FIRST JOB BLUES, is this really what being an architect is like? (plz help!)


DISCLAIMER: I tried searching through the threads to see if this had been discussed before, if it has I apologize and I appreciate the link to said post. 

I'm a recent graduate who completed 5 different internships during undergrad at a range of firms (different cities and sizes.) 

I'm seriously considering going to grad school to get my masters in architecture (in the process of applying now.) I recently got my first entry-level full time position (intern architect) in my hometown, which isn't a tiny city but also isn't a large one. I figured I'd stick around the familiar (and cheap) location while I focus on my grad school apps. 

The culture at my firm is really laid back and friendly, we play KEXP radio, there's sodas in the fridge up for grabs, you can take lunch when you want and my boss doesn't make us track hours (he also doesn't expect us to work overtime.) It's a small firm of about 8 people. 

I've been working there for about 6 weeks and it's driving me crazy. I feel kinda like a brat for complaining about it, but I just can't get over staring at a computer all day long. I'm a contact-wearer and by the end of the day my eyes are literally burning from staring at AutoCad. My first two weeks was spent updating elevations in one single document, it drove me crazy just thinking about how if we were using Revit, presumably my week long task wouldn't even exist. (not saying Revit is perfect, in fact I'd love to hear which software you guys use to handle really large projects!)

I understand that as a recent grad it's super important to get real-world experience in construction documents and project management, and I love the fact that I'm learning every day, however the software and constant computer usage makes my eyes feel like they're gonna bleed. I'm happy to do bathroom elevations or boring stuff like that for the first couple of years (I understand that I didn't get a lot of that useful tedium in undergrad) yet I didn't expect to be leaving work each day feeling physically ill from sitting all day and staring at a screen. 

I feel a little naive for even posting this, but it's really hard to get a gauge when most of my friends in the profession are my age. Even the higher ups at my firm (project managers etc.) sometimes leave early, come in late or seem generally not all that jazzed about the work they're doing. (We do mostly adaptive re-use, large apartment buildings and sometimes new residences with an occasional cultural project thrown in.) 

I guess my questions are this:

1. Does being an architect really require being behind a computer screen 60% (or more) of the time?

2. is AutoCad antiquated? Could that be some of the cause of my woes?

3. Is it because of the small city I'm in? 

4. Do you think it has to do with where my passions lie? (I was recently given control of the design of a new hill-side residence, which was really exciting and I feel passionate about it but I still feel like I'm suffering behind the computer all day.) 

5. Is it easier doing all that tedious stuff when you care more about the work you're doing? 

6. how do you avoid this? where can you work that isn't like this? 


thanks again for any feedback. I fully expect trolling on this post, but would really love some genuine insight!!!

Sep 17, 15 10:13 am
Non Sequitur

1. No, it's actually greater than 60%. That's how construction documents are produced.

2. No, only fresh grads think this way. BIM and old-school CAD have their places and we're no-where near the point where CAD can simply be ignored in lieu of Revit. If only I had a nickle for every new intern with the erroneous "Revit is the first coming of christ" attitude... I'd be swimming in 18-year single malts. Both drafting disciplines need to be mastered or else you're limiting yourself.

3. No, your situation sounds pretty typical. Not sure what you expect to be doing in an architecture office.  Were expecting it to like undergrad studios? Washrooms need elevations and construction details need to be obsessed about. You can't be sitting outside with a double espresso thinking about abstract concepts all day while some tech does all the dirty work.

4. Sounds like a great break, you should take full advantage of this. Very little of our time is spent doing actual concept design. Clients pay for IFC, not hours of doodling.

5. Yes. It also helps to have a realistic grasp of the average type of project you're more suited for and chase offices that specialize in it.

6.See #5.

Sep 17, 15 10:37 am

1. duh, very surprising that you only put in 8hrs/day at entry level.

2. yes and no, it depends on the type of work (project and task); Revit is becoming more common. the more versed you are in the software, the more efficient you will be (applies to any)

3. absolutely nothing to do with it, the bigger cities will have different firms, but note that it's a more competitive job-market

4. you should be finding things to learn and applying design principles to every project and every detail.

