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This is a bit of a rant, but maybe someone has a positive spin on this, or has broken out and found a solution.
I'm 27, was pretty much the youngest guy in my class during my masters and finished the degree pretty much as early as possible at 25. ( 4 year undergrad, 3.5 year masters ) I started working right away only to be laid off about 6 months later and spent an entire year unemployed.
Now that I'm 27, and unemployed again I feel like despite the good work ethic I have and brains to do a challenging program I am just not successful. I'm one of the most educated among my friends, but I have the worst career prospects. I regularly meet people that either did just a bachelors or not even finish school that are in upper management or in one case, the VP of a software company, yet the same age as me! Some people think it's amazing that I'm in architecture, others look down on me for being unemployed for so long. I just come across as someone with no ambition even though I've got loads of drive for a career.
My own brother and I worked side by side washing cars during my undergrad. Both of us were well liked at the company. I was asked not to go back to school and to keep working, but I forged ahead with an M.Arch degree and my brother dropped out of school. He's now a manager making more money than I could after working as an architect for 6 years and just bought his first home at the age of 25.
I'm looking outside of architecture, but realising that in a lot of fields I'll be starting at the very bottom. At the same time architecture feels like a profession where hard work just doesn't pay off, either in salary or career advancement.
Who feels the same, and who has had a breakthrough?
i was doing great until about a year ago....
architecture is not a good professor for those who measure themselves by friends in other professions. We eventually make a decent salary but it definitely takes longer to reach that level. I also feel that luck has more to do with success in any profession than most people like to talk about.
To be perfectly honest, most of my jobs have all stemmed from my decision almost 10 years ago to list "physical model making" as a skill on my resume at my schools co-op center. Since I was apparently the only student to list that skill, I was hired as a summer intern, two years later I was brought back as a regular employee. All because of a simple decision which at the time i didn't put a great deal of thought into.
Yes there is such a thing as a young successful architect. However, that individual is in their 40's or 50's, not 20's or 30's.
The FOA were in their late 20s/ early 30s when they worked on the Yokohama Ferry Terminal but that was pre-recession.
By age 28 I was making $70+/year and considered myself quite successful. Then came pay freezes and eventual liberation from employment.
Now I'm flipping tricks down at the 7-11 restroom and get all my vitamins from boxed wine.
Getting mugged like that every once in a while is surely good for your soul.
bjarke ingels is only 37... he founded BIG in 2006 (at the age of 32) and before that founded PLOT in 2001 (at the age of 27) after three years of working for rem koolhaas, so yes it is possible to be successful at a young age, but as tint points out, young architect usually means 40 or 50-something...
When I was reading this kind of posts. Im really feeling very bad and i dont want to choose architecture major for a degree. Its really terrible :( Architecture education is very hard ( all people saying samething - medical and arch-) but we dont make enough money when we are graduate from architecture major. BIG is very high example on it. Maybe his father so rich or his has contact about that. What about us ? Simple answer : Nothing !
I'm 29, working in an NYC firm, pulling close to $70k with full benefits. I very rarely work over 40 hours a week and I do pretty interesting work. I am happy with my job and I would consider myself pretty successful. I've also never taken shit from people who attempted to throw me into the sweat-shop labor pool and that's probably the single thing that's really set me apart in my career from the other young'uns. Believe it or not, sometimes you can earn a great deal of respect by learning to say no to people.
