Is Architecture & Being An Architect Worth It?

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Introduction

We are often asked if we think architecture or being an architect is "worth it", and whether you have, or currently are studying the subject, given the time it takes to just be qualified, let alone the roller coaster ride of actually working within the profession, it is not surprising it is such a  popular question.  

But first lets define "worth it". As a student "worth it" to us was getting the most out of being a student, and this means enjoying your subject as well as having a social life. As a professional, being paid enough to live a comfortable lifestyle and being able to say "I enjoy my job" are key.

So does architecture provide this? Is it actually worth it? The short answer is yes, its a creative, diverse and ever changing subject and profession that provides a huge array of opportunities and avenues to explore.

To date, it has been an absolute pleasure to study the subject and work within it as a qualified professional. Its s not however a half in half out subject or profession, it takes time and perseverance to reap the rewards.

Here we break down some of the key elements of the profession, and highlight why we think architecture is "worth it" and what you need to look out for to ensure it is for you also... 

To summarise in short what make's architecture worth it:

Studying -

  • The array and variety of projects you work on
  • The people you meet
  • The close relationships created
  • The creative freedom
  • The opportunities to explore connected avenues 
  • The resources available 
  • The self directed study
  • Working with friends 
  • The enjoyment of studying
  • The clear career path
  • The practical experience the course leads to

Working -

  • Designing real buildings
  • Working with a wide variety of clients and consultants
  • Job satisfaction
  • Many different areas to work within
  • Career development
  • Developing business skills and awareness
  • Working with like minded people
  • Constantly learning and developing 

Why are you asking if its "worth it"?

You may find yourself first asking this question whilst as an architecture student, and probably during your first full night of work in the studio, where the sharp realisation of the huge mountain of work required has just hit home. Or maybe its following some negative feedback during a critique or tutorial … we’ve all been there!

We’ve seen people fall asleep at their desks, in presentations, tears and hysterical crying, work being torn from the walls, models being broken, angry guest tutors …and that's not to mention the pressures of printing and presenting your work.

But after all that ‘is it really worth it?’ the answers still yes! ...even when all your non architecture friends have finished their 3 hours of lectures a week and have gone out!

As a professional, the questioning times are slightly more complicated but we find can often be largely dependant on your working environment and its ability to keep you engaged.

Architecture in our opinion its the ultimate creative subject and profession, ...people become architects because they love architecture and they love design. Its not a quick way make money, and if that's your soul requirement then its not for you, but in the long term your potential income could be up there with the other top professions.

Architecture has a large set of diverse opportunities that range from initial design development to negotiating the planning maze, team management and maintaining client expectations, producing construction packages and dealing with consultants, negotiating tenders and managing contracts, following site works and assessing finishes ...there are many specialities and skill sets to develop.

This is part of its beauty, its incredibly diverse, and a good architect will not just have one skill set, and will use this to create opportunities for increased opportunities and pay. …its flexible

Is architecture right for you? Lets take a more detailed look...

Is studying architecture worth it? ...is it hard?

Studying to be become an architect is a full time commitment and requires a lot more input than most other university and college courses, but through this it also offers a lot more. 

Most of the projects you will work on whilst studying will be designed souly by you (with the help of your tutors and professors), giving complete creative ownership and authority over the decisions you make. This when working within a professional practice can take very long time to achieve, with the creative freedom given to you as a student, you are free of restrictions.

As a student there are very few limitations, with no real clients, budget constraints or other consultants to contend with, providing endless opportunities to express your creativity and to really experiment with your architectural response.

Architecture is not easy, but if you dedicate yourself to it and are passionate about the subject it can be immensely fun.

The studio environment contributes greatly to this, and we advise that you spend as many of your working hours in there as possible. Working with your friends and peers and being able to talk about, and bounce ideas off of each other is incredibly beneficial, and provides a much more relaxed working atmosphere

…you are all in it together, and if there is ever an area you start to struggle with, you can almost guarantee that someone else will have the answer or at least be able to help.

A lot of the course will require students to manage there own time in order to meet the project deadlines, this offers an excellent insight into what may be required when working within a professional practice, and gives students the opportunity to have some practice experience in managing their own time. 

The length of the course is a long one however, which again requires the dedication and passion mentioned above, but also more fee’s than other courses.

Architecture school can be expensive, not just from tuition fee’s but also from model making materials, printing cost, desktop / laptop costs and software choices. It will take time to recuperate the initial costs of architecture school through your future professional employment, but you’ll be designing buildings for living! what could be better!

Is architecture worth pursuing?

Lastly and what we believe to be a real benefit to studying architecture, is the clear direction it provides in career choice. For most students they study architecture to be architects, for someone studying a broader subject like say history, the available avenues can be huge, with many opportunities requiring further education and training.

An architecture student has already done this.

archdaily have a very interesting article on "7 Things I Learned While Getting My Master's in Architecturehere that provides a second insight into the process.

...and a young American architect called Drew Paul Bell looks back at his experances here:

Type's of projects

The type of projects you work on can heavily influence you’re working life and everyday enjoyment of being an architect or student, this is slightly less of an issue when studying however, as the projects are often so malleable and open to interpretation that they can be shaped to meet even the most individual of interests. 

