What would you do if you were in this predicament? Help!


I need some career advice. Im going out on a limb here so please be kind--it's not easy to write this.  

I took the building engineering program from BCIT (Vancouver, Canada) and graduated as an "architectural technologist" over a decade ago. Immediately upon graduation, I got a job as a tech and after about a year of working in a small firm where I was pigeon holed doing detail drawings day in and day out for months, I became disillusioned and went back to university, where I finished a BA in international relations (just wanted to do something different than arch). Now some years later, my BA has proven useless in work force and I'm still taking contract jobs as an architectural tech. I feel as an arch tech there's an incredibly strong glass ceiling and the prospect of growth is small.

I want to plan the next steps, but I want to hear your opinion on what those steps would be if you were in my shoes. What would you do next to advance? And to be clear, I don't want to give you any ideas what direction I'm thinking of heading as I don't want to bias how you would pursue the next career steps, but lets say one general big hairy goal is to develop and build properties.   I look forward to your ideas! Thank you kindly... maybe we'll get me back on an exciting and fulfilling career track!

May 13, 16 4:18 pm

If you want to stay in architecture your next step is simple - you need to get an accredited degree so that you can become license. That is going to be the only way you'll move up from CAD monkey (and even then it will take some time).

May 13, 16 4:36 pm  · 
You could become a Certified Building Designer.
May 13, 16 4:41 pm  · 
Non Sequitur
PB, you are correct that a tech degree has its limits and from what I've seen, many spend their days copying details instead of working out designs or dealing with day to day construction issues. If this is where you want to go, apply for an accredited M.arch. Once completed, you can pursue licensing (post intern and exam completion of course).

Another route is to take the provincial building certification exams. I am not familiar with BC, but where I practice in Ontario, anyone who passes exams can work as a licensed professional on small commercial and single-family residential projects.
May 13, 16 4:49 pm  · 

I should qualify. The big hairy goal is develop/build properties as an investment to sell, not necessarily just to do the plans for clients. 

@Josh Mings: Do you happen to know if an arch tech diploma plus years of experience would give me any credit towards an M.Arch degree? I desperately don't want to be stuck in CAD MONKEY HELL!

@b3tadine[sutures]: I looked into "certified building designer" and the closest thing I could find in Alberta is ASET, which offers "C.TECH" certification. When I called to ask about it's benefits, they couldn't tell me there were many. And I don't recall any job applications requiring C.TECH designation. I even searched "CTECH" and "ASET" on (a big local job board) and not one job listing showed up with either of those keywords. Not sure of the benefit with that certification... it's not like a P.Eng which is required for stamping drawings... that has real value/weight behind it. C.TECH, not so much. But maybe I'm not seeing the value??

@Non Sequitur: I also searched "building exam certification" and didn't find much. What specific association are you referring to in Ontario?

At the moment it looks like it might be a better idea to become an architect, but I'm not sure if my BA and diploma would count as any credit, which is insane because I've worked in the industry for years and the BCIT program was intense. 

May 13, 16 5:37 pm  · 

PB80, it probably won't. I transferred to Tulane after taking classes in an Arch. Technology program at Purdue's satellite campus in Indianapolis way back when and none of my architecture related classes transferred over because it was a "construction based program". It didn't bother me so much since they gave me a very sizable scholarship.

Also the Certified Building Designer is a joke, at least on our boards.

May 13, 16 5:48 pm  · 

Josh Mings, aka heart breaker, thanks for the reality check. :)  Will be looking into M.Arch program locally.

May 13, 16 6:00 pm  · 

If you want to be a developer or contractor, go the civil/structural engineering or MBA in real estate route.  An architectural degree is often not enough to escape CAD monkey hell.  You've wasted enough time on degrees that aren't getting you where you want to go.

May 13, 16 10:41 pm  · 
Non Sequitur
PB, how ever intense you think your degree was, triple that an that how hard te first few weeks of architecture is. It keeps going up from there.

In Ontario, people can apply for what they refer to as a BCIN. This allows them to design and draft small projects for permit. It's not glamorous and your very limited, but you can be your own boss. The reality is, tech degrees make cad technicians. Most never make it beyond that. Your BA and a stellar portfolio should be more than enough to get into te lower entry m.arch programs in Canada. From there, it's a 3ish year process until you can claim intern status.

