I am often asked by aspiring architects or people outside the profession, "Is being an architect worth it?" Wrapped up in that simple question is a lot of implied beliefs about being an architect.
For this post I thought I would break down a few of the myths around the subject. This should hopefully give you a better understanding if you or someone you know is asking the same question.
If you are thinking about a new architecture job, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:
My answer to, Is Being An Architect Worth It?
Return On Investment
Let's start by breaking down the phase, "worth it". When we decide whether or not something in life is worth our time and effort there are a lot of factors to consider. Perhaps there are fewer choices in life bigger than selecting a career.
Regardless of your career choice it takes years of focus, study and experience to become proficient, architecture is no exception.
The first step in becoming an architect, using the traditional route, is selecting an architecture school.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's 2016-2017 IPEDS Survey the average annual out-of-state cost for a bachelor program in Architecture is $46,222 with an estimated average four year degree total cost of $184,888.
This is quite an investment.
Keep in mind that you are also forgoing those four years of earning to go to school meaning that you are likely investing a quarter of a million dollars to study architecture. That doesn't include graduate school, which is becoming a very common path.
Of course there are options to reduce this cost such as studying in state, working while you are in school and going to a community college first.
I highly recommend if you don't have the money, do your best to avoid student loans. I cover this in greater detail in a previous post:
Now that you have your shiny new architecture degree. So what has all of your hard work and years of study earned you?
Let's assume you had a couple of summer internships during school so you are not completely without real-world experience.
The AIA Salary Calculator defines a full-time entry-level emerging professional on the path to licensure (formerly known as intern) is someone with "fewer than two years of experience; develops design or technical solutions under the supervision of an architect."
As of 2017 the entry-level architect salary in the U.S. is $45,210.
According to the Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) Recruiting Trends report the average starting salary for all Professional, Business & Scientific Services for all majors in 2016-17 is $44,466.
This means architecture is almost exactly average when it comes to starting salaries. So I guess this isn't bad news or good news, just average news...
Experience and Becoming Licensed
So you have your architecture degree and landed your first job but you are not done yet. To be able to call yourself an architect in the U.S. you must be licensed in your state.
The exact architecture licensing requirements are always being updated but it requires around three years of full-time work experience in specific categories, along with passing multiple exams.
You can learn more about the licensure process by going to ncarb.org.
The good news is that in time you can expect your salary to increase substantially. For example, in using the AIA Salary Calculator, an architect with over 10 years of experience can expect to earn over $100,000 per year on average.
For further reading on this subject see:
Now you might be thinking, "but Brandon, there is more to life than just money. What about the other stuff?"
The "Cool Factor"
Let's address the elephant in the room: it is cool to be an architect.
What other profession gets to shape the word in such a tangible, permanent way?
Whether you are changing the skyline of your city or the appearance of a neighborhood block, that is something to be proud of.
Architects have always held a special place in society. While that may not be the case forever, being a creative influencer will always carry some level of prestige.
The Work Environment
I had a lot of low-level crappy jobs in the past, from moving lawns to fast food. This has given me some perspective on how nice it is to be an architect.
Sure working outside has its perks, however, on a freezing cold, rainy day you will be glad you don't have to endure working outside.
Many people don't have the luxury of a climate controlled, comfortable workspace, but as an architect this is expected.
Also by the simple fact we design spaces for a living, you will likely (hopefully) be working a nice space. After all, what architect would want to bring a potential client into their ugly office?
I may be a little biased, but architects are some of my favorite people.
Generally speaking, architects are a well educated, fun, creative group. This is an important thing to keep in mind when choosing a profession, given the amount of time we spend with our coworkers.
Ultimately it is up to you do decide whether pursuing a career in architecture is right for you. It takes years of study and hard work to be able to call yourself an architect.
So when it's all said and done, is being an architect worth it?
If you ask me, hell yes.
Hope you found that helpful, let me know in the comments if you have additional thoughts. Thanks!
Want to find your dream architecture job?
Check out The Architect's Guide Resources.
To help you with your architecture job search, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:
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Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
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