Archinect
anchor

Transitioning from Structural Engineering to Architecture?

Asher47

I am sure this question has been asked a million times, but here goes. I am a structural engineer with 2.5 years of experience and am looking to move into architecture. Do you think anyone will hire me based on my relevant experience?

I am currently designing custom homes/town-homes and starting to do larger multi-family jobs. I will be taking the CA PE test this spring, but I am losing interest because I don’t feel like I get enough satisfaction out of ripping through a structural design as fast as possible. Once a design is completed I never see the finished project in real life. I feel like getting to spend more time on designs and being involved through the completion of the project would give me so much more fulfillment.

I grew up around construction. I have worked as a wood framer, metal stud framer, and cabinet maker. I am more creative than I am structured/organized. I feel like this should be sufficient experience to land an entry-level architecture job. Do you think it is possible to make the transition without additional schooling and do you think I would enjoy it more? It would be awesome to hear from someone who has made a similar transition. 

Thank you

 
Jan 6, 16 1:03 am
midlander

"I don’t feel like I get enough satisfaction out of ripping through a ... design as fast as possible. Once a design is completed I never see the finished project in real life. I feel like getting to spend more time on designs and being involved through the completion of the project would give me so much more fulfillment."

-This could be a quote from any junior architect. Based on your description, you wouldn't be qualified to do more than low-level drafting work, which is exactly as unsatisfying as an architect, and possibly paid less. Most people aren't as good at architectural design as they think; you might find architects reluctant to hire you without some strong evidence you can design good work.

Ultimately to be licensed as an architect you almost certainly will need to return to school, and start over with getting experience and taking exams. Unless you absolutely do want to do architectural design, it won't be any better for you.

From listening to others, it seems like SFH and basic-grade multifamily are among the least satisfying types of work for architects - due to the low budgets and high demands. Maybe once you get your PE you could look for a job with an engineering firm doing more engaging projects. Many engineers are highly involved with site work and involved throughout the whole design process. It may be you just need a better environment.

Jan 6, 16 2:04 am
geezertect

What about going to work for a design/build business?  Your engineering background and construction experience will be more appreciated.  Engineers have much more credibility in the building industry than architects.  They are viewed as smart and pragmatic.  Architects are seen as impractical dreamers and effete little snots.  Whatever you do, don't spend years and $$$'s getting an architecture degree.  Poor investment.

Jan 6, 16 7:28 am
Non Sequitur

Maybe just move to Oregon and start calling yourself whatever. I hear that just being there is enough to earn you all sorts of credentials and expertise.

But in all seriousness... you only have 2y exp. Anyone with that low experience numbers will be doing the same menial tasks you're already performing. Architecture is no different and many often never leave the drafting monkey label behind. You're best bet is to get yourself involved in bigger design-build projects where you're involved in the projects at all stages. Perhaps take a look at larger construction management firms. Most hire P.eng to maintain order on site and coordinate with consultants.

If that's not available to you, refer back to point no.1 above.

Jan 6, 16 7:34 am
Volunteer

First, you should not be "ripping through structural design as fast as possible". Sounds like you want to be on the job site more, in which case being inside a cubicle in a windowless room doing CAD work would be a step sideways if not backwards.

Jan 6, 16 10:11 am
null pointer

Volunteer - Ever worked in a structural engineering firm? I have a good friend who runs his own solo shop. The man rips through around 300-500 projects per year. Basically has his whole system set up to work on fixed fees and has zero quarrels about automating work (he's helped with a few python scripts in the past).

Jan 6, 16 10:52 am
no_form

"I am more creative than I am structured/organized. I feel like this should be sufficient experience to land an entry-level architecture job."  

thanks for the insult.  check the job postings.  do any of the entry level jobs on archinect ask for a creative person who is disorganized and unstructured in their work and thinking?  

the answer is no.

architects have to be very organized, thorough, and methodical in their work.  creative.  what does that mean?  non-linear in thinking, yes.  rigorous in analysis, broad minded in thinking to see things from a diversity of perspectives.  that is one way of defining creativity.

you're almost a licensed PE in California.  tough it out.  you're on your way to making a lot of money and with more experience can get into being on site.  

anyways, thanks for the interesting opinion about an architect's personality.

Jan 6, 16 11:43 am
chigurh

whatever you do get your PE first.

You might be able to get a job in an architecture office with your experience, but without a formal architectural education you will always be the guy that does't fully "get it".  If you really want to dig into the academic, conceptual, design theory side of architecture school is necessary, probably for an architecture license also if you want go pursue that path.  Some people will say you can just do without and that might be true for a few rare cases, really though you are just going to be seen as an engineer pretending to be an architect.  Worked for a guy that did that - great engineer - horrible architect.  

Jan 6, 16 11:56 am
Volunteer

Thompson Custom Homes is a high end home builder in Houston headed up by a civil engineering graduate from the University if Houston. Seems to be doing quite well.

