Switching fields: Data Science to Architecture


Hi all!

I’m brand spanking new to Archinect as a member but have been snooping around a long time. Really looking forward to engaging more in this community and learning as much as I can from all of you and hopefully sharing some things in return (if I can be helpful at all in this stage!!).

Tl;dr questions:

Is it reasonable to go back to school while working at the same time (and get licensed at the end of studies)?

What jobs/roles in Architecture field do you think could maximize the things I love most (listed below under What I have A Passion For)?

Tips for keeping the passion alive while slogging through the tough early days/years?

Background context (can skip if you’d like):

I live in Chicago and am currently employed as a data scientist. I’m turning 31 in a few months and am seriously considering changing careers from Data Science to Architecture. My bachelor’s and masters training were actually in Electrical Engineering, and I had spent a few years at an Intellectual Property firm as a Patent Agent. Then I went into tech industry and data science. Basically, I’ve tried two different careers related to electrical and computer engineering and did not find true satisfaction from either.

It’s interesting because I’ve seen a number of other threads here where new grads in Architecture are already looking to switch careers, and were even considering data science. What this tells me is “the grass is always greener on the other side”. I’m sure there are Arichtects who think I’m crazy to want to leave data science, but I think it’s crazy to want to go into it LOL.

But ultimately, part of me believes work is work and that to a certain extent there will always be tough days that just drag and it’s unavoidable. This is reality. But I also believe in two other things:

1. A statement I saw elsewhere here on Archinect: “A bad day in the field is better than a good day at the office”. This rang true for me because I remembered most of my happiest working days (even the long tough days) during masters research were spent out “in the field” working on projects where you could experience the direct impact your efforts had in everyday applications.

2. No matter what I do, I will likely have to spend my starting years really slogging through tough jobs and stress, but eventually that should cultivate a beautiful career that I truly love, own completely, and thrive in. Essentially with hard work and continual learning I can “buy my freedom” hahaha. I don’t ever see myself getting to that point in Data Science despite how hard I’m working today. I can see myself (or at least I’d like to get to the point) in Architecture where I’m either a partner at a firm or owning my own business and can choose the projects that I really want to work on, as well as run my own practice or own a large share of a firm. If I can get to that point it would be worth the sacrifice, and I don’t even see a glimmer of hope there in data science unless I start my own tech company and that’s just not interesting to me (which is why I don’t see a path in that direction; I’ll never put my mind to it).

What I Have A Passion For (that I was able to find somewhat in Engineering studies and research but not the office):

- Complex and creative Design work 

- End-to-end ownership/management of projects or major deliverables

- Practical problem solving, direct impact to everyday life applications

- Opportunities to mentor or teach younger professionals or students when I’ve gained enough experience

- Artistic design element (have not experienced this in engineering)

What I like about Data Science (and what scares me a little about potentially leaving):

- Money & benefits

- Job Security & opportunity

What I dislike about Data Science:

- Very compartmentalized skill set: I work on very specific tasks nowadays and it has become repetitive

- Programming and math are boring now (I used to love it)

- I feel removed from real-world impact, the work feels completely pointless

- Very small-scale design work (if any at all)

- Long hours (12hr work days) in front of a computer (but this seems like the norm in most professions nowadays), while I have zero interest in what the future on this path holds

- Everyone is just going into it nowadays for the above two reasons I’m afraid to leave it (money and job security)

Sorry about the long post and thank you if you made it this far!

Looking forward to meeting all of you!

Dec 27, 20 3:02 pm

Architecture, at the entry level and even mid-level, is all your cons with neither of your pros. Imagine doing your job for half the pay and every time the economy sneezes or a project falls through you could get laid off. That's architecture for ya. 

If you prefer getting out to the field, I would try construction, with the added benefit that it doesn't require more expensive degrees. You can design on the side and design/build homes or small buildings depending on your state, no license required. All professional jobs are overworked these days it seems but others pay better for the long hours. 

Dec 27, 20 3:18 pm  · 
4  · 

I’ll focus on the thing you’re passionate about; with a good bit of experience in the field I have gotten to the position to have a job that allows me to do everything on your list, it is enjoyable but also extremely stressful as construction is capital intensive and tolerance for mistakes are low. Also as you likely already have read elsewhere, for the first 10 years the majority of your experiences will likely be in the support role so the “fun stuff” don’t come till well after and only if you have persisted enough and be sufficiently lucky to land a job at a firm where they value design.

My question would be; why architecture? There are plenty of design fields that are closer to your current experience in Data science and a pivot rather than starting anew is usually the better move.

Dec 29, 20 10:40 am  · 

You can consider building envelope design (Good demand for programmers there), manufacturing, urban design (Sidewalk and friends), or even design software (Spacemaker etc). You waltzing in with a solid background in data science would put you in an immediate advantage compared to designers who attended boot camps. Downside is the work could underutilize your skills - but the world is your oyster at the right environment.

Dec 29, 20 11:27 am  · 
Second the construction. They’d hire you right now based on your degrees and experience. Architecture you’d need another degree
Dec 29, 20 6:21 pm  · 
Do not destroy your life and get into this profession. It will be a complete waste of time and money, unless of course you are a trust fund baby. Construction seems to be a better fit for you as others have said. You’d be an asset to them while in architecture, you’d take quite a while to find your groove.
Dec 29, 20 9:10 pm  · 

I could use some more data-scientist skills in my current position, can totally see that it’s a useful skill set for plenty of positions in the field of architecture, you’ll be probably taking a hit pay-wise but other than that it can be nice to see those skills put to use in a more concrete field as architecture...

Dec 30, 20 10:12 am  · 

some of the best designers come from construction related backgrounds, and know the how and why of the design. 

Jan 9, 21 3:44 pm  · 

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