Not studying architecture at university is the biggest regret of my life and I'm not sure what to do now. Any advice please?


Sorry, I know career advice questions get posted here all the time and I will try not to make this too long-winded. I am at a loss for what to do now and I'm suffering with depression and anxiety because of my career situation.

I did my Bachelor's degree in Town Planning in the UK. If I could go back in time and tell myself to study Architecture instead I would. I'm not sure why I chose Town Planning except for the fact that I loved geography, history and maps, but mostly because I was 18 and didn't know anything.

I've always been interested in the environment and sustainability too so I decided to do a masters in sustainable design. I couldn't get a related job directly after uni so I lived at home for a year and worked in a call centre to save for my masters.

After doing my masters I worked as a green building design/sustainability consultant for 3 years in Singapore. This was at times very interesting. Mostly involved things like daylight/solar heat gain analysis, energy modelling, windflow and rain analysis. Lots of different kinds of calculations and simulations to help architects design buildings to meet certain energy efficiency and occupant comfort performance objectives. I used rhino and grasshopper a lot. I also worked with landscape architects to help make outdoor public spaces dry, cool and incorporate sustainable design and drainage principles into masterplans. I can say these years of experience really touched on a broad range of industries including architectural design and engineering, mechanical & electrical engineering and even civil engineering. Most of this I taught myself or learned on the job (Town Planning degree was not useful here). My colleagues were mostly coming from architectural or M&E engineering backgrounds.

Although I have pretty decent maths and science skills, at some point I realised that my main strength and interest has always been in art and design. I returned to the UK, of course I wasn't qualified for any architectural positions, and the closest thing I could get into is Urban Design. I have been working as an urban designer for the past year and I love it. Mostly using AutoCAD, drawing and Adobe CS, creating residential and mixed use schemes at various scales. Nothing like the scale of the huge commercial districts and masterplans I worked on in Asia though. I have also worked on some landscape design projects in this job. My colleagues are mostly architects/landscape architects.

Last month I was made redundant. Part of the reason the director explained, is that because of Brexit uncertainty, housebuilders are investing more in stockpiling materials, less houses are being built and therefore there was less work to go around. As the last in I was the first out.

Since last month I have been in contact with different recruitment agents but I haven't secured a single interview. It seems architecture, urban design, landscape architecture and town planning jobs all have a strong preference for people with an architecture bachelors. Even though I have relevant experience, my lack of architecture degree is holding me back. I have bad depression because of my situation and regrets, and I only have a few weeks left I can stay in my flat.

I would love to get into architecture but I can't find any 2 year masters degrees in the UK that can accept applications from people without a bachelors degree in architecture. I may either have to go back for another 3 year bachelors in architecture or apply for a 3 year masters in America. Both maybe expensive options and I am single, have no savings or family wealth, so I'd be looking at some hefty private loans. I thought about a 1 year masters in something like computational design, as I have experience with rhino and grasshopper. But I believe any job I can apply for after getting that degree I would be in competition with architects.

I have looked at 1 or 2 year masters in landscape architecture too, with my urban design, planning and sustainability background and experience I believe I could apply for an LA masters and if I could get a scholarship it could be a good option. However LA jobs seem few and far between, quite low paid, and again I'd be competing with architects.

I have also seriously considered cutting my losses and changing industries altogether. For example I understand that UX design is currently a lucrative field and if I do a 1 year masters in UX Design I may not necessarily be at a disadvantage for not having a computer science background. I had worked on a UX design side project before in Singapore. However it would mean my 5 or so years experience and 2 degrees in the built environment would be somewhat wasted. I'm also not sure how much I can trust digital trends like this, as in its possible that in 5 years from now UX design won't exist and it'll be all VR/AR designers. If I put myself in serious debt for another masters only for it to become useless I'm not sure if I could survive that. However it is true that IT generally seems to have so many opportunities and I would no longer be penalised for not having an architecture degree in applying for different jobs.

I am 28 years old. If I had just studied Architecture at undergraduate I might currently be in a situation of having 5 years solid archi experience, 2 accredited degrees and well on my way towards Chartered Status. Instead of having a hodgepodge of different experiences and job titles, being unemployed and facing moving back in with my parents and generally feeling totally hopeless and worthless. I've even started turning to drink recently to help with the depression and anxiety.

Any kind of input or advice anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Dec 1, 19 7:50 pm

Keyword there is "might." You could also very likely still have a hodgepodge of jobs and be unemployed since architecture isnt necessarily the most stable or prone to  having good work environments. First off I personally really dont think university is worth what its sold as. I've seen more successful careers with people who've just gone to the school of hard knocks than peers with USC masters. I understand that's frustrating that you are close to 30 and still feeling as though you are jumping around and not making headway. But from my perspective you worked in Singapore in sustainability which is pretty freakin cool in my mind and then you were working at a place that really made you happy. While others your age were just back packing around the world not really making any professional name for themselves you travelled and gained valuable experience. You also found a setting that made you happy. I'd find something temporary and either volunteer or freelance in architecture to keep your network active and growing and just enjoy what you've accomplished so far. Not bad in my opinion. Again though, I thi k school actually just saddles you with debt and that debt limits and constricts you more. 