This is one of the best aspects of being a student, the projects are limitless and this can make them incredibly fun and engaging to work on.

When working within a practice however, being interested and therefore invested in the projects that they do and that you work on, is one of the most important factors to consider when applying for a position. 

Most practices have a specific building type that they predominantly specialise in (one-off houses, housing, education, public, hospitals, corporate etc), and so it is key that this captures your interest. 

Many larger practices will also work within other sectors, and this could offer the chance to experience a range of different building types and methods of working, which can be a great opportunity for students and newly qualified architects going into their first job who are yet to find their niche or just want a broad range of experiences.

As architects we have the whole array of building and structure types open and available to us to work on ...the profession is full of options.

 

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Size of practice

Architecture practices come in a variety of sizes, ranging from large international practices with multiply offices all over the world through to the solo practitioner that could be working from his or her kitchen table.

Large practices tend to work on large projects, and whilst every aspiring architect dreams of designing the next iconic building, the reality is that those buildings require a huge team of people to procure them, that then require teams to solely specialise in one particular element. 

We’ve heard many stories of architects and students spending upwards of a whole year just producing toilet and door schedules, which for some may be a dream job, but for most it is not why they became an architect.

Small practices on average are able to offer a much more hands on and practical experience, that will allow you to work on all stages of a project and develop a much more rounded skill set. This experience may then provide the opportunity to specialise in your preferred work stage. 

From a social point of view, large practices obviously provide a larger and more diverse experience with many having their own sports teams and clubs. Small practices can provide a close knit team as long as you’re on a similar wave length, as if you’re not it can be hellish! We have found however, that if a practices output meets your interests then so will it its employees.

This all influences your level of enjoyment of being an architect, and again the options are there for the taking.

Architecture style

An architecture practices or schools ethos, design style and influences will also contribute to your satisfaction of being an architect and student, as you need to enjoy and be inspired by the work you are producing. If you get stuck working on a project that you just can’t engage with, you quickly become despondent and lack enthusiasm, which may be why you’re googling “is architecture worth it” in the first place!

The choice of the architecture practice you choose to work at or architecture school you study at cannot be overlooked, it is fundamental to making sure your architecture career and experiences are as enjoyable as possible, and helps to ensure your overall job and career satisfaction.

Peers and colleagues 

We maybe a little biased here, but architects are some of our favourite people to socialise with, as somehow we all seem to be on the same wave length and generally speaking, are a well educated, fun, and creative group of people.

Similar to the type of practice or school you chose, this is important to keep in mind when choosing a profession and career, especially given the amount of time you will spend with your coworkers. 

We have friends that cringe at the thought of seeing another coworker outside of the office, where we’re planning the next group trip away together! For a profession, working with friends is incredibly rare and is a huge positive of being an architect and working within the architecture profession.

Is it architecture cool?

Is it cool? of course it is! you only need to look at How I Met Your Mother’s Ted Mosby! 

One of the best aspects of being an architect is that it is generally accepted to be an impressive and noble profession. We design and shape the environment people live in and depend on. Especially within cities, architecture is everything, we influence skylines, shape public spaces, create homes, this is all something to be immensely proud of.

For us, there is no better form of design, everything starts and stops with architecture, it is an incredibly powerful and refined profession.

Architects pay

There is a general acceptance that the industries pay could be higher, and you dont need to look too far to see what the other professions are earning after taking a similar amount of time to complete the studying.

That said, the average wage of an architect is still well above the national averages which is all too easy to forget, and with the huge array of opportunities available, there are plenty of chances to develop and increase this.

Architecture in general is a slow burner and is not a get rich quick profession, it takes time to develop the professional skills and knowledge required but this is also part of its beauty, it never stands still and rarely becomes easy. …there is always something to learn and develop.

…and if you do find yourself yearning for more income, then the qualities an architect has sets them up perfectly to develop a secondary income. Some of which we talk about about HERE

Opportunities in architecture

A mixture of the training required to become an architect and the professions diversity, helps to develop interests that are linked but also fall outside of the profession, such as multimedia designer, clothing design, painting, furniture design, to just name a few.

These opportunities may just start out as a hobby that could later grow into a small secondary income. Our How To Increase Your Salary post highlights some of the most popular.

Conclusion ...is architecture right for me?

The best aspect of studying to become and actually being an architect is that we enjoy what we do, and generally speaking the ones that don't, probably dropped out along the way whilst studying. 

As mentioned, Its not a get rich quick profession, but for most of us the job we do and the career we chose is unfortunately what we will spend most of our lives doing, and being able to enjoy it, is extremely powerful ...and lucky!

That said youngarchitect.com has put together a shot list of why you may not want become an Architect here, we particularly like the number 10 "Debbie Downers" ...which is very true, but get sucked down by other people inability to keep moving forward

The diversity the subject offers contributes greatly to this, and allows for a huge and varied range of skills to be developed and used, with all sorts of opportunities available.

Ultimately it is up to you do decide whether pursuing or continuing a career in architecture is for you. It takes time and dedication to be able to call yourself an architect.

But "is it worth it”, definitely.

junkee.com provides another take on the profession in their "Expectations Vs Reality: What Doing An Architecture Degree Is Actually Like" post here, which is well worth reading

...and For information on becoming an architect click here for what is required to be one.