chris-chitect: i know exactly how you feel - and we're the same age btw. I write this as I'm studying for my last a.r.e. exam and looking forward to the relief of not having that on my shoulders - so that shortly when I'm registered I can make career advances to other firms or, in similar perspectives as you, consider a career in design somewhere else outside of architecture. ((unfortunately, i can almost predict my near future of being greatly disappointed with offers from architecture firms.. what, 48-50k for a registered, 5 years experience architect??... wow awesome fantastic pay with a 5 year degree and 7 exams for licensure after 3 years of req'd internship. I look forward to my bitterness when my 22 year old cousin will graduate with a vague business degree with the gazzillions of others the same who will earn a more RESPECTABLE compensation
So I feel the same way - educated, ambitious, good work ethic. However, I am the least paid of all my relatives and friends who all have less or no education (i mean 4 year degrees here). I earn what my college roommate earns (42k) who still does his high school job pulling carpet. Like you, I have a brother making around 90-100k selling cars, cousins working at target making more than me, and friends starting out in just very Average positions in finance or sales or ANYTHING that pay more than I'll make even being registered!. My g/f works hard because there ARE INCENTIVES at her job ( people get paid more and move up the ladder quickly when they make goals). I don't' see this in architecture... and to my irritation, you hear crap statements and shallow reasoning like above (bjarke ingles comment) that is kind of like a tea partier defending the rich from taxes because they think they may be at that 1% position some day.
Yes, cry me a river. But let's get something straight. I don't think you and me are wining. These are hard, unfortunate, irritating truths of the profession. I graduated from a great school in the top 10 of my class. We have very important careers. I'm not making money that reflects this. So as many of my talented classmates from architecture are doing, to the professions misfortune, they are leaving to other jobs where the money they earn actually makes paying off their college architecture loans manageable.
Perhaps I'll make 22 year-old fresh-graduate US BANK "accounts manager" pay soon (50-55k). I'll be ok with that and I may stick around. I blame the 90% of firm owners that COULD pay us better. But now, after their 30 years of not making crap like us, and now they're finally making decent money at the expense of interns, they're not helping this problem because they think it's due diligence to work hard and get paid shit until your 40 in this profession. Architects fail at running business and promoting incentives - making their staff feel valuable with good pay. I always wonder why my office is quick to spend the $5k for a new high speed computer packed full of software and the NEW revit instead of giving us some fckng raises every once in a great while. Finally, architects in general (young and middle aged), just simply do not have a big interest in money. They feel they are 'above' that economic construct because - behold, they are architects.
yep, that's right, i'm a tea partier for pointing out that it is possible, albeit rare, to be extremely successful at an early age... for more examples, peter and alison smithson were 21 and 25 when they built the hunstanton school... le corbusier was 18!!! when he built his first house in le chaux-de-fonds and 36 when he built the villa la roche... i could go on, but i won't... somewhere out there on the internets is an infographic that shows how old a bunch of architects were when they built their first "masterpieces"...
personally speaking, when i was 29 i was making $82k, rarely working more than 40 hours/week, and was getting interesting projects built... i left that job to go back to school for a phd... now i'm teaching as an adjunct professor making very little money while i write my dissertation... but i'm happy because i'm doing what i want to be doing... sometimes happiness, and thus success, can't be measured by salary alone...
pale shelter- I don't necessarily think it is the case that architect's consider themselves 'above' desiring big money. Rather, I think most architect's choose to focus their energies into other avenues and seek something else in their work. I am yet to meet an architect who talks mostly about money/ finance/ profits etc. That just isn't what architect's focus on (and rightly so).
Even during the Renaissance most architects such as Bramante didn't build their first work until their late 30's or 40's....this gives me hope!
Maybe this is a clue: This young architect is more concerned with architectural expression than project feasibility and will likely burn many hours masterbating on a sweet concept and doing a sick fly thru instead of due diligence on project logistics? http://archinect.com/forum/thread/25360770/freelance-first-time-questions
re: there is no there: lol great post
re: layoutouthedots: i agree with you, and this is a great attribute of many architects - money isn't the most important thing. I'm just arguing for respectable pay.
re: Phillip Crosby : with all due respect, i made a hit at your argument and not at your person - please save me the emotional defense. I said "like a tea partier..." as to raise a metaphor against your statements - that I believe you bringing up the 1% who have found "success" isn't a good argument for the 90% / majority of us young architects who are paid poorly, have been vastly unemployed, and have difficulty finding 'such a thing as being successful young architects " (original poster question).