5. yes

6. in firms that do concept only (there are firms that farm out the DD/CD work...)? academia?

as every designer knows, screwing up a few minor details in a bathroom can ruin the experience - understanding the consequences of design and details is a large part of being an effective designer.

Sep 17, 15 10:38 am

I'd run while you can kid...I think youre pretty bright. It took me 8 year to get to your questions.


1) Yes, you will be doing lots and lots of computer work, and you will start taking 20 min shits 3x a day to cope with it!

2) This is a tricky question but the short answer is yes.

3) Probably so to some degree, but not really. It depends on the firm owners and how they'd like to run their business. Most of the larger corporate firms have moved to BIM and Revit, but there are still a number of smaller firms that haven't transitioned, or really want to but are pulling the trigger really slowly, and still do 90% of their work in ACAD. There are small firms that exclusively work on Revit.

4) This is a new feeling for all young new grads that haven't had to sit behind a computer all day. I suggest making a stand for your monitor so that you can stand and work. Supposedly it is much healthier than sitting for 50-60hours a week, plus you wont feel so confined standing.


6) WELCOME TO HELL...I mean architecture

Sep 17, 15 10:42 am

1. It is more like 90% computer time. I had health problems from working on a computer too, have always been sensitive to electronics. Make excuses to limit computer time... find another part of the office where you can read, sketch, redline or anything else but CAD, it helps. It is still 60% computer time though when you do that. Nevermind. I give up.

Sep 17, 15 11:04 am

Where glasses or keep a bottle of Visine handy. Welcome to Architecture.

The answers you're getting are good. It's easy to get burned out doing the same type of tasks day after day. Take it a little bit at a time. It sounds like you already have some longer term goals (M.Arch, ...) keep working toward them. And yes, it is easier doing the tedious stuff when you care about the work you're doing.

Sep 17, 15 11:23 am

I read that as "...keep a bottle of vodka handy." Never a bad idea.


my fingers and back don't hurt as much as they did when we were 80% of the time bending over a drafting table, and it's way easier to edit (won't go there, but razor blades where a great asset 25 years ago)  and my eyes are grateful we have these new monitors that don't flicker, all good improvements. 

Sep 17, 15 11:30 am

architecture is pretty broad.  later in life you may be able to specialize in marketing, developing client relations in such a way that you're out of the office schmoozing, or you may be able to tailor your career towards construction administration, where you might be able to spend more time at a job site.  it is possible to keep a career in architecture without spending 90% of your time staring at CDs.  i doubt staring at revit will make you feel better than staring at autocad.

get some eye drops.  they will help.  every hour get up and walk a lap or 2 around the office.  it helps.

Sep 17, 15 11:30 am

can't handle a job for 6 weeks and you are going to get a masters in the field...holy yourself a favor, don't.  entitled millennial, get yourself a trophy for working for 6 whole weeks, you earned it.  

Sep 17, 15 11:40 am

Ditch the contacts, seriously. Wear the horn rims that make you like Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mockingbird". Don't go the Corbu glasses route. Transition to construction management as soon as possible.

Sep 17, 15 11:46 am

This is how it starts - the key here is to learn fast, move fast, don't make mistakes and then and only then do you move to the next level - just like in a video game

Sep 17, 15 11:55 am

One of my HS jobs was with a "company" that cleaned up vacant lots in nyc to make way for their billboards...They were overgrown, filled with trash, hyperdermic needles were a common find...had several families of rats...abandoned homeless camps...sometimes people sleeping in the weeds...all while a fat guy named mario chain smoked and yelled at us to work faster... I did that shit for 2 years...every job since has been cake!

Sep 17, 15 12:06 pm

yuuck, then worked for a year cleaning filthy dont know misery until you clean carpets in far rockaway...on several occassions, while carrying the dirty carpet water down the stairs, it splashed up in my mouth...appreciate what you have...

Sep 17, 15 12:16 pm

I did asphalt one summer. Brutal work. I gained a lot of respect for people that year.

