career change into architecture


I am considering a (big) career change from teaching high school physics into architecture, and would love some honest opinions how to do so or if it is possible.  Not only do I hold a bachelor's degree in physics and easily understand math, but I am also artistic and pay close attention to detail.  Together, those facts have led me to consider architecture.

I am aware I will first need to earn a degree in architecture and have reached out to local universities to ask about their programs.  The biggest hurdle I think I will face is submitting a portfolio when I have no architecture or design background.  Is there a way to develop those skills for eventual submission?  Could a portfolio contain other examples of art and design?  What are your thoughts?

My other concern is how to attend school while also supporting myself financially.  From your experience, are master's courses ever offered at night or on weekends, and is it possible to earn a degree part time while also holding a job?  Otherwise I may have to take out many, many loans :/

If I follow through with this, I was considering finding a job at an architecture firm as more of an office assistant or something, hoping I could learn more about the business to supplement my education.  Does that seem like a realistic step to take?

Finally, are there any other skills, abilities, tools, programs, etc., I should practice or familiarize myself with in order to make this a reality?  Any ideas or advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks a lot.

Jun 13, 18 12:36 pm

You have come to the right place to have your dreams crushed.  

My advice:  don't do it.  You will go to school for 3-3.5 years, accrue huge debt, get out of school and make less money than you are making right now.  Then you will start the long an arduous path to becoming a professional and maybe achieving some success (depending on your definition and goals) in the field.  This profession is for masochists, narcissists, and over working ego maniacs.  Ask any intern about the varieties of torment they have endured.... 

Good luck should you choose to proceed - somebody told me the same thing and I did...

Jun 13, 18 12:46 pm

I am an architecture student. Literally, the majority of the people on this forum are super unhappy people who are looking for the next person to try and one-up and put down. So hopefully I can give you some insight. 

I made a transition a few years into school to change from a biology path to architecture. Since I don't know your age or situation much beyond high school physics, ill assume that you're relatively on the younger side. I will say that architecture school particularly graduate school is intense. The people there are usually very competitive and ^unfortuatly egotistical. Don't let this change your mind, but just know it beforehand. 

Some schools don't even require portfolios to get in but if they do, just show a variety of anything. Maybe you built a chair or piece of furniture. Draw a sketch or a piece of sculpture. As long as you can talk about your process of doing something its pretty informative. 

Most graduate programs are flexible on the schedules and I know most work part time during school. You may have to step down as a teacher in the traditional sense while you go through school, but you should have a little bit of flexibility in terms of hours for working. Plus you can also apply for ta or research positions in graduate school. 

Theres was a 35 year old guy with 3 kids in my undergraduate class that had a similar change and did it. 

Start to look into learning software such as CAD, Revit, Rhino, Adobe suite, these would give you some idea about how to operate in the professional world. 

Its gonna be a lot but if you are passionate about it I would go for it. 

Jun 13, 18 1:08 pm
Non Sequitur

Most regulars on this forum are just fine dandy, present company included. We're just too busy to act as therapists.


"I am an architecture student" - you are a student, not a professional yet. Your advise has the weight of a mosquito.


Considering you didn't give any advice, my architecture student perspective is still valid. If you drop everything to go to school and can't make it through then what's the point? School is a lot different now then it was 40 years ago.


My motto is "if you dont have any good advise, then dont give it". Unlike you, who has been drinking the arch. school kool aid big time. You are right, the profession is different now. There are much fewer jobs these


So why comment on the post at all? You can't even follow your own motto. LOL.


So why comment on the post at all? You can't even follow your own motto. LOL.


That was my advise to you, not to the OP.


are you saying the 35 year old student with 3 kids graduated school, or did he actually become an architect?


look at boston architectural college; I work with a guy who got his bachelor's degree there while working full time in a civil engineer's firm. it's doable.

Jun 13, 18 1:49 pm

Since you already have a career, I would think very hard about the financial implications of this decision.  Can you afford to be a student again with expensive tuition - not to mention the cost of printing, books, model supplies, art supplies - and have little to no income?  It is extremely hard to work while in architecture school unless you are fortunate enough to be a TA.  Even those jobs pay little to nothing since the school typically maxes out your hours at 20/week, making $10/hr.  (If you're lucky they pay for your health insurance!)  If you go through a traditional MArch program, you will not really have time to pursue employment outside of your degree program.  Once you get out of school, you will be making very little for at least a few years until you can prove you're of value to your employer and they are willing to pay you more.

If you are interested in going part-time, I would check the with program's adviser.  Many programs flat out will not allow their students to be part-time.  Traditional programs do not offer classes at nights or on weekends.  But something may be available in your area. 

Others on the forum have asked about ways to develop a portfolio without any background in architecture.  Use the search function and see what comes up.  Basically, if you can take a few classes at a local community college in something you enjoy, put that in a portfolio. (Could be painting, welding, drawing...)  Look at some of the examples previously posted (and their criticisms) and see what you can put together.