Jan 6, 16 3:39 pm
Asher47

Thanks so much for your feedback everyone, much appreciated! I recently posted this same question to Quora a few months ago and no one replied. It seems like they only want to talk about their Google salaries. This forum is obviously the place for awesome/harsh feedback. I like it. Really excited for the interaction. I am a noob forumist, so I'm going to respond to it all lol

1.    I feel like architects don't realize how much volume residential engineers do:

“Volunteer - Ever worked in a structural engineering firm? I have a good friend who runs his own solo shop. The man rips through around 300-500 projects per year. Basically has his whole system set up to work on fixed fees and has zero quarrels about automating work (he's helped with a few python scripts in the past).”

My 2.5 years experience includes working on about 100 projects and personally completing construction documents for close to 75 projects. I cant even remember the addresses. 

2.     Calling architects more creative that structured is a compliment. You guys have to coolest profession out there. You make dreams come true. But yes, I wouldn’t have survived this long if I didn't have a very organized/perfectionist side. I meant no insult to anyone.

3.     “Most people aren't as good at architectural design as they think; you might find architects reluctant to hire you without some strong evidence you can design good work.”

So you're telling me there is a chance lol. (Dumb and Dumber reference) This is what I was hoping for. And I have the opportunity to prove myself, but its going to be a hurtle. I would like your feedback/ tips on it:

My brother is a contractor and recently completed a high end custom home, the owner wants to add on an addition/guest house that will double the size of the house (4000 square foot addition). He has come to me with his/the owners ideas and wants me to take a stab at it. I am working on this at night and developing the cad standards from scratch. Its coming along, but very slowly. If it works out we would be on our way to designing/building. I just wish I could work for in an architecture firm for a couple years.

Maybe this will show me that I don't have what it takes, but hopefully it will help me to land an architecture job. I am certainly realizing how hard designing is, but I am also learning that Its what I want to do. 

4.    “Ultimately to be licensed as an architect you almost certainly will need to return to school, and start over with getting experience and taking exams. Unless you absolutely do want to do architectural design, it won't be any better for you.”

“whatever you do get your PE first.”

“You might be able to get a job in an architecture office with your experience, but without a formal architectural education you will always be the guy that does't fully "get it".  If you really want to dig into the academic, conceptual, design theory side of architecture school is necessary, probably for an architecture license also if you want go pursue that path.  Some people will say you can just do without and that might be true for a few rare cases, really though you are just going to be seen as an engineer pretending to be an architect.  Worked for a guy that did that - great engineer - horrible architect.” 

Yea, I don't want to be that guy at all. I will definitely get my PE first. Once the economy plummets I would love to go back to school if that is what it takes. 

5.    “Maybe just move to Oregon and start calling yourself whatever. I hear that just being there is enough to earn you all sorts of credentials and expertise.”

dammit, I freeking love Oregon.

 

Thank you so much for all of your replies!

Jan 6, 16 10:39 pm
gruen

Get your PE. Work for a large contractor as onsite PM/engineer.

Jan 7, 16 7:54 am
Schoon

I'm in a similar boat as you, Asher, except I'm still in school.  My program, basically speaking, is structural engineering with a hefty amount of architecture and a little environmental engineering thrown in for good measure.  In an ideal post-graduate-and-PE situation I'd like to partner up with an architect and start a small practice. 

Like you, I consider myself a very creative person (I make art, music, and films in my spare time), an I am confident that I have a good mind for design.  However I'm concerned that the architecture portion of my education won't give me enough knowledge to contribute meaningfully to an architectural design.  I have the choice in either minoring in architecture or taking a fast-track masters in arch. engineering program that would land me an MS by the end of my normal undergrad. 

I'm torn, and have only six months to decide...  I would appreciate hearing some opinions that could push me in the right direction. 

Jan 7, 16 8:05 am
AdrianFGA

@Asher 47:

"I am more creative than I am structured/organized"

Why don't you apply your creativity within the confines of engineering? There a million ways to do that, I think. For instance, fine tuning FEA processes. Writing custom software for improving structural design and analysis. Doing R & D.... joining labs, developing and testing new materials. Joining various technical committees as part of AISC, AASHTO, ASTM or whatever, and getting involved in developing new standards and specifications. The sky is the limit.

Jan 8, 16 11:38 pm
EngrD

@Asher47

Have you thought about bridges as opposed to conventional structures...houses and high rise? I was in the same situation like you few yrs ago. I made the switch to bridges and have been fulfilled and happy with what I do. Structural bridge engineers differ from typical structural engineers in that structural engineers are under the architect, who is the point man for most house and high rise structural projects. However with Bridge engineers, we manage every aspect of the project from conception, drawing, design, construction supervision, commissioning and management while in operation. I get to see what I do for a living used by millions of people yearly. My name is engraved at the bridge data as the bridge engineer. Income is more than typical structural engineer salary, and we do have job security since only 2 out of 10 structural engineers will be a bridge engineer. Getting into the field may be tough since it's a new territory and codes, and the designs are well detailed than houses and high rise. The spine of my post is we are both the architects and the engineers for our projects. We rarely have architects involved except it's a very important structure where aesthetics will be of great importance. 

May 17, 17 4:03 pm
Volunteer

Pons Fabricius bridge in Rome. Built in 62 BC and in continuous use ever since.

May 17, 17 8:35 pm

Block this user


Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in:


Please wait... loading
Please wait... loading