Sep 17, 15 12:28 pm

The CAD part will definitely get you when you are sitting there constantly thinking well this would have taken 1 hr less, this wouldn't have had to be even done, this could have taken 2 hours less. Last week, my boss gave me a new project and I told him I refused to do it in CAD and would work for free after hours to convert the as-builts into Revit but I refused to waste "our" time using a program from the 70's. This week has been a million times better, I spend my time actually doing drawings (and quickly) instead of spending 60% of my time constantly  rechecking if things are lined up or called out correctly.

Sep 17, 15 12:45 pm

Also while we're stereotyping entitled millennials, what generation has  received the most government subsidies? What generation had overtime laws for salaries up to 70k (adjusted for inflation) what generation had a "I want it now mentality" and took all their equity and dumped it into boats, RV's and vacation homes and crying how unfair the banks were when they couldn't afford their mortgages and liquidated their 401k's because they didn't understand investing logic? The baby boomers right? Now what generation is dealing with that economic fall out, won't ever see a dime of their social security and will get to solve issues like climate change, global debt and the oil bust, oh yeah the millennials. Thanks for your legacy we appreciate it so much 

Sep 17, 15 12:56 pm

I have been, what my Boss refers to me as, a Drafting Monkey for 25 years. If you want to stay in Architecture then you need to get licensed and possibly start your own firm. Then you maybe you will be able to go meetings, visit jobs sites, have meaningful discussions with contractors (the people who actually build the stuff) and learn how building really go together. Maybe you will be able to actually design. Then maybe you will not have to sit in front of a computer screen ALL day.


Takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

Sep 17, 15 1:01 pm

well that's not too encouraging sideman...sounds like you should have grown a spin a decade ago?!

Sep 17, 15 1:09 pm

I take soon classes does that count?




your boss calls you a monkey after being there 25 years?

Sep 17, 15 1:11 pm

DeTwan, you are absolutely correct. I should have. And is it completely my fault that I have not.

Curtkram, not to my face. I over heard him calling me that to a client. His office is next to my cube.

I just say this to rendercloud to let her/him know that it is up to you to do the work and make your own destiny/future. Whatever that may be. I think that there is a lot of good advice to this affect on this forum.

Sep 17, 15 1:29 pm

The OP is totally some entitled millennial and I don't give 2 shits about your previous generations rant.  Inane whining.  Alpha, sack up if you want to make a change, time to put away your phone and put on some big boy pants.  

Sounds like the OP never had a job, whining about working 6 weeks in an office that is totally decent.  Maybe he or she should go out and dig some ditches for a couple of months. Oh, your eyes hurt?  Give me a fucking break.  Like others suggested, once you have worked in the shit in architecture or otherwise; what you are doing now is going to seem like a walk in the park.  Maybe your mom can call your current boss and ask for periodic juice and vision breaks? 

Sep 17, 15 2:01 pm

SneakyPete: when I was in construction, every person on every crew would say " at least I'm not on the paving crew", even the guys replacing sewer pipes wading in sh*t.  That is one rough job.

jla-x: cutting yourself with a razorblade and getting screamed at not to bleed on the drawings... amen to the new monitors and all the features to adjust brightness and contrast.

Sep 17, 15 2:11 pm
Scott Deisher

How does this job compare to your 5 internships?

Sep 17, 15 2:24 pm

Just take a smoke break every hour or so and you'll be peachy keen. 

Sep 17, 15 2:47 pm

Built up asphalt roofing is paving + altitude. Plus you get to put on more than one coat.

Not sure exactly where CAD monkey ranks on the list of undesirable jobs.

Sep 17, 15 3:43 pm


it like the Marines - after camp Pendleton, they get sent out to war - " how come they are shooting at me? "Well son, welcome to the corp. now get her goddamn head down or it will gt blown off"

Sep 17, 15 5:15 pm

1. Yes, unless you're doing punchlists 24/7

2. Absolutely. Sorry guys, revit is the industry standard for documentation, unless youre in Europe/UK, where they typically use Bentley Microstation more often. BIM is king for documentation and if you're not on this train you're missing out on being infinitely more efficient. I say this coming from the perspective of a large firm, but nearly all our competitors - and many "starchiects" that do their own documentation (so, not DSR) use revit. For design (read: concept/SD), rhino/sketchup/3dsmax/AutoCAD are all standard. 