Another option is to take the RIAC path which is a self guided spore tidbit style education. It takes about 10 years for most but some early years can be shaved off for those with sufficient experience.

But perhaps more degrees will not help. It takes far more than a piece of paper to move forward in this profession.
May 13, 16 11:56 pm  · 

NS, I beg to differ... I actually found Masters was WAY easier than my tech diploma / degree. Its not even comparable! This was the same sentiment among my peers who also went the same route I took.

Apr 18, 19 6:08 pm  · 

an architecture degree is not so useful if you want to be a developer.

My partner in our architecture practice is an architect but he runs a real estate fund. It is good for our practice to have him in our midst, but would not say that the opposite is equally true. The skillset is definitely different.

The one way thing we have noticed is that developers and investors have money and sometimes a vision but no real knowledge about how to carry out their ambition on the ground and even some basic planning issues can become hurdles. That is where an architect can help complete a proposal and improve quality. The downside of that equation is that it may not have any impact on profit, which is what most investors are looking for.

If you want to be an architect def go back to school. If you want to be a developer its better to learn about business and work in real estate finance to learn the ropes.

May 14, 16 12:32 am  · 

A few universities offer combined business and engineering programs, including my own.  Many people I know in the civil engineering program are taking a the combined track and will graduate with a BS is CivE and either a BS in construction management or an MBA in 5 years.  In your case however, that's a lot of time to be back in school, not to mention the sticker price.  

If you want to be a developer, I recommend learning construction and business, however you can.  That could mean going back to school and getting an MS or trying to get a job at a real estate or construction company and learning from the bottom up.

May 14, 16 8:56 am  · 
good details

Due to your technologist education and work background you may be able to get advanced standing at UBC which would make the March a 2.5 year commitment.. Give them a call

May 14, 16 10:42 am  · 

I wouldnt listen to Non Sequitur, he works for a college as an advisor, or something along those lines, so he is always trying to sucker ppl into believing that more schooling is the answer...and actually that is the opposite of what really needs to happen.

It sounds like you just need to find work in something architectural and keep working and building 'real world' knowledge of the industry. Most accredited architecture degrees lead to you becoming a glorified CAD technician as well. Aka a CAD/BIM monkey. Either route you take, spending more time and money on an accredited degree, or just keep working you will have to be a technician. It sounds like you already kind of know that all the glamour and glitz of architecture is hogs wash, and that in the end it is just alot of alone time with you and Mr. Computer screen.

If anything, my advice would be to bale on architecture and find something a little more secure and pays better....alot of job do!

May 14, 16 11:02 am  · 
This thread may be the first time I've ever been called a heart breaker.

And now Pat Benatar is stuck in my head.
May 14, 16 11:18 am  · 
Non Sequitur

DeTwan, eat a bag of dicks. I am no advisor for any college, only a well informed licensed architect.

May 14, 16 11:33 am  · 

Josh "heartbreaker" Mings


Love it. 


I think you need a healthy dose of "speak up for yourself at work". I mean, really, decade plus of doing your job and you're not sure why no one is giving you a leg up? It's not education that's missing - you have plenty of on the job training - it's your own ability to look out for, and advocate for your own career. You can go back to school - AGAIN - and discover yourself right back where you started. 

May 14, 16 4:19 pm  · 

Lots of great feedback. Thank you all!

@geezertect I did consider an MBA given my experience and success in starting and running my non-arch related business. But never considered combining my architecture or developing desires with the MBA. I'll have to look into this. I really like the idea though... but how realistic is it for MBAs these days to be employed unless they're prodigies out of Harvard/Stanford/etc?

@Non Sequitur You lost me at 10 years. If I have to go back to school for anything more than 2 years, I don't think I can do it financially or psychologically. I know I can handle the rigours of academia, I just don't want for too long. Is there an accelerated program?

@will galloway No idea where to even start with "real estate finance"? Don't recall hearing about this field. Do you mean become a realtor? Real estate broker? 

@Schoon You mentioned an MS, but which one specifically were you thinking of? I like the idea of working my way up in construction, but with a shit back due to an injury, Id be useless as a labourer. Where would I fit into a construction company? I'm guessing on the plan side of things... but then there's the fear that I'll be pigeon holed as the cad monkey, in which case Ill be swinging from a tree in due time, but not with my hands :P

@zenza Thanks... i will be looking into it.