Dec 1, 19 8:10 pm

honest advice - you should find a therapist to talk to for 2-3 sessions and get some professional guidance sorting this out. Your situation is complicated and unenviable, but totally common for architects too. you're imagining if you did something a bit different everything would be just fine right now which is an unprovable assumption. it's very possible you go to all the work to get an architecture degree and then in 3 years still can't get a job. that's how this industry works.

Dec 1, 19 8:14 pm

You are flirting with alcohol abuse and education debt.  STOP!!!  Those are two real good ways to completely fuck up your life.

Dec 2, 19 8:02 am

“The grass is always greener ...”

Dec 2, 19 10:31 am

Some thoughts:

- Look at whatever the international version of the U.S. NCARB AXP handbook is, to find out exactly what the requirements are for you to become licensed. At least in the US there are some alternative paths where you can substitute experience for part of the conventional degree track.

- Don't get another degree in something which you aren't passionate about. If you had as much exposure to technically intensive architecture-adjacent work as you did and you still wish that you could do more of it, that seems like a sign that you might be a better fit for the field than some other people. The gap in pay between say working at a UX designer vs. at a corporate architecture firm is not *quite* as extreme as it would be for someone at a more design-oriented architecture firm. It also sounds as though you could leverage your existing work experience within architecture. I don't want to comment too much on student loans when I was in a relatively fortunate position to be able to mostly avoid them, but keep researching your options. Maybe finding a way to arrange some informational interviews with people a few years ahead of you in your hypothetical architecture career could be one idea to at least learn more about your potential options and future scenarios? Talking with people who work as various types of technical consultants for other parts of the building process might also be useful.

Dec 2, 19 2:53 pm
Wood Guy

Your situation is similar to mine--the details are all different but by age 30 I realized I should have studied architecture. It's hard to make the right decision when you're 18. Then again, if you had chosen architecture at that age, you might not be happy with it now, so be grateful that you have a solid idea of what you would like to do and you are still young.

Now at 46, I have made a career of designing homes and renovations and am reasonably successful but I can't call myself an architect (shh, don't tell anyone on Archinect) and can only work on 1- and 2-family homes legally. If I was in another state I might not be able to even do that. I had tried to go back to school in my mid-30s but it wasn't financially viable in my situation.

What I would recommend, if you know deep down that you want the word "architect" after your name, is to find the most economically viable route to architectural licensure. I don't know what that is, as it varies by state and country, but it may or may not involve going back to school. 

I'd also say that if you recognize an alcohol habit developing, it's a lot easier to stop now than it will be later. Therapy and/or exercise are better coping mechanisms. But you know that.  

Dec 2, 19 5:38 pm

Move back home, get a part-time job and use your free time to plan your next life move. No shame in regaining your footing before having another go.

Dec 3, 19 2:32 am

Do note that in the UK, the "architect" title is protected but you are not required to have a license (except maybe the local authority having jurisdiction) as an architect to design buildings. In the UK, you can basically call yourself a "building designer" and services as "building design" services and basically design any building of any size within your competency. You might not even have to concern yourself with licensing. 

Yes, local authorities and so forth may still require some kind of credentialed status. 

I am not 100% certain if the title "architectural designer" and services labeled "architectural design" services is perfectly legal. I would check before I would use the title there. "Building Designer" and "building design" gets around some of that problem as the title further doesn't use the letters "a,r,c,h,i,t,e,c,t" in such a sequence. 

It is important to understand your own limitations in knowledge and skill. While you may not be required to have a license to design a high rise in the UK, you might not possess the knowledge and skills to do so competently. You can always learn over time through self-study, courses, etc. to improve your competency in things like engineering calculations, and whatever else you may need to know. Designing houses, townhouses, smaller apartments, smaller stores, etc. is doable with less stringent scope of knowledge and skills as you might need for an Architect in the UK would need to have to design larger and more complex buildings. Start with smaller / simpler design and then go from there incrementally. 

I do agree with others who responded. This would be helpful to build the foundational knowledge and skills that you would need before you go out on your own.

Your skills with sustainability can be useful to designing of buildings.

Dec 3, 19 3:24 am

OP - as a warning, Rick does not know about licensing and you would be better off disregarding any advice he gives here. Others have provided sound advice.

Non Sequitur

Ricky says: It is important to understand your own limitations in knowledge and skill.

Good advice, perhaps you should consider following it too.


Do as he says, not as he does ?


Bench, The UK is not like the U.S. in that in the UK, it is just a title law. In the U.S., architectural licensing laws is a title and practice law.

Which may mean the OP doesn't really have to go through the trouble of licensing/registration for the title. 

In the UK, the licensing authority is the ARB... a UK "national" board. It would be like the U.S. deciding to have a single federal agency for architectural licensing instead of state by state boards.

Non Sequitur

Ricky, Bench has worked in the UK and US (and Canada)... so perhaps he knows a thing or two.


Bench, I wasn't even talking about the process of licensing in UK. Consult the ARB or RIBA for that. However, it is clearly known from multiple sources that licensing is not required to design buildings in UK. The UK does require licensing or registration to use the architect title.


Sometimes I feel the opposite way.

Dec 3, 19 12:01 pm

If you really want more education, go into the UI/UX route, and not architecture. Your chances of getting a gig because of your new degree in architecture are minimal, seeing that you already have a lot of experience. Or, get into construction and go to the school of hard knocks.

Dec 3, 19 3:13 pm

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