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I'm a commercial/residential carpenter with 15 years of experience in the building trades. As an undergrad, I studied painting and sculpture, and have been a prolific (albeit unsuccessful) fine artist for most of my life. I recently applied to the M.Arch in interior architecture at the University of Oregon at the suggestion of my girlfriend, and to my surprise I just found out that I've been accepted. Now I'm wondering if the investment of time and financial resources will be worth it. On the one hand, I know that I won't be able to handle the physical labor of my occupation for too much longer, and I would also love to be able to apply my artistic abilities in my profession. On the other hand, I worry about spending a lot of time and money on a program that will not gurantee entry into what I understand to be an extremely volatile and competitive profession. At 39, I feel that whatever move I make next has to be one that puts me in a solid profession.
I'm wondering if anyone thinks that my experience as a carpenter would make me more of an asset potential employers. Also wondering if anyone could tell me about the reputation of the U of O, in particular its interior architecture program. I selected that course because I had heard that job prospects for interior architecture were better in the current economy - is this true?
Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.
You will likely experience severe culture shock. If you can handle that, you will most likely be good.
Most employers will not count your background as meaningful experience, and many will actively discount it, but it will make you a better designer, whether they want to admit it or not.
rick joy was a carpenter. he's doing pretty good. if you have been in the trades and have real world experience it can only help you. for example, you know that a 2x4 is really 1-1/2x3-1/2 do you know how long it takes to learn that in architecture school!?! i say go for it. i think you'll have a great time, particularly since you have a background in fine art as well. the people who can make things without losing too many fingers tend to do well in this field.
There is no doubt that your construction experience would be a valuable addition to an architectural practice. But the practice that it would be most valuable to would be your own, and you are 20 years late getting started.
If you love architecture by all means don't let anything stop you. But if you are thinking about a productive career for mid-life, forget all about it. You'll find architecture school devoid of the practical experience and knowledge that you already have, and will likely be frustrated by the delusional nature of both students and faculty. After that, you'll likely spend years competing for wages at the lowest level, assuming that you can even get a job, as you'll be 20 years older than the other applicants and few will care that you have carpentry experience.
If I were you I'd try to move from carpentry labor into construction management or contracting. Keep the fine art for yourself, or channel it into furniture that you design and build.
As far as I'm concerned, "interior architect" is a euphemism for "decorator".
I agree wth Miles Jaffe,
Your experience is definitely valuable, especially when it comes to detailing and tech courses since you'll be miles ahead when it comes to the understanding of how something goes together.
Others have said it here before, only go into architecture if you can't do anything else. If you have a strong burning desire and know that you won't be happy in life without it, then go for it. Otherwise it's not worth it.
The construction management role is far better. Your skills will transfer very well. I did architecture school and found myself going into construction management. There's little creativity, except when trying to solve a problem, but otherwise it's satisfying work. Architecture is however surprisingly awful when it comes to anything technical and I'm playing catch-up with those that have been in the trades when it comes to understanding how something goes together.
Miles and cris-chitect have it exactly right. You will have a much easier time geting into construction management and it will probably fit you much better. Interior architecture IS a euphemism for interior decorator. Studying interior architecture as a solution to needing a stable older-guy occupation is like taking up cigarettes to get rid of a persistent cough.
i went to school with a carpenter in his 50's who decided to become an architect. I believe he's doing pretty well for himself doing a lot of field work/site inspection.
dont waste your time. You will regret it. You also will know exponentially more about the built environment than any of your professors. get a masters in construction engineering and project management, you ll be much better off. Not only will you have a job, but it will be much higher paying than anything you could ever expect in architecture
I concur with Miles, Chris, and others echoing the same sentiment.
I concur with them because of the timing. The first "stretch version" M.Arch. is for people who either discovered very quickly after embarking on another course of study (art, engineering, CM) that they HAD to be architects ... OR they knew they wanted to be architects prior to studying something else and did not pursue it initially. For those who do it to "discover it" or because it seems like the next logical step, I do not recommend it. I worked for about 5 years and went back. Truthfully, I think that about 2 to 3 years of post baccalaureate real life experience is the optimal timing for a first M.Arch. I even discussed this with the prof. in charge of the 3 year folks while talking about course scheduling. While he did not say there was a right or wrong answer, he indicated that for those finishing at or after their mid-30s, there was a whole other set of complications to address. It also seemed that these individuals need a lot more "hand holding" from the faculty and advisers to work around these issues - family, financial issues, likelihood of employment, etc. (This is not applicable to 2 year M.Archs., who may have worked in architecture the whole time in between, but came back a little late. It didn't seem to).
I disagree with the point that the curriculum will teach an ex-carpenter nothing. With the exception of a few lame studios, I learned a lot from my program - programmatic, practical and even philosophical determinants of design, history, theory, construction technology, structural principles, and took both theoretical and practical electives. I have few complaints about the education and felt that it prepared me for work. However, you folks are correct. While I don't think that a carpentry background will be discredited, it won't be treated as a bonus either.
I agree with the suggestion that he should move toward construction management. There are many excellent schools in this area, and he could see if he could accelerate his way through such a program if he doesn't have to take general education courses again, or opt for a masters degree in construction management, depending on how much remedial work such a program would require for someone with a BFA. I think his creative passions could still be fed by painting and art, and that architecture may not be the outlet he thinks it is. If he does go toward construction management, he would considered very valuable in a "stick-framed" environment, be it a developer, a construction company, or design-build.
Again, we can't make the decision for him. He did ask us for our opinion, which we gave. The other thing he can do is "travel lightly," accept, and go to U of O's M.Arch. There, he might find that it really clicks, he likes it, and will choose to finish it. He also might find that it isn't for him. This would all depend on whether he can afford to do that - move there, pay for a term or two of tuition, etc. Our incoming class lost about 3 or 4 members. It happens.
No. I'm in agreement with Miles, Chris, and the others who echo that sentiment. The reason is because of the timing. I think that it's too late to make a viable career of it. Where this cuts off is sort of subjective, but it is an issue.
I recommend that he pursue a degree in construction management (if he can get credit for the general ed. he has already done) or a graduate degree in construction management if he doesn't have to remove too many deficiencies for having an art background.