Jun 13, 18 2:36 pm

What is your eventual goal in wanting to get into architecture?  Is it because you hope to become a famous architect someday?  Build yourself a house?  Expect a higher pay cheque?  Creative outlet?  Desire to learn more? Or some other reason. 

Jun 13, 18 2:57 pm

Why don’t you just take a CAD class and a construction document course and start drafting residential remodels on the side? Skip the whole employee mentality and get right to it? You already have a job that allows an extreme amount of time off vs. most jobs.

Jun 13, 18 3:09 pm

^what archi_dude said. Treat the experience as a hobby. Find a semi-retired architect and work for him building the hours required to take the tests. In many state NO (none, zip, nada) architecture course are required at all, just fulfill the hourly requirement and take the tests.

When you retire from teaching you can continue in architecture as a fun retirement job.

To spend a lot of money going to school and deferring income during those years only to be paid a low wage when you do graduate, possibly with a lot of student debt, is not really advisable.   

Jun 13, 18 3:59 pm

These are great options!


If you are a unionized public school teacher, you have a very high degree of job security, three months off in the summer, super health plan, and a pension system that 99.999% of people in the private sector would kill for.  You will find none (as in zero) of those benefits in architecture.  To take out "many, many loans" to be less well off is shear madness.  Please do yourself a favor and research the profession before you research how to get into it.

Also, don't confuse passion about architecture the topic with architecture the profession.  They are not, repeat not, the same thing.

Jun 13, 18 6:03 pm

This needs to be said too: Entry level architects make about the same as entry level teachers. And professional licensing is far more expensive and b-cratic. Hours are much much longer. Architecture is a lot of running software, little else especially at beginner levels. Not much math.

Jun 13, 18 6:12 pm

its pretty tough, the Marine corp. of creative professions, I haven't had a vacation in 3 years - very competitive. lots of hours

I do it it because its what I do, my dharma, if you will

Jun 13, 18 6:37 pm

For the love of god stop comparing this profession to the marines


See if you can take an internship at an architecture office when school's out for summer or just visit lots of offices during that time to get a feel for the job environment or work being done. Also try and visit architectural events, exhibitions, debates and lectures organised by local AIA's or otherwise.

Jun 14, 18 3:06 am

You'd have a better chance of success with the astronaut training program.

Jun 14, 18 5:28 pm

It's not about success, no? if you love what you do. If teaching physics doesn't make a person happy, do something about it...

Success is happiness. The biggest part of that is attitude. "The grass is always greener ..."


Success is happiness and/or happiness is success :)

"What good is happiness? It can't buy you money." -- Henny Youngman


I left another career to get my M.Arch as an older student. I LOVED architecture school: the total immersion in my studio work, the discussions about architecture and everything related to it, the balance of technical knowledge and creativity. Afterwards, worked for a few years in architecture offices and found it tedious (8+ hours at a computer), financially unrewarding, no health benefits, and little support for my IDP. Yet, I was able to be a (small) part of some interesting projects. Ultimately, I took a job teaching architecture, now I am still immersed in a dicipline that I love, but I get to be much more creative, have job security, decent paycheck, time off, and benefits. There are many ways to utilize an architecture education!

Jun 15, 18 11:22 am

So, you are pretty much perpetrating a "dream" that didn't work out well for you.


A judas goat?


RuthanneH, congratulations on finding the thing that you love to do! This is what it is l


commend you.


These are good lights. The employer looks at the appearance, behavior, resume. I have long been engaged in recruiting. It's hard to find people with decent resumes I would recommend everyone to look at the obsratets. You should not make them randomly but according to a scheme that a specialist can choose for you.

Oct 21, 18 8:25 am

in all honesty please stay where you are at. The grass is always green on the other side... I’ll be first to tell you it’s not.

Oct 22, 18 12:18 pm
John G. Anai

I am an architecture and only one think i want to say that if you are passionate about the architect, then definitely you choose this field. 

Oct 23, 18 3:31 am

mdel205, as a former teacher and principal I can tell you a classroom with someone who doesn't want to be there is terrible. For those in this forum who are telling you to stay shame on them. Whether you choose to become an architect or not is ultimately your decision. There are pros and cons to everything and also more than one way to use a degree. Find something you are passionate about and go for it full throttle. If you go to school for architecture. Utilize everything at your disposal. What doesn't work for one person sometimes works for another. Learn about all of the career choices within your new degree. The selection may surprise you. But, for your sake, the sake of the students, faculty, and staff. If you feel being a teacher is something you no longer want to do please get out of the classroom as soon as you can.  I enjoyed reading that you are willing to become an office assiatnt at a firm. Great thinking outside of the box! I apologize for the grammar. I read this and just started typing. Much luck to you! 

Nov 24, 18 1:27 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: