Switching out of Architecture



I'm wondering if I can get some opinions. I'm a 50 year old woman, licensed architect, and I've taught at a couple of good schools, and worked for others and for myself for the past 20 years. Right now I'm trying to find work and it has led to naught. Even the University where I have taught as a lecturer for the past 4 years has not let me know if they will need me in the future (they are notorious for doing this).  Part of me wonders if I just need to retrain to do something else. Any thoughts on what experienced and unemployed architects do when they grow up? How to repackage myself? New career choices others have made?



Jul 28, 14 9:33 pm

Where do you practice?


If you have a license... Stay the course, get on with your own projects, or get on with a firm. Are you able or willing to move? 

Are you able or willing to retire early?

Jul 28, 14 9:52 pm


I don't think moving is an option now, I have two more years till my youngest graduates high school. Can't retire, nope. I practice near Sacramento, CA.

Jul 29, 14 12:22 am

Hey im from where you are! but now i am studying in NY


my two cents-

whether you take an advice from a student is up to you, but I HIGHLY HIGHLY suggest going to into real estate development. More stable, higher pay, and more control. its a short time to study and if you want to stay in California look into woodbury or USC. you will still be within the field of architecture rather than leaving it entirely and learning something new (which will take a lot of time, unexpected failures, and money)

like how arcahnoymous said, do your own projects, but to do that you need to develop.


BTW, after my studies i plan to come back to where you are and hopefully redevelop downtown along with the new arena. 




btw, where do you teach? i have plans to teach at the cc level back home since i feel like the curriculum there is super outdated when i was studying there

Jul 29, 14 1:36 am

hahahha im sorry but i have to laugh at the suggestion of archanonymous telling an architect to retire early....


cmon now...

Jul 29, 14 1:37 am

also one must not forget that architects are trained not to design


BUT TO CREATIVELY SOLVE PROBEMS. it just so happens that design is just an outcome of that.  with that skillset, we can open so many doors but so many people are caught up on the idea that we have to draw/design/render because its what we do. 


edit: delete the comment "more stable" from my first response because that's not true. development is highly volatile and depends on market conditions. 

Jul 29, 14 1:42 am

batman, I am saving $15k +/ year on my meager intern salary. In 15 years, I should have easily enough money to retire and live off the interest from my savings. Yes architects get paid poorly in comparison to other professional jobs, but we make more than 95% of everyone in the world. I didn't think it was an unrealistic suggestion.


deedee - real estate may be a good option. California is tough right now, I know, but you may be able to get into real-estate and carve out a niche for yourself specing staged furniture, taking houses that show poorly, putting $2k of the company's money into it, and selling it for 10 or 20k more. I know a couple people from school that went this direction.


Do you have a husband or partner? Does he make enough to support you for a short time?

In what way are you having problems? No jobs posted, not enough jobs posted, or you don't have the exact skills and experience the employers are looking for?

You could always attend a Facades+ or USGBC conference or an Autodesk University event. You can learn new skills, meet plenty of people, and burnish your connections.

Jul 29, 14 10:13 am

Yeah we probably make more than 95% of the world, but end up with with a fried brain, long term depression, numb to any stimuli you know xD

Question: Is it better to take a job in another field that pays lower but comes with less baggage, or stick it out in this profession, hit 50+ and still face uncertainly like a recent grad?

Jul 29, 14 10:04 pm

Deedee, your post revels that you are having problems with employment. One post asked “In what way are you having problems? No jobs posted, not enough jobs posted, or you don't have the exact skills and experience the employers are looking for?” I think at 50 you need to turn around and assess the path you have taken, the relationships you’ve had and seek out the ugly truths of what might have brought you hard to the wall. Is there a pattern you can learn from? Maybe it’s just as simple as the firm you were with went broke or the recession created this situation but I sense something else. Do you?

I’m 64 with a 40 year career and in that time I’ve gone through 6 recessions since college, I’ve hit-the-wall plenty of times. It’s a matter of diverting, swerving not “switching-out”. If you switch completely you’ll be starting over at 50. Diverting and swerving can include something other than “Architect”. It could be something like manufactures rep, real estate sales etc., using the assets you have as an advantage over others in those fields to keep you off the bottom rung.

By now you must have a network of people you can use in your employment search and in any new opportunity, use it as one of your assets. Manufactures would die to have someone who has built-in contacts they can employ to “get-in” to architectural firms to promote their products and create lunch-learn experiences…being a teacher creates an advantage here. My best friend is an architect and diverted over to Pella Windows…not to “sell” windows but he went in and created a commercial department…he knew most every architect in town by 50 and used those contacts to “get-in”, do lunch-learns, sponsor AIA events. He used his talent as an architect to seek out architects with projects and do window arrangement sketches for them, everybody used him for this, he also did field measure replacement projects at schools for architects, wrote their specs, provide estimates for their budgets. Before he retired they were doing 90% of all commercial window projects in town.

Good luck to you!

Jul 30, 14 4:25 pm

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