Going back to school for Architecture at 35?



Lately, I've been having serious thoughts of going back to school to become an architect. I currently have a background in illustration and graphic design and architecture is something that has always interested me. Is 35 too late to go back to school? Also, would anyone have any tips on an efficient path to take as far as schools (for-profits, community colleges, etc.)? Lastly, how do you all perceive the industry to look in about ten years?

Any advice/replies would be highly appreciated. I'm in Los Angeles, btw.

Aug 17, 17 10:51 am
Non Sequitur

It's not too late... but be aware that even after a your M.Arch degree, you still have to grind it out for a long time before you can actually be in a position to actively participate in design unless you're real lucky.

How much of the profession and building construction do you actually know?

Aug 17, 17 11:00 am

I am 37 and about to start a 6 year AT degree. It is never too late!

Aug 17, 17 11:23 am

Look for an accredited degree. And what non says about it taking years before you get to design in architecture isn't true. I was designing from my first day. Depends on who you are, what you can do, and what needs done. Being able to draw and sketch is the best skill to have to become a designer in an architecture firm (not just the dreaded CAD jock) because you can get ideas out and iterate them and show them (sell them) so you have a great place to start from.

Aug 17, 17 3:14 pm

"I was designing from my first day. " - Depends on what you call design. Some I know would call a bathroom tile placement also design


If you care to know, I did the conceptual design for a new building. But if I had done bathroom tile placement, I would be one of those that would still call it design.


I've been designing from day 1. I think the whole bathroom tile or stair handrails isn't as typical as I was told. I feel like it might be how software is more in the youngin's wheelhouse. My first place, the principal said here's your desk, here's your projects, got to go to a site meeting. Office was empty, I was working on a house design. Phone rings and it's the structural engineer who's working on another project that I'm on asking about a beam. I have to flip through and figure things out on the fly. I think that it takes a while to design vs just designing. All the places that I've worked, I've designed but in the context of the firm.  The projects have won awards and I really like a bunch of projects I've done but they're not how I would have done the design. 


How are you going to feel working as an unpaid/underpaid intern in an architectural office when you are in your forties?  Are you going to be able to pay your living expenses?  You haven't mentioned whether you have marital or parental responsibilities.  I trust you are aware of the eternal lament of architects about the financial remuneration.

It's no sin to be young and poor but it's a crime to be old and poor.

PS, do not go the community college or for profit route.  Your age will be enough of a handicap without having to apologize for your degree.

Aug 17, 17 7:24 pm

Honestly, become a civil engineer. You can work with architects, landscape architects, restoration/preservation architects, or branch out into roads and bridges, or even maritime structures. Much more varied, much better pay especially to start, and more job security. At your age you need a good income starting right after graduation to adequately fund retirement programs. Civil engineering will do that, architecture most likely will not.

Aug 17, 17 8:05 pm

What he said.

Non Sequitur

Retirement? I don't plan on living that long anyways, so that's a relief.


Go for it, why the hell not, you live only once. But note that the time you'll spend "designing" will only get less and less the further you go. In school you design everything, as an intern you design somethings, make options and variations, as a junior you work out a couple of variations into more detail and as a senior you select, curate and tweak  what your juniors and interns have produced and are constantly emailing, on the phone and looking at spreadsheets. Just so you know.

Aug 18, 17 6:18 am

I discourage young people from going into architecture. Older people should be able to rationally discourage themselves. And probably will sooner or later.

Aug 18, 17 7:25 am

I was discouraged from going into architecture in my teens, and decades later was discouraged to go into it - I did it anyway, and good thing I did, after 10 years of practice, still working - better than SS - age discrimination? being physically fit is the key


Good thing you did? You constantly complain and seem to be pretty miserable.


a person can do anything if they are focused and determine. but realistically day to day architecture is far from illustrations and graphic design. If your skill set is developed in the aforementioned, why not start a business consulting with architects & developers doing that?

like most have said, 5-6yrs to get degree, another 2-3 to get licensed and roughly about 10-12yrs out of school to really understand what you are doing and another 5-10yrs to actually become really professionally confident, which actually is coming to a point where you are comfortable being asked and admitting to all you have know clue but you do know and understand who or what to ask and were to look to find the answer.

