Quitting design for trades career?


Backstory: I graduated with an architecture degree a few years ago, worked in a few offices and hated each one, generally had a bad time like most people do in this field. Struggled with the office politics, pretentiousness, pressure for endless unpaid overtime, low level of critical thinking and basic design competence in my bosses, developer worship, feeling like I'm making the world worse through bullshit developments and cutting down trees, and finally after a few years of endless CADing up my all male bosses mediocre little sketches late into the night each night I quit. Knew I couldn't handle a desk job or staring at a computer screen anymore, wanted to do something with my hands and something more interactive, and sick of feeling embarrassed to tell people what I do (I'm an architect, I hate architects).

No regrets about stepping out of this field even with student loan debt and a lot of my 20s dedicated to it, much happier even with less money and I'm taking a bunch of classes at community college now in the direction of health care, since it satisfies my criteria of being hands on, not a desk job, not a computer job, and a profession I respect more than architects. So anyone who is on the fence....just quit!! Don't feel guilty, there are ways to get out and the sooner you do it the better.

On the other hand I can honestly say I did, and still do have a "passion" for design / building stuff / etc. and really enjoy it, it's just sadly not what goes on in design offices in my experience. I've been doing odd jobs outside of my classes that are semi - construction related and love the hands on work, love the people, love the pace of each day and am starting to wonder if I should consider an actual apprenticeship or some other formal training in a construction trades job instead of health care? Demand for this job is high, unlike architecture, and of course the pay isn't the same but it's not too bad either for experienced trades people, especially with union support and associated benefits. In the end, you have actual building skills, not just paper architecture skills, which is pretty cool in my opinion.

Any thoughts? Has anyone done something like this? I see a lot of people talking about becoming a construction manager or etc but not doing a complete career change to a trades job.

Jan 26, 18 5:45 pm

Go for it.  I often think that if I was doing it all over again, I would at least think seriously about a skilled trades type of job.  Clean, officey "professional" careers are often greatly over rated, particularly this one.

Jan 26, 18 6:13 pm
Wood Guy

I've done both. The grass is always greener. I used to build, currently gearing up to switch from design to design/build. Knowing both sides makes you better at both. Learn some business management and marketing skills and you'll be in great shape. 

Jan 26, 18 6:25 pm

Thanks for reminding me. I'll be looking towards phasing into design/build. Well.... at first, I would probably be functioning more in the form of designer + CM/PM GC. In other words, I probably won't be doing the labor work myself [maybe help out here and there during construction as maybe needed] but subcontract the trades as I don't have the in-house laborers. I'd be more coordinating and arranging the trades and general oversight and control of outcomes.... not micro-manage the individual trades instead of leaving that to the client. I would be primarily focusing the CM/PM GC (BUILD-side) of the Design+Build services to work I design or otherwise designed within my business. CPBD certification and the contractor license and go from there with it. It will be a process. I know I spoke about it before so I need to get it on there and work on it. I don't want to waste the money & time spent learning this stuff to just throw it away.


A good tradesperson will always be in demand, even in a slow economy. If you can do the work, go this route. You'll earn more than the construction managers and the field has it's own hierarchy and ladder to climb. 

The question is...what trade are you interested in? I would stay away from any residential and lean more towards industrial. Highest salaries, best benefits, only the highest-skilled make the cut and better job security compared to residential and commercial. 

If I had to do it all over again I'd be an underwater welder living in a huge port city, preferably Singapore. That would be the life...

Jan 26, 18 6:43 pm

Remember, underwater welders get a high pay but that is also because they have an extremely high hazard pay and they also have a high operating cost so it may or may not provide the best net take home. You better love diving and absolutely follow the proper procedures of diving because if you don't.... you're dead. (at least the chances are high enough). It is tough, dangerous work but can be rewarding. Welding can be rewarding regardless of the kind of welding you do.

My brother is studying welding and to some extent, I learned about it so I have some awareness around welding.


^^ But, if you want to some day start your own little business, residential or small commercial is going to be easier to break into.


It's my hypothetical fantasy career! Don't sh*t on my dream!


Fair point. It is a good career even with the risks. Respect the risks and dangers with utmost care and due diligence.

Funny, we just reviewed all the local trade apprenticeships bc my spouse (not an architect) is thinking of making the jump. If you do it, do plumbing. Highest pay rate, most in-demand/irreplaceable, least amount of crap work, and it requires more brains so you're not spending your days surrounded by total morons. You can also do good side biz as a plumber if desired. Electrician would be my 2nd choice. Framing is boring as shit + more exposed to the weather.

The biggest downside for me would be the coworkers. I have a couple friends in the trades and they basically all hate their bosses (usually some glorified former laborer who is a terrible manager/total dick) and many of their colleagues are either blowhards or lazy jerks.
Jan 26, 18 9:16 pm

Plumbing.... least amount of "crap work" sounds like an oxymoron. By definition, it IS crap work because you're covered in it all the time.


they basically all hate their bosses (usually some glorified former laborer who is a terrible manager/total dick) and many of their colleagues are either blowhards or lazy jerks

Sounds like architecture.


One of my friends has a psych degree and is now a union electrician. I'm actually surprised more ppl aren't making the jump. One of the few jobs that won't be done by robots for at least the foreseeable future...
Jan 26, 18 9:18 pm

It's the snobbery about blue collar work. I'll bet your friend is asked all the time "why is a college grad like you in a job like this?"

OP - don't look back for a second. Every minute I spend at my desk I wish I was out there using my hands to put this stuff I draw together. There's nothing fun about getting carpel tunnel before middle age and being glued to a desk day after day for the foreseeable future. And you won't have to be in for too long before your net wage is higher, especially if you make it into a union.

Also important to note - physical, especially skilled labor, jobs are the most difficult for robots to perform aka yours is a group likely to be elimated last by automation.

Last thing - undoubtedly, if you have any sort of negotiation skills, you'll be able to parlay (and rightfully so) your work in both occupations into a higher [paid] management role on the trade side than you would have otherwise.

Best of luck
Jan 26, 18 9:26 pm

I’m at this crossroad... I feel chained to my desk like a prisoner. I’m trying to escape this architraz !

Apr 8, 18 12:28 am

Dislike “cutting down trees”  how about planting them?  Landscape design and/or build is a great field...

Apr 8, 18 2:24 am

Odd that the most respected occupation in our society is one who works with his hands - surgeons. They also seem to be the least concerned with the status bullshit. 

Apr 8, 18 10:17 am

When you make high six figures, the status comes along naturally.

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