3. Probably doesnt' have anything to do with it

4. Cherish projects like that

5. I certainly believe so

6. I can give you some recommendations but i rather not post it publicly

Sep 17, 15 6:10 pm

1. Yes 100%, more if you count overtime.

Get glasses.  No one cares how pretty you might look with contacts in an 8 person firm. xD  I've seen the effects of long-term contact wear at my doctor's.  Let me tell you, the magnified image of your under eyelids end up looking like dried up dinosaur/crocodile skin.  Not pretty and healthy for your eyes.

You gotta do your time and all these boring/tedious work, atleast until you climb up the ladder. ;)   I'm sure all architects didn't get to where they are without going through the same experience at some early point in their careers.  I think this is more like a test.  Are you mentally strong to tough it out when the going gets tough?  

Sep 17, 15 10:20 pm

ok seriously about the glasses.  get lasik.  if you're under 30 it will pay for itself easily.

Sep 18, 15 7:42 am

I had posted here yesterday right as our network had a tizzy fit, so it disappeared. Basically:

-get glasses; contacts are killing your eyes

-the first 1-10 years out of arch school is a lot of grunt work, that's typical

-do what you can to find SOME aspect of a project, even a small piece, that makes you care about it. (When I was an intern I once did a big CMU box for a church and the only joy I got out of it was laying out the walls so no CMU had to get cut. I was actually looking forward to that construction, then the project tanked.)

Sep 18, 15 8:50 am
null pointer

So I'm going to pull a Balkins and add some advice to the OP:

I burned out in my first internship. I was spending every night in front of the TV, sulking, and had no energy to go out with friends and pretty much dropped off the face of the earth for two months. I am really happy I burned out during my first internship and not while working after graduating. So my attitude is guided by a total fear that that might happen again.

Stand up once every hour. Go get water. Think about something else. Doodle for 5 minutes. You have to figure out your optimal productivity routine. Some people seem to be able to jockey through 8 hours full of drafting work and nothing else. I am not that sort of person, and you probably aren't either. 

After a while, I settled into a pattern of 25 minutes of intense work, 5 minutes of browsing the internet, 25 minutes of intense work, 5 minutes of wc/water break. I took and still take a full hour lunch at noon - I catch up on personal email, and read the newspaper - you don't want to be that typical architect who can't talk about what's on the front page of the new york times just because you spent your day being "too busy". At around 4PM, I stand up again, and go get myself a coffee and walk around the block.I answered more personal email then, made whatever personal calls I had to make, and came back around 4:20pm to work until 6:30 or so. 6:30, I stood up and went home unless there was a deadline. I never stayed beyond that point unless I was actively working on things because that's just inviting burn-out.

The net result of that pattern has been a marked increase in productivity, and when times call for it (the monthly crunch) I work hard as fuck because I know after this is done, I'll go back to the routine and things won't be too bad. 

So what I am saying is: Don't spend 90% of your day drafting. Invest in yourself. And that doesn't mean "be a good cad monkey", it means "keep yourself human" so that when you strike out on your own, you don't end up being just some architectural detailing robot.

Sep 18, 15 8:53 am

^what null said. Especially re leave at 6:00 on the dot unless you have something to send out tonight! You'll quickly get much better at organizing your time, and find yourself much happier every morning.

Also, get a good mouse - and watch out for hand strain especially from the little scroll wheel. Those wheels don't really seem designed for the heavy use architects put on them zooming in and out.

Better yet get 2 mice, and train yourself to switch hands occasionally. I had to work left-handed after a shoulder injury (not work related!) a few years ago, and realized being able to switch hands frequently made a big improvement to my speed and comfort when I'm engaged in heavy modeling / drafting.