Aug 18, 17 2:34 pm

I think it's a great idea. There are so many possibilities especially in large metropolitan areas. You should pursue it if your passionate about change. Architect is such a vast profession with many avenues. Architects can incite a lot of change. You would not be starting at the bottom anyway. You have some experience, which is always valuable. I say go for it. Most people's opinions are based on personal circumstance or "conventional wisdom". Go for it.

Aug 22, 17 6:03 pm

I thought going back to school for architecture at age 32 was questionable. Three years later, turns out it was the best decision I ever made. 

It's never too late. 

Aug 24, 17 10:17 am

I went to school with 2-3 classmates who came to school later in life.  Two of them hadn't done any prior university, one came from the building trades and the other had worked as a draftsman.  Both went on to become really good students with one going the corporate route ( getting registered and managing many large projects for a large national firm ) the other went completely opposite and became a really well known designer / builder in a small resort community.  Both would consider their career paths successful ( I do ).

Aug 24, 17 5:17 pm
aspiring architect

I'm glad I stumbled upon this thread. I would love to hear an update, had you decided to pursue architecture? If so, how has the journey been? I am a 27 year old woman working for a real estate development company as a business development manager & with previous experience as a commercial mortgage representative for two large private lenders here in Canada. Worked for a luxury homebuilder and AutoDesk as an assistant before that. I also already have my certification for AutoCad. However, i have been told by several colleagues and some architects that I should really reconsider as I will be sacrificing even more than I am aware of. However this hasnt stopped me from doing the research anyways. Theres two routes I can take both of which meet educational qualification in attaining a License in Architecture. First, the traditional route by attaining a B.Arch & M.Arch through an accredited university of architecture, then accumulate my experience hours through internships; or the "apprenticeship" route by enrolling into the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC) Syllabus Program which combines study and work, I would finish with a Professional Diploma in Architecture (Dipl.Arch) with approx.10,000 hrs minimum work experience under a Canadian licensed architect. The main difference is the tuition and designation. There isnt much of difference in time to complete study and hours for either options before I can apply for an architecture license exam, I'll be approx 38. Anyone that has pursued the career later in life, how has the experience been? 

Oct 20, 19 7:22 pm
Non Sequitur

There is a tonne in here to address.

Non Sequitur

Browse the forums, plenty of info available between M.arch and syllabus parts. The main advantage of the syllabus is that you don’t have to put your life on hold and go back to school. It is longer that the 3y master and you don’t have much to show if you stop mid way (many do, at least you get masters degree going the other way). But the syllabus sucks if there is not a good group or local architects running it.

aspiring architect

Thank you for the response. Yes I've been reading past discussions the past couple hours since making that comment. Quite a lot of very helpful information! Now how do I unsend the new discussion I had prematurely created haha

Non Sequitur

The big green archinect head apparently received your prayers and nuked the duplicate discussion... although it could have stayed since it could have attracted the other half dozen forum active Canadian architects. Which city are located in?

atelier nobody

I was 27 when I decided to go back to school for Architecture, and it was the best decision I ever made. For purely financial reasons, I enrolled in a 2-year Architectural Technology program, rather than a B.Arch or M.Arch, and started work as a draftsman. Here in California, I was able to eventually get my license with work experience instead of a degree, but I gather the RAIC Syllabus is considerably more work - if you can afford it, I would recommend the M.Arch as being the path of least resistance.


You won't have a problem at school if you are determined and hardworking. However, you might face age discrimination when you go into practice. 

Oct 21, 19 9:35 am

We have had a lot of success with older applicants in junior positions. They are free of a lot of the immaturity issues we see in a lot of the twenty-something crowd.


Could be true, but I have witnessed age discrimination against people who were just marginally older than the average graduate age, irrespective of their credentials or job performance.


I agree that age discrimination is definitely out there.

atelier nobody

I get the feeling women face much worse age discrimination than men (age/sex discrimination?).


It's a tough industry.


I spent some time at a firm where all of the employees were either handsome or pretty. Only the firm owners and some behind the scenes people like CA and IT staff were out of shape and/or had bad hair.


You just got to be twice as good and be physically fit to put in the hours

Oct 22, 19 4:05 pm

If your perceived as being a "dummy" then you will end up doing grunt work - 

Oct 23, 19 11:58 am

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