I think the original poster is talking about compensation. Forget "success", that's a personal vendetta. I'm writing in regards to the 90% who work at 90% of the firms who earn below avg wages for their above avg professions (my opinion) and way above-avg educational attainment. Why do the interns at my office have 100K in loans for a 7-year degree (fckn nuts!) and will start out at 40k... ? Is this what we are worth, really?! We've all seen the recent 200+ occupation average salaries report. Weren't we behind like taxidermist at the 90th position?
My argument: Our employers need to pay us better and take back a stronger stake on fair fees (collectively, instead of competitively). Not an easy task, I know. Anecdote: my buddy at SOM makes 65k at age 28 - not bad at all, huh. Avg would be 48k. Ask him what his avg work week is...(62 hrs). My thought: atleast SOM pays overtime!
Not that it is every stararchitect, but coming from money is certainly a helpful foundation.
As for success, Joseph Kosinski just directed his first feature file, TRON (not a bad first movie). He's a Columbia grad and not that old.
Success is relative, also. Some 'successful' architects aren't making any money, while others that most on here would consider horrible are raking in the cash.
I think there are examples in any creative profession for true success. I know a pretty successful rock star, too, but I still don't regret not pursuing that life (even though I had a guitar before he did, dammit!).
Define success and define young.
Much of this doesn't surprise me. The fact that we are for the most paid way underpaid is such a common topic in forums, and we all know the various reasons and beat the topic to death.
Medusa seems to have it good though, but much of us put up with our situations as unemployment is not really an alternative. Saying no to people rarely seems like an option.
My main point was actually more about a feeling of success and going somewhere in your career. In the one architecture office I did work at, I found myself working side by side with a 17 year who was pretty much given the same tasks as me. It was somewhat of a slap in the face as if my education meant nothing.
I think Pale-Shelter has a good point about incentives. We just don't really have them in architecture, maybe I'm wrong, but I was never given the impression that I was going to be rewarded with good work or long hours, never mind talent.
I've heard others say it, but I like to repeat it, this is one of the few professions that eats its own young.
if you can swing it financially, then seriously consider leaving the US. Especially if you're not tied down to where you are too much with family, friends, financial obligations, etc. it's not a bad thing to consider.
chris-chitect: "I was never given the impression that I was going to be rewarded with [for] good work or long hours, never mind talent"
While I know little of your work experience beyond what you wrote in your initial post, I suspect that the "impression' you've developed is more about the shaky economy over the past few years - and the limited number of postions available - than anything else.
Firms vary quite a bit and the way they treat their employees varies an equal amount. However, I can say - from long industry experience - that there are quite a lot of firms that actually a) do reward their people fairly for contribution; and b) do recognize those contributions in non-monetary ways also.
Perhaps you just haven't found the right firm for you yet ... keep looking.
jplourde has it right. How are you defining success?
because you seem to be tying it directly to your salary, which, to be honest, should not be a surprise to anyone entering this profession. You mention about being given the same responsibility as a 17 year old meaning your education doesn’t make a difference. You also said you only worked at one office, and it could very well be that you just got stuck at a bum office, or were there at a time when they just did not have any opportunity. 6 months isn’t a really long time to work somewhere
Architecture seems to be a profession where experience really makes a big difference, in that you don’t get an instant payoff really early on, unless you get a really lucky break. Being 27, having only worked at one place for 6 months, and having been unemployed during one of the worst economic times doesn’t make you a failure by any means.
You mention architecture doesn’t have any incentives. What do you consider incentives? You arent stuck doing something you hate for 40+ hours a week. That’s a plus. Would you rather wash cars as your career just to get a bigger paycheck right away? Nothing wrong with that at all, but just because you have a M.Arch doesn’t mean you should instantly get paid.
If being an architect is something you want for your career, you just need to stick it out a bit longer. It’s a really tough time out there for everyone, and especially those just starting out. But you are only 27 and have only been at it for a couple years.
Architecture may eat its own young, but that is no different than a lot of professions out there, especially now
Find other ways to boost your resume during this downtime so you will be more appealing to employers. The economy will not stay shitty forever, so do what you can and be best prepared for any job opportunity that comes your way. You just need to be more proactive than perhaps in the past.