@DeTwan That's some sobering advice bro. I did consider jumping ship altogether, but then I keep coming back to my resume and long list of experience. It seems like a shame to throw that away, you know what I mean? And what pays better anyway? Living in Alberta, everyone thought oil was a safe career choice. Now most people I know in Calgary are unemployed. How do you look that far forward and know? You can't know for sure, I guess you just gotta find something you like a bit and stick to it. It just sucks when you hit a glass ceiling early on. Definitely want to do extensive research and make sure whatever the next step is, I definitely have growth opportunities without having to do a lifetime of education again. 

gruen Word. Problem is that the standard pay rate for technologists with my experience caps out at embarrassingly low levels. Even if I was a superstar tech and a networking pro, I wouldn't advance. The only foreseeable way is to start my own firm with a few awesome but undervalued techs/architects/engineers... hey! Idea!  (?)

May 17, 16 3:33 pm  · 
wurdan freo

I'm amazed at how brain washed our society is. Looking to do something new? Go to school. Want to start a business? Go to school. I'm guilty. I drank the kool aid, but my advice would be if you want to teach, go to school. If you want to build or develop go fucking build or develop. Didn't half of alberta just burn down? Hello. Huge opportunity. Development at a small scale is not that difficult. Take any asshole and add some money... voila... developer. No fear or risk aversion, do it yourself. Looking for a more structured path, get a job with a homebuilder. Learn how it goes together and how much it costs. Fuck the MBA. Fuck the BArch. Fuck the MRed. I'm pretty sure I got all bent out of shape cause Pat Benetar was bouncing in my head. Heartbreaker...

May 17, 16 3:54 pm  · 

I would definitely not invest anymore time & money into academia of the architecture variety. Most if not all of the ppl that I graduated with an accredited degree spent years being cad monkeys and now the ones that survived the recession of 08 are Revit monkeys if they are still in the industry. A number of them have become licensed, but rarely to I see them talking about their 'own' projects. In the end, it sound like you need an accredited degree so you can become an architect someday, and design/build your own ideas. That is more of a pipe dream unless you have clients that are scratching at your toes and are flush with money to drop on projects. An extensive portfolio of built work, under your business guise and liability insurance helps as well. Getting licensed as a "register architect" is a much smaller hurtle to jump than actually becoming a positive income producing 'architect'.

Is there not a way to get licensed in Canada after so many years working in the industry? I'd suggest to just keep working, and prove to your employers your worth, before deciding that more schooling is going to be your saving grace.

May 17, 16 3:56 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

PB80, the RAIC path (10+ years) is an odd one and I only mention it as a reference. I still don't understand why people choose it over a M.Arch. There is no "accelerated path" to license in Canada. Like I mentioned earlier, you will need a M.arch and given your non arch bachelors', you'd be looking at a 3yr degree.

The issue with this besides the obvious cost and time factors, is that you'll need to build up the hours for license from scratch as all previously gained experience are not admissible. But at least that ceiling will gradually disappear.

But, Alberta has been in a downward spiral for some time now, perhaps it's not a bad idea to ride the storm out in the protective nest of academia. Food for thought.

May 17, 16 3:57 pm  · 

NS, that is true. Financially speaking, the best time to go back to school is during a recession. At least the odds are that by the time you graduate, the economy would be recovering or be on the path to recovery. Currently that is the case for Alberta, not much work for fresh graduates coming out of U of C.

Apr 18, 19 6:17 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

Alberta was not looking too strong 3y agi when I wrote that post. Still not looking any different today.

Apr 18, 19 6:50 pm  · 

I actually know an alumnus that was working in SF at some fancy architecture firm for 8 years and is registered, whom just quite there job of 8 years to go to Dukes MBA school. I have no idea what he plans on doing here once he graduates, but where there is a will there is a way!

May 17, 16 4:08 pm  · 

There are several US schools that offer an MBA with a concentration in real estate. The University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), and the University of Florida being two.

May 17, 16 4:46 pm  · 

PB80, the RAIC path (10+ years) is an odd one and I only mention it as a reference. I still don't understand why people choose it over a M.Arch.

Literally every person I know who went this route did not do it by choice, but was rejected from all M.Arch schools. I don't think I've actually met anyone who fully completed it either.

Just some more food for thought for the OP.

May 17, 16 5:19 pm  · 

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