Pros and Cons of a Career in Architecture

Should you become an architect?  Is it worth it?

Architecture is not for the faint of heart.  Becoming an architect is a long, arduous process and many complain about the pay and long hours even after they get their license.  However, many people in the field wouldn’t consider switching to something else.  Here are some pros and cons of becoming an architect.

Let’s start with the cons:

Training

Architecture requires a long training period, comparable to professions in medicine and law.  The minimum training period is 8 years, which includes a 5-year bachelor degree and 3 years of internship.  If you opt for the Master of Architecture, add a year or two to the overall total.  Also, IDP (Intern Development Program) is notorious for taking longer than 3 years.  And then there’s the ARE (Architect Registration Exam).  Hopefully you get can all 7 of these tests finished while you complete IDP, but if not, add some more time to the total.

Hours and Pay

One of the biggest complaints of architects is the pay.  Its not terrible, but its much lower than other professions with similar training and licensing requirements.  Salary.com puts the median income for entry-level architects just over $42,000 and the median income for a licensed architect with 12 years of experience at $113,000.  Also, architecture requires long hours with lots of overtime.  Even after you’re done with school, projects often require late nights as big deadlines approach.

Economic Volatility

Given current affairs, this list would not be complete without mentioning that the construction industry is very dependent on the economy.  If companies are doing well and people are earning money, they want to build new offices, houses, malls, restaurants, etc.  Being an architect is really great during these times.  If the economy is bad, cutting capital investments will save a lot of money.  This means less work for architects.  Layoffs are common in architecture firms during hard times.  Don’t count on job security.

Pros of becoming an architect:

Architecture is a passion

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, architecture is not for you.  Your heart skips a beat when you find a beautiful new building while you’re exploring the city.  Architecture appeals to your creative side, and you get a huge amount of satisfaction from making things.  Being a designer appeals to you ego–you get to decide exactly how things will be according to your vision.  You love being able to control every detail and make it perfect.

You won’t get bored

Architecture is a very dynamic field, with constantly changing trends and technologies.  Although this means you have to do a lot of professional development to stay current, it also means that you will always be learning.  Every project you tackle is different and you will constantly find new challenges.  Even within individual projects, there are a variety of things you will be doing from day-to-day.  One day you might be meeting with clients and working on design, while other days you’ll be visiting construction sites or researching materials.

You’re making a difference

Sure, you’re not making world peace, but what you do as an architect really matters.  You’re making safe, healthy environments for people to live and work in.  What you do can improve quality of life and human experience.  You also have the responsibility to make sure that your buildings work and are structurally sound.  Yes it’s a lot of pressure, but isn’t that the case with all things that are worth doing?

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • wbreard April 19, 2012, 12:30 am

    You need to read my comments on the archinect website. I am a thoroughly disillusioned middle aged architecture professional. I now work for a local nonprofit group and do not expect to come back to this brutally unstable field. I gave vent to other architecture people, as a warning to younger people about what can happen to them if they persist. One younger person on this chat-site even rejoiced in my downfall – one less baby boomer for him to have to deal with.

    Reply
    • Michelle May 2, 2012, 12:11 am

      wbreard,

      I’m sorry that you’ve had a rough time in architecture. Unfortunately a lot of talent has left the field as a result of the economy. Architecture is certainly not for those looking for a guaranteed, stable job. However, I do think that resourceful, passionate people can be successful in architecture (and related fields) even when the economy turns sour, but perhaps not in the most obvious ways. Success is not easy in any profession or any economy since it requires a lot of perseverance and creativity. I hope you see your setback as an opportunity to explore new options and grow as a professional, wherever that may lead you.

      Michelle

      Reply
  • Annie April 1, 2013, 10:47 pm

    Hi, I’m in 8th grade and am researching the career of architecture. I honestly really would like to be an architect. If anyone feels the need to, I’d love if you could answer my few questions!
    -Does this field require alot of “teamwork”? (i’m not against it, just wondering:) )
    -What degree is the most useful, as far as each individual kind (such as landscape, or interior, or public) of architecture or just the overall one)
    -Which college/university is the best for architecture in your opinion?

    Thanks!!! :)

    Reply
  • Luther Knight July 29, 2013, 10:55 am

    Not too old by a long shot! I have taught people ten and even twenty years older than you, and some of them have been good. In you already have a construction background, try to find an architecture course that emphasises the theoretical and artistic aspects of the discipline. You’ll find it more interesting, and it will expand your view of architecture. Go for it!

    Reply
  • KraftCH February 28, 2014, 6:03 am

    “Always continue the climb. It is possible for you to do whatever you choose, if you first get to know who you are and are willing to work with a power that is greater than ourselves to do it.”
    -Ella Weeler Wilcox

    Reply
  • Aabha March 4, 2014, 9:28 am

    I wish to take up architecture as a career. But teaching is my passion. So could I become a teacher of architecture. Is it an interesting option?

    Reply
  • izzia March 18, 2014, 11:26 pm

    thanks a lot im in middle school looking for a type of high school to got to and this helped alot

    Reply
  • Caleb September 6, 2014, 4:13 am

    Thanks for the tips. It really gives me a new perspective on architecture. Im in middle school, looking for interesting careers that I might like.

    Reply

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