Sometimes starting at the bottom of a new career path is higher than a current position in architecture, and certainly higher than unemployed.
"I think the original poster is talking about compensation. Forget "success", that's a personal vendetta. I'm writing in regards to the 90% who work at 90% of the firms who earn below avg wages for their above avg professions (my opinion) and way above-avg educational attainment. Why do the interns at my office have 100K in loans for a 7-year degree (fckn nuts!) and will start out at 40k... ? Is this what we are worth, really?! We've all seen the recent 200+ occupation average salaries report. Weren't we behind like taxidermist at the 90th position?"
yes it is.
And nobody forced you into 2 or 3 more years of student debt. I am certain you may have been led to believe you needed it, but the truth is that the 5 year program was all the majority of us needs. You went for the bonus rounds. As are many people here which then leads them to believe they are worth more for doing exactly the same job a b.arch grad is doing.
"I've also never taken shit from people who attempted to throw me into the sweat-shop labor pool and that's probably the single thing that's really set me apart in my career from the other young'uns. " I was in a similar situation at a large firm in San Francisco - there was this one person who was always trying to pull me away from whatever project team I was on, to do flunky work for him -
on the fence:
"And nobody forced you into 2 or 3 more years of student debt. I am certain you may have been led to believe you needed it, but the truth is that the 5 year program was all the majority of us needs. You went for the bonus rounds. As are many people here which then leads them to believe they are worth more for doing exactly the same job a b.arch grad is doing. "
Again, I don't understand the person-to-person comments here. (So don't stick me as someone I'm not). Let's stick to the fact / arguments that we're paid quite poorly lol ! I'm talking about the recent interns we've had at my office with such high debt and 7 years of education (read my post). I'm in fact from a state college with a 5-year program with very little debt (mainly from our study-abroad program which was excellent). I'm worried about the endangered specie aka this 5-year program! - and the relationship between educational attainment and compensation. I agree 100% with your comments (not in to relation to me of course).
bjarke ingels is a very interesting example because he was able to realize built work at a young age in his native country, which allowed him to demonstrate his ability/qualifications for subsequent built work. if there were more opportunities for young American architects to BUILD, and fewer hurdles (licensure process, entrenched hazing by older architects, underpayment) i think you would see more successful younger architects.
oops---rest of post disappeared again--
'Medusa seems to have it good though, but much of us put up with our situations as unemployment is not really an alternative. Saying no to people rarely seems like an option.'
..um, WHY? Architects are giving it away for free, so there is little incentive to pay or to improve conditions. It's beginning to seem to me that saying no is the only option. Of course, if one person says no to the ridiculous treatment young architects face out there it will have little effect...there has to be a more organized effort. but every time i come on here to propose such a thing, a few dozen people come out with the 'work harder, work more or you are a loser and a whiner' attitude we were all taught in school.
as architects, you presumably have intelligence, skills, training, and talent. if you are being told that there is no room for that in the marketplace, that is not your fault, or really your problem. it is the system that is broken if you can make more money serving drinks than working as an architect.
i'm not so young, and i would warn all younger architects who think that just working harder will earn them some return down the line (monetary or otherwise)..this just isn't going to happen for the majority of you, simply because there just won't be room and resources to go around. you might find yourself on an endless treadmill of working harder and harder for less and less, well into your 30s and 40s. your best bet is to think of novel ways to practice, realize your work, and change the situation, rather than to keep lowering your standards to fit in on a ship that's sinking fast...i.e. holding on to a job in traditional practice.
and when i suggest saying 'no'., it should be understood that i don't mean rejecting reasonable expectations of professional work, or even hard work, but rather to the expectation of unlimited availability for 24-hr deadlines, 27k/yr salaries, or jobs that make you work the reception desk for a full workday before being 'asked' to pitch in on that late-night deadline, unpaid, for another $500m office complex.
I'll take a stab:
Making more than $70k/yr doing fulfilling architectural design work.