Sep 18, 15 9:13 am

Excellent post, null!

midlander you suggestions on hand strain are also great. I used to put a slim book under my mouse every other day, so my arm angle was slightly different. You could also get two different sized mouses (mice?) and switch off between them.

Sep 18, 15 9:38 am

Think about why you embarked on this profession in the first place.  What were you hoping it would be, and is it still realistic?  Be honest with yourself.  There is nothing wrong with taking a good taste and deciding that the recipe looked better than it tastes.

I would postpone expense and time of grad school until you have a better handle on whether what you are feeling is simply the normal letdown of school-to-work or something deeper.

Sep 18, 15 10:09 am

Not just "get glasses" but go to your eye doctor - or maybe even a different eye doctor if you are experiencing eye strain. 

Yes, you will spend most of your time in front of the computer just like almost every office job these days.

Yes, your tasks will vary more as you get more experience. But that will take some time.

But get used to "menial and tedious" tasks. Actually, your boss probably does more menial and tedious tasks than you do - even if you don't notice it. Why? Because doing buildings is a series of small and tedious tasks that are required to do something interesting and important, just like every other important thing on this planet. Do you think that designing airplanes or something like Facebook is any different? 

It may be that architecture is not for you, and that's OK. But get to the eye doctor first. 

Sep 18, 15 12:56 pm

I spend 90% time in front of the computer and 10% in meetings/travel. Get used to it. 

Believe me, its better than being on site all day.

Sep 18, 15 9:58 pm

very good points Null and Midlander.. I can't vouch enough on taking breaks.  I'm currently working in a field unrelated to architecture.  Some of the lessons I can take back with me when I enter the profession again is to take breaks every two hours and get away from your desk during breaks and lunch.  Many places of work have fixed break periods every two hour or so where everyone just drops what they're doing, regardless of deadlines and goes on their break.  We often work non-stop for 4-5 hours only to get up for a washroom or water break because we really need it.  I really wish our profession was similar where employees understood and expected you to go on your break.  Personally its the difference between burning myself out and not.  So again, get away from your desk, go take a short 15 min walk outside, go sit in the dining room, anything that requires you to stand up and get away from your desk whether you think you need it or not.

Sep 18, 15 11:55 pm

I dug ditches for five years. Sometimes digging ditches seems preferable to staring at the computer.

Sep 19, 15 1:11 am

null pointer, 

Good job. That is in line with what I would advise. Just get out of the chair and stop staring at the monitor every so often. One, sitting too long = flat ass and stiff/rigid body that aches when moving around. Staring at the monitor too long = eye strain and actually can result in vision degradation like losing depth of vision which can be retrained but why put yourself there. This way the eyes also have regular opportunity throughout every day to look at things at different focal depth. Actually is scientifically supported. I have to find the sources I read when reading about the subject in connection with topics discussed on castAR forum. 

Bottom line: Maintain a human life otherwise, you burn out.

Sep 19, 15 4:06 am

I thought you were a cold blooded lizard? human?

Sep 19, 15 9:05 am

Being an architect is not the only job that requires excessive staring at a screen, first of all.

Secondly, try finding opportunities to tear yourself away from the screen and work on other things:
- Ask if you can attend meetings with clients.
- Volunteer to do field surveys.
- Print yourself a set of drawings so you can take them to a different room, or go outside and do your own redlines for yourself.
- Put together sample finish boards.
- Walk over to senior colleagues and ask questions.

If you sit in front of your computer for 8+ hours, your colleagues will expect that of you and you will miss out on opportunities to expand your breadth of knowledge and experience.

Sep 19, 15 11:32 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

i miss sitting in front of the computer these days drafting, seriously. its all meetings and phone calls and 100+ emails a day etc.. i have literally been drafting in cab rides on my laptop between meetings..last week i only managed to put my headphone on for like 3 hours and just relax and draft. that probably sounds strange but drafting is a break these days. enjoy the CAD monkeying while you my first internship i spent 8 hours CAD drafting a tree once. i joked to the others versus my old jobs like those mentioned above as hard labor how ridiculous this scenario was......OP sounds like maybe a laid back office is too easy?

