students work for businesses. Dental students work in dental clinics. Law students work for legal firms. It’s all pre-determined and rigid, with little room for deviation. Architects, however, find themselves facing no such restrictions. Oh, sure, if you want to work for a larger Architectural company, you’ll find great jobs there and plenty of firms to choose from. But what if you want to stay at home and design buildings in your underwear from the comfort of your kitchen table? You can do that too! There’s nothing stopping a lone architect from bidding on and winning contracts for buildings of all shapes and sizes; About.com states that 21% of architects are self-employed You and a few friends from architecture school could even team up to take on projects together if you so desire, with no boss to deal with at all.
That’s not the only way that architecture is flexible. While people in other disciplines find themselves forced to specialize within their field before they’re even handed their college degree, architects are free to work on any kind of project they please. There are houses, office buildings, malls, recreation centers, schools, museums and art galleries to be built, and any qualified architect is equipped to design them all. Perhaps you’ll design an apartment building one month, but in a few weeks, you could find yourself working on a mega-mall without any difficulties transitioning. You won’t find many other professionals who can so easily generalize their education.
3. No monotony. Imagine yourself doing the same thing all day, five days a week, every single week for the next forty years of your life. Fax that paperwork. Flip that burger. Answer that phone. It’s not a pretty picture, is it? As an architect, monotonous jobs are out of the question. No two buildings are exactly alike, and within each project there are a variety of tasks that need to be accomplished: drawing, drafting with software, meeting with clients, making 3D models of buildings, building miniature scale models, consulting with engineers and other professionals, checking up on progress, visiting construction sites, and, of course, submitting proposals for the next big contract. For a worker trapped in a tedious, boring job, that kind of variety in itself might be enough reason to become an architect.
And the industry itself is constantly changing. Architectural tastes change from year to year, and innovation just keeps accelerating. The building materials you’re dealing with now might be totally obsolete in five years, replaced by new materials that don’t even exist yet. Being an architect means constantly learning and developing as your progress through your career; there aren’t any ruts to get stuck in.
4. The money. Let’s face it: school is an investment. You (or perhaps your parents or your partner) have scrimped and saved to pay for post-secondary schooling, and you want to make sure the short term-sacrifices will lead to long-term financial gain.
If architecture is your first choice, you can breathe easy. A recent study by Georgetown University found that recent college graduates from architecture programs were earning an average of $36,000 annually. That may not sound like much, but compared to the average college graduate making only $32,400 per year, architectural students have a lot to be happy about. The news just gets better and better for experienced architects, who by age 30 are raking in an average of $64,000 – well above their peers in almost every other discipline. Thinking of going to graduate school? You and your classmates will find yourself making an average of $71,000 annually, more than $20,000 above the American national average.
Career planning is a big decision, and not one to be taken lightly. But if you aspire to have a multifaceted, flexible and exciting career with big financial payoffs, you might just want to plan on becoming an architect.