A professional that designs buildings (most likely registered, or in the process of getting registered).
Succe$$ for young ar¢hite¢t$ is not defined in term$ of $$$. It is defined in term$ of Heisman trophies. Lu¢k know$ it is not about the lucrative $$$ and that is why he is a succe$$ful young ar¢hite¢t, yo !
it feels like the merry go-round that this kind of discussion is (on archinect anyways) just never stops....
look, from my perspective, point to an outlier like bjarke (or josh ramus or foa) to ask why aren't we all as successful or fulfilled is kind of like asking why every 18 year old isn't as "successful" as justin bieber or selena gomez or taylor swift. it's completely self-defeating - there are tons of talented young (and not so young) musicians who'd kill for bieber's "success" and as many who'd never wish it on themselves.
chris (op) - to be blunt, comparing yourself to a vp of a software company is silly. your frustration at being unemployed is completely understandable, but i will tell you money can be made in this profession. it's not easy, it's not going to be spread around like manna to everyone but it can be done. as some (elinor most recently) have noted the TRADITIONAL model is broken. doing strictly design work as an architect is dying, not only because the outside work is drying up but because more and more owners are bringing it in house (and to be honest, they've been doing it for all their service professionals and for a number of years). firms that can land a valuable, long term repeat work client are doing everything they can to maintain those relationships. but there just aren't many.
so, what's the option? as elinor wisely notes, you can find another path in the profession. what does that mean? well, if you're like half of the "green" professionals here in atlanta, you quit your job with a large firm, create a consultancy and do work of all types, lecture and generally try to find 3-4 projects a year that let you work out of your house and bank 100K+. or you can become a residential designer (no need for a license) or you can see about getting into an ancillary business that serves the construction industry (start your own software company and you can be the CEO, not just the VP). and before the complaints start rolling in about how much it costs to start each of those things, i can say #1 was done by 3 people i know for less than 1K each; #2 was done by me at age 24 and made enough to knock out a large chunk of my student debt and i just started #3 exactly 1 year ago, closing my first sale 2 weeks ago for 5 figures (before it's even been released) and i just left my first investor pitch 2 hours ago.
and this isn't directed to anyone in particular but as a general rule, if you're going to wait around for a job to open up, you're not going to be the guy running the firm one day...
For the past few years “survival” has been the new “success”, but things are slowly turning around.
I really think Gregory’s last line is dead on. Its ambition that really matters, because its ambition alone that pushes you to go out and create your own opportunities, even in terrible economic conditions. It’s going to be a long and lonely road if your waiting for success to fall into your lap… unless you have $$$.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work.”
Lee Robert: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work.”
I've seen it before, but this still is the best career advice of all time.
greg walker wrote: "so, what's the option? as elinor wisely notes, you can find another path in the profession. what does that mean? well, if you're like half of the "green" professionals here in atlanta, you quit your job with a large firm, create a consultancy and do work of all types, lecture and generally try to find 3-4 projects a year that let you work out of your house and bank 100K+. or you can become a residential designer (no need for a license) "
When greg walker says that there is no need of a license, what he really means is that if you live somewhere, in certain areas of the country, there are times when a licensed dp is not required. Sometimes. There are a lot of states and cities or counties that do require a license to design SFR's.
great comment, greg
Making more than $70k/yr doing fulfilling architectural design work.
A person may only have one opportunity to ever visit a "masterpiece" building but that same person may spend 30 minutes of their life everyday in Starbucks.
What's more fulfilling? A one-off building the general public may never see or be in or choosing the door handle to a bathroom 500 people a day use?