Sep 19, 15 1:10 pm

1. Yes

2. Depends on the size of the firm and its projects, but generally speaking, Yes.

3. Maybe

4. Too early to tell.  You need to accept the fact that you will do 'time' in tedious tasks to get a raw feel for the reality of the profession.

5. See #4

6. See #4

Sep 20, 15 7:04 am

lets quit Architecture! ;p 

Sep 20, 15 3:33 pm

Field work isn't that great to be honest, I was a surveyor for 6 months and standing in the rain or heat for 8 hours wasn't great. Staring at a screen all day isn't bad if its the type of work you enjoy.

Sep 21, 15 5:54 am

1. Does being an architect really require being behind a computer screen 60% (or more) of the time?

Being an Architect- yes- and you have to work on parking garages and mechanical penthouses. Check out the "light side of the Force"- Interiors.

We have plenty of computer work as well, but we get more perks. #1: you can get a free lunch, drinks or dinner any day of the week if you are in a decent sized city. Reps love to take out designers/interior architects. I've never heard of a concrete or window wall rep treat a base building architect to a dinner.
#2: We get free fun stuff: bags, gift cards, ice cream brought to your studio, cooking classes
#3: We get trips and not to muck around in a dusty, quarry for 1 day. I've been on 5 industry trips (3 to Europe and 2 to mills) in the last 8 years. Most were at least 4 days long and included fun perks like golf, personal chefs, a private villa, private jet ride, etc...
Caveats: we work crazy hours and have to multitask a great deal. We have complex challenging interior architectural elements to design (stairs, water elements, mezzanines, etc...) plus the interior finishes and furnishings to obsess about.  We still have to sit through all of the coordination/billing/construction meetings. But, when you get to hang out in Italy for a week to look at tile, it is totally worth it.


2. is AutoCad antiquated? Could that be some of the cause of my woes? Don't believe the Dinosaurs- AUTOCAD SUCKS! Keep up your Revit skills and look for a firm that has moved to the 21st century. More clients are asking for BIM models on the big projects so firms that don't comply won't get those types of projects. Modeling in 3D is crucial. You still should have great hand sketching skills though. Revit isn't perfect, but it is so much better than 2D drafting.

3. Is it because of the small city I'm in? Can't speak to that- check out NYC, Chicago, DC, Atlanta, etc...a lot more firms are working on Revit or at least some 3D modeling programs. My friend in Hong Kong works in SketchUp only and then they use a drafting utility to do construction docs.

4. Do you think it has to do with where my passions lie? (I was recently given control of the design of a new hill-side residence, which was really exciting and I feel passionate about it but I still feel like I'm suffering behind the computer all day.) Maybe- why don't you just do the project in Revit if you can still get access to a student version of the program? You can always export to CAD for people to review the documents.

5. Is it easier doing all that tedious stuff when you care more about the work you're doing? Absolutely. I don't love everything I do everyday/every minute, but I love the adrenalin high you get when you can walk a building where things you drew become 3-dimensional spaces. It's also awesome to eavesdrop and here people talk about how happy they are that they are in a new space, or renovated apartment or restaurant, etc...

6. how do you avoid this? where can you work that isn't like th Give yourself some time to grow. Learn from experienced people but augment it with new technologies/ideas. Forge  your own path and stay curious....

Sep 21, 15 10:46 pm

How are you getting these 4+ day trips to Europe?

Sep 22, 15 12:39 pm

ha...that whole perks comment is a bunch of BS.

I don't know anybody that wants to spend 15 mins with a sales rep, let alone a dinner, or a whole week in Italy...are you some politician getting lobbied?  Private jet, hookers, free, all because you have to design complex stairs, mezzanines, and water features...joke.

Sep 22, 15 1:15 pm
null pointer

If you're going to spend 1.5M in italian marble, you're sure as hell going to go take a look at it and select the individual pieces, with the owner. That's how you get day trips to Europe.

Sep 22, 15 1:16 pm


Sep 22, 15 3:34 pm

I think dominoid is not an architect or interior designer

Sep 22, 15 8:50 pm

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