Message - Re: Career change into architecture - thanks for all your reponses

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Posted by  D Cho on July 30, 2003 at 12:00:57:

In Reply to:  Re: Career change into architecture - thanks for all your reponses posted by A Marino on July 21, 2003 at 09:32:59:

From the many responses your posting attracted, one can see Career in Architecture is a loaded subject. Everyone who works in this field seem to have something to say. So, here's my 10 cents...

I graduated from a highly competitive 5-year BArch program 11 years ago. The program I attended was very grueling and necessitated many all-nighters on a regular basis. In our 4th and 5th years, we shared studio space with the 3-year M-Arch students (which is the program you will likely enroll in). The intensity of their program was not much different than ours. The attrition rate was quite high in the B-Arch program. Less than 50% of our freshman class graduated in 5 years. I think the key to success in architecture school (which is quite different than in the real-world), is unwavering determination. Some of the students who dropped out were quite artistic and talented in design. But they got either burned out, or failed out on technology courses like structure. On the flip side, I would never have betted on some of the students who ended up graduating in 5-years. These students never took any art or architecture classes before entering the program. Some of them were totally inept in making models or presentation drawings. But, they succeeded because they worked hard, did not give up, and improved each year. That's the message I try to impart on the high school students I interviewed on behalf of the admission office of my alma mater.

I am now a senior associate in a 15+ person firm. It took me 4 years after school to become licensed (which is about average time), and 7 years to become an associate. The starting salary greatly depends on where you are employed. In the CA, NY, NJ metropolitan areas, which tend to pay more, you can expect $30K to $40K. If you stay as an employee in a traditional architecture firm, it may take about 10 years to reach $75k to $85K. That of course depends on your performance and the level of responsibilities you take on. So, money is not a reason to choose this profession. Unless, you have exceptional design and marketing talents and have ownership in a sucessful firm.

Alternatively, the skills you gained as an architect can provide you with opportunities in many related areas, with substantially higher pay. Those areas could be real-estate developers, construction equipment and product companies, government and institutions. The latest recruiter (of architects with good computer rendering skills) is gaming and animation industry. This might be one place where a young architect can actually get rich! (if the company offers generous stock options and the stock does well).

There are also opportunities in real-estate which can be a financial boom. For example, with my training as an Architect and my experience in the construction business, I have subdivided land, designed and built houses, while keeping a full time job. The financial gain from this kind of endeavor can ease the pressure to make money from one's regular job.

In the end, all the money in the world is not worth it if the work you do makes you feel lousy. Speaking for myself, and perhaps other architects, I find all aspects of transforming an idea / a concept into drawings and then into physical structure adorned with beauty and function to be very rewarding (most of the time). If you feel the same way, go for it!


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