"fulfilling" is self-defined. it is a job that gets you excited more days than not, whether it's designing bathroom handles or once-in-a-lifetime masterpieces.
jjr, interesting point, and it fits my view very well ---
I am with the original blogger and very frustrated at our profession. any suggestions on my situation? I am currently 26, have a accredited masters degree from a ivy league college, graduated at the top of my class. After college it took me 6 months to get any job. I started out part time as their secretary and now am the designer/secretary. I have been at the firm two and half years. I have other experience while in school with two other firms. I make around 30k a year..... despicable!!! I have been trying to leave this firm and move on to greater and better things for the past year and a half. I have sent....2,000!!! resumes out which have been revised over 20 times. Iv gotten help developing the best resume, cover letter, and work samples. I have still NOT gotten ONE interview from ANY firm. I have over 80 thousand in student loans which I barely can pay with the salary I am getting. Iv had to get a second job at a job that a teenager could do.
Tell me where I went wrong?
Im thinking that my love of architecture is not worth going into larger debt for and adding to the debt I already have by getting the degree!
geez, i'm sorry...that's a really long time to be in that position. honestly, i'd probably consider doing something else, like using the secretarial experience to get an office manager job at an investment bank... i'm guessing you're at a small firm, and are encountering problems transferring small-firm experience to another place?
have you tried talking your employers at least into a full-time design job? 3 years is way too long to make the architects keep doing secretarial work...
this attitude of entitlement will just dig you in deeper -
success comes to those who create their own breaks -
"Tell me where I went wrong? "
The answer was in your first couple lines.
"I am currently 26, have a accredited masters degree from a ivy league college, graduated at the top of my class."
As well as:
"I have over 80 thousand in student loans "
I'd say that sums it up.
that's BS--you did nothing wrong. you caught a bad break at a bad time and ended up at a shit firm. get yourself out of there whichever way you can.
I assume suvek was feeling trollish, but on the fence, that was way out of line.
I am tired of "personal responsibility" zombies and the popular concept of yelling at victims.
nmjdesigner, I have no good advice to give you. I agree it sucks.
SUVERK is really Herman Cain.
"Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!"
nmj - i really feel for you. and, no, you haven't done anything 'wrong' - most of our profession hasn't done anything that would warrant the pain it's going through.
all i'm trying to encourage is a belief, in yourself, that you can probably do more than you might think. or that there are options to be had. i guess, no matter how difficult it's been (and i've had incredibly dark moments the last 3 years alone), i personally just have to keep pushing forward. some way, just keep pushing. it's meant looking outside the (in hindsight) rather narrow box i'd hoped to work and practice in, but in doing that, over time, failing and getting back up again, it's opened up possibilities i'd have never thought would happen. and i'm much better for it.
sounds like it's a dark time - don't succumb but don't wait around for something to happen. if you've sent 2000 resumes and gotten nothing, i'd suggest there's probably better ways to help try and make the change you want happen. there's a ton of threads on here as well that may give you some ideas.
rusty, you're such a softy.
yes postal. I found jesus.
Gregory, I understand you sentiment. At the same time there is a logistics problem. Yes, there is work out there that is up for grabs. You can increase your chances at landing said work through hard work, or luck, or blackmail, or whatever...
At the same time the amount of available work out there is dwarfed by amount of people looking for said work. Simple math says a bunch of people will be shit out of luck. Keep pushing, yes. But no guarantees should come with this advice.
rusty - doing traditional work, yes. totally agree. even doing coffee gigs, yep, i understand. and there are no guarantees either way - that's the thing. so, do you let it kill you, slowly, or do you fight going down? i'm a fighter, not a lover...
and, if you read my blog, you'd know that magic koozies are the answer to all your ills...
(how i'd do with that cross promotional tie there? just slipped it right in, as instructed)
Brilliant cross marketing strategy Greg! :)
We should all go into glow in the dark anal beads market. Opportunities galore.
Yes, we should also go down fighting. With neon accessories up our bums.
I was laid off from SOM in 11/08 and out of work for 12 months, and the only way I was able to get another job in architecture was to considerably step up my game - take personal responsibility and do what it takes - what's wrong with that? Times are tough - we just don't have time to wait - we must rise above the situation and make out own breaks. When you have made a huge investment in education $50,000 - $80,000 or a more - one should do whatever it takes to succeed - anything less is a waste. - I could have given up in 2009, all I got from people was discouragement - so I persisted until I got back in the game.