So you would like to become a glamorous architect? You want a prosperous career full of prestige, opulence and satisfaction. Well, look no further….architecture is NOT for you. Now, if you are looking for a challenging career with never a dull moment, full of design and some opportunities to show off your creative side, then you may find architecture a gratifying choice.
My interest in architecture started at a very early age as I would take graph paper and draw up my house’s floor plan; and since my father was constantly remodeling and adding to the house I grew up and lived in for nearly 24 years, I had plenty of opportunities to practice. As I embarked in my high school years, I looked into drafting with a possible future in architecture. After graduating with a high school diploma in one hand and a drafting certificate in another, I worked as a drafter in a construction company that specialized in auto fueling facilities and convenience stores. The store layouts were very repetitive, but the few that I was able to work on awoke my interest even more in architecture. I started going to a local community college and then a full time university to pursue my architectural career, without knowing what I was truly getting into.
So, the purpose of this blog post? Well, to give a little insight to those who are looking into taking the same trek I took years ago and possibly shed light on the dark areas that I was completely unaware of and maybe even warn against possible pitfalls in this career choice.
First and foremost: Research, research, research! RESEARCH! I cannot stress enough to read other blogs, others’ experiences, and look into all the school programs available before taking the leap. Ask about the various architecture programs, what your state requires for licensing, tuition, mean salary in the area, etc. The construction market is currently at a lull, but slowly awakening, therefore consider the advice you receive and weight it against the attitude of who you are asking. An architect that is very successful will have a much different view or opinion on his career choice than one that is struggling and out of work (but usually the latter are the ones with more time to offer to sit with you and give out advice).
Once you have filled your head with all of this knowledge, then you should look into the various architecture programs available and decide what school you would like to apply to. In the state of Florida, for example, the minimum educational requirement to receive a license to practice architecture is a five-year accredited bachelor program in architecture. During my final year in the college of architecture, I saw far too many students enroll in our five-year bachelor program that came from another school with a four-year bachelor in design (not architecture) thinking that that was enough to get their Florida license. A Masters in architecture is obviously better, it will cost more, and take longer, but will only benefit you if you are looking to become a university professor, or if a certain architectural firm requires it.
Architecture schools vary in many ways:class-size, amenities, fees, technology, architectural theory, etc. Don’t get too overwhelmed by the amount of time students put into their projects; the long, sleepless nights; the horror stories of models and drawings gone wrong; the brutality of the design charrettes and critiques – its all a part of being in the school of architecture – we all have to go through it, and the final outcome will be a molded individual ready to practice architecture…..NOT! One very important aspect of the practice of architecture I was never taught in school was CONSTRUCTION! The was things are put together, how to detail a connection, how to put together a set of plans, how to draft…yes, the foundation of being an architect was instead learned as an intern in an architectural firm after graduation. So, my biggest piece of advice to you is: go to a construction site or immerse yourself in construction plans, documents and details. Ask a general contractor if you can observe a small construction project from beginning to end. Ask an architect to shadow him for a few weeks and learn how to draft and put a set of plans and details together before going out in the job field.
In conclusion, study hard, research well, and ask plenty of questions so you can make the right choices.