Mid-career change



This should be an interesting problem to sink your teeth into...

I’m a mid-career professional with an MBA. I’ve had a fairly successful run in the technology business. I started college as a 17 year old freshman majoring in Arch. After a challenging first year, I changed by major to Business, eventually getting my MBA. I’ve never lost my love for architecture. I’ve renovated and flipped a few houses on my own in the past (ahem) 20 years. I find myself at a point in life where I can finish something I’m passionate about but haven’t finished. In doing some research I see that Urban Planning is often coupled with an Arch degree. That’s also interesting to me because while I’m interested in the practice of Architecture, the entrepreneur in me sees an interesting confluence of business, architecture and urban planning (Consulting, commercial real estate investment, etc). 

All that being said, are there thoughts about ways to pursue the education side of things (I’ve already had one undergrad program say I’m a fit for Master’s programs and not undergrad which seems less than logical to me, but ok)? I’m not interested in a survey course, but a deep dive into both areas of study. If there are career suggestions, I would be wide open to that as well.

I’m wide open to thoughts and suggestions for how to tackle this issue. Thank you for reading my long note and for taking the time to respond!

Feb 21, 18 2:11 pm

You could pursue a masters in real estate. Several of these programs do offer urban planning courses. 

Feb 21, 18 2:52 pm

Thanks for responding. Those courses are back in the business school in most cases and I already understand that part of things. Understanding design and planning in urban areas, that's the "less business-y" side of things I'm interested in studying. What I want to do is gain a deeper understanding of design and urban planning, historical preservation, etc. I should've mentioned that the process of design is incredibly interesting to me as well and I earned several awards for my design work way back in high school which is how I got interested in Architecture in the first place.

Feb 21, 18 3:22 pm

First off, they are correct.  You'd want to do a Masters.  A lot of MArch programs have a track for people with no architecture background where they start you from zero and teach you what you need to know.  This is really common.

Second, it may be a good idea to look for some basic architecture courses at a local community college or even a local state school if you have one nearby to take on the side, just to see if you'd really want to make that jump.  (You could also look at MIT's Open Courses and read through their class notes and materials.)  Plus any skills you gain, you'd be ahead of your classmates in a sense if you did pursue an MArch or other design degree.  You could also look for a business management position in an architecture firm in the mean time, just to put yourself in the environment and get a sense of how things work.  I really think it depends on what your end goals are.  If you want to be a licensed architect, you'd want an MArch program, maybe with a double in Urban Planning.  I'd look at schools that emphasis interdisciplinary study, and let you take courses in urban planning, preservation, and maybe landscape even if your major is only one of those areas.   

Feb 21, 18 4:56 pm
Depends if you’re willing to give up the money and time lost at work into the masters. If that isn’t an issue urban planning would be the way to go. There are programs that offer a dual master of architecture with urban planning though there’s usually an extra year or two involved. You’ll be taught all of the basics from the architecture side and be able to pick up from your work experience for the urban planning portion which is much more political in nature and less about details.

Agreed with others, you may consider taking a business role in an architecture or urban planning firm and see if that is really what you want. It isn’t a very entrepreneurial field in most cases. Business development people are always in demand at the larger design firms as that typically isn’t a sector many mba holders gravitate. It also doesn’t pay as well as other opportunities for someone with your credentials. A brief pay cut to explore this interest is arguably a lot cheaper than sinking $100k and 3+ years into a masters surrounded by people decades younger and less world weary than you.
Feb 21, 18 10:23 pm
Agree with all above. Also wanted to add that urban planning is not so much business-oriented as you seem to think--it's probably less business-centric than architecture, really. It's more broad-scale / master-planning related, which usually means you're on a long-term time frame and looking through the lens of civic planning and policy more than strictly the economics of real estate and development. Architecture itself is pretty linked with real estate and development, we have to understand quite a bit about market dynamics bc our clients' pro formas have to work or the funding doesn't come through.

I agree with the above that you might look for a spot as the business development partner in an architecture firm that works on real estate development projects -- or even one that's design-build for spec projects of their own. There are also design-build general contractors who have in-house architectural staff -- those can be really fun, and are MUCH more focused on the real estate market.
Feb 21, 18 11:51 pm

Thanks all! I really appreciate the feedback. I will send a slightly longer response, but I appreciate the feedback...

Feb 22, 18 11:44 am


I'm in a very similar position as you are. I've always had a lingering interest in architecture. All the way through high school I was planning to become an architect, only to switch to Computer Science in at the last minute. Now many years later I'm looking to redirect my career and go back to an architecture path.

Would you be interested in getting in touch and swapping notes?

Mar 1, 18 10:35 am

How do you feel about the thread that arch is a degrading field?  just curious since you appear to be coming from a 'decent' field.  Many of the negative comments relate to a common experience for many.

Mar 1, 18 11:39 pm

stay the hell away from architecture ! That’s all I have to say. I hate this profession with a fucking passion! 

Mar 2, 18 12:45 am

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