Changing from engineering to architecture


Hi, I am currently a second-year B.Eng student, majoring in mechanical engineering. I chose engineering at first because I was always an achieving student in the pure sciences stream in high school and A levels, but I do not think that this is what I would like to do as a career. I like drawing and adore buildings and have been thinking whether I should switch courses to a B.Arch. However, many people have told me not to, just simply because "I will have better job choices if I have an engineering degree." Is that really so? 

Would appreciate advice from this community :) Thankss

Oct 27, 21 12:16 am

it will definitely pay less, possibly by about half at the entry level. longer term it's impossible to say, totally depends on your own talents and career path. I can testify that making a satisfying living at a middle class level as an architect is possible though.

Whether that trade off is worth it totally depends on your own circumstances and goals for your life. you can have a comfortable life as an architect, but it's a riskier and more difficult path than most engineering careers.

Oct 27, 21 1:44 am  · 

Since you're two years into the degree already, just finish it if it is fairly affordable, do some internships at a firm that caters to architects, and see if you do care for that profession. Liking to draw and adoring buildings means little, a lot of people have those same interests and they may be bakers or florists. 

Consider a 3-year graduate degree instead of starting over. The half-finished degree switch is a recipe for early adulthood issues especially as you seem unsure and working on a feeling that may pass over time. You'll gain some valuable insight with this engineering background and have more to offer than just a pure arch student. Or if you decide to cut ties a year or semester in arch school, you haven't wasted much time and can get a focused graduate engineering degree or whatever to grow yourself into architectural ambitions. Don't work backwards.

Oct 27, 21 2:08 am  · 

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In addition, to completing the B.Eng degree, you can pursue a Master's degree in Architecture or possibly a second bachelor's degree in architecture. Engineering will actually be a valuable skill to have in architecture. Even if you don't pursue an architectural license, the engineering education will be valuable for doing design work for projects that don't require an architect or engineer's stamp but if you pursue an engineering license.... and take a PE exam in Architectural Engineering, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical (Power), and Plumbing engineering disciplines, you may be able to effectively practice architecture due to all those engineering disciplines and the overlap it has with architecture that all that's left is basically space planning & means of egress planning, which if you take architectural courses and have some work experience working under an architecture, you would be phenomenal and can be just as competent if not more so... just you can't use the title Architect or call the services 'architectural services'. 

All those disciplines of engineering would not be a small feat to get experience and pass all those PE exams in the various disciplines that would be associated with the designing of buildings... but also you would not be limited to buildings. You can then pursue non-building structures as well. 

There are different cultures between architecture and engineering but you would be quite valuable and you would have competency in the various engineering that exceeds that of most architects have in any particular discipline in engineering. It would be a long road to accomplish and you can potentially lead teams of engineers in any specific discipline and also be the design lead for buildings and non-building structures. You would just have to follow the nuances of state laws and rules and the well... the licensing board politics which may be a little bit like kids fighting over turfs. It's one thing if an engineer of a singular discipline effectively being the role of an architect. 

A highly skilled multi-disciplined engineer with some architectural education and a little experience working for an architect is not only relatively rare but also is incredible. There are easier roads but I present a tougher road that can be potentially rewarding in many ways and also tend to be more valued. 

This is not meant to belittle architects or their value in any way. One needs not to be an architect to be creative but I would pepper in classes that would help you embrace and grow your creativity including some architecture courses (if you do in fact have a strong enduring passion to design buildings), while you also develop the science/engineering prowess to accomplish creative goals. They need not be exclusive even though there are two common cultures and priorities between engineering and architecture (in general) that can at times seems to be contradictory to each other. Neither is right or wrong. There is often a need to balance the priorities to find effective solutions that are not merely cheaper but more value even if it isn't the cheapest solution because you can have beauty with engineering. Take into consideration the beauty of the engineering work of Conde McCullough, Santiago Calatrava, and some others. 

There are many paths and options that you can pursue. I am simply throwing an idea out there to ponder about and whether you want to put the level of effort in. You could very well pursue a completely different path that is neither being an "Engineer" (structural, civil, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, ect.) or an Architect. Point is, don't make any rash decision to change majors or anything like that. Consider various options with consideration of what your life goals are. Don't do what I suggested on the account that I suggested it or any special credence. There are options outside of architecture or some engineering disciplines like the IT / Computer / Software (applications, utilities, UI/UX, video games, etc.) field. HAVING SAID ALL THE ABOVE, it's not a good idea to just take the advice of some stranger on the internet for major life goals and associated decisions. Take time to evaluate the options you have including those that you might not be aware of or have been thinking about. Point... take your time to discern. 

I wish you the best outcomes in whatever direction you pursue regarding your education and career.

*** This post is likely to be deleted by some moderator who doesn't like me because some other person here, flags it and I have noticed that there is someone deliberately removing my posts on purpose and intentionally which has nothing to do with you. ***

Oct 27, 21 4:27 am  · 
1  · 

+1 for the notice!

Oct 27, 21 2:19 pm  · 
1  · 
Wood Guy

I wasn't sure until I was nearly finished my third year of a BS in structural engineering that I definitely wouldn't be pursuing engineering after graduation. I dropped out, moved across the country and started a new life as a carpenter in Seattle. By the end of that summer, however, I decided to go back and finish the degree.

After graduation I continued to work as a carpenter, and gradually found my way to design after ten years or so. Even with the challenges of a career in architecture, if I could start over I would probably go straight to architecture school. But it took me a long time in the field to realize that; if you're not sure, I'd recommend finishing your degree, try to find a job in an architecture-related field, and consider going to graduate school if you decide to pursue architecture. 

Oct 27, 21 10:34 am  · 
1  · 
On the fence

PE then.  Avoid architecture.  You have been officially warned off.

Oct 27, 21 2:22 pm  · 
1  · 

plenty of engineers out there that adore buildings and get to draw every single day...and plenty of architects are on the phone all day or stare at spreadsheets without ever drawing a single thing :)

Oct 27, 21 2:22 pm  · 

Join architecture. Make mad $$$, design magazine cover museums, have your words quoted by your fans, fill your room with trophies and awards, work little hours with the maximum creative satisfaction, leave all the tedious management and technical works to consultants, junior staffs and managers.   

Doesn't it sound wonderful? Yes it does, but only if you are the cream of the creams. The chosen one. The big name. Otherwise, engineering is a much safer bet for an ordinary career.

Oct 27, 21 2:38 pm  · 

I dunno. I'm not the cream of the cream and even I've won half a dozen awards for buildings I've designed. ;P

Oct 27, 21 2:49 pm  · 

Some awards you just have to pay $$ to submit the project into the pool. Hate those, totally money grabbing scheme while offering some publicity to the winning projects. Anyway off topic, I am pretty sure OP is just here for confirmation bias to help push the decision towards the dream "starchitect" life. So, stop enabling.

Oct 27, 21 5:09 pm  · 
1  · 

Won a few AIA awards - they just had an application fee of a few hundred dollars. Firm payed for that. The rest of the awards were from institutes that we never applied to.

Stop enabling? What are you talking about?  I'm simply stating winning design awards in this profession is easy.  As such they aren't worth much if anything.  

Now getting nominated for the title of FAIA , that would be worth something.  

Oct 27, 21 5:30 pm  · 

My advice would be; don't give up on your engineering degree so easily and while in undergrad take electives outside engineering in art, art history, even politics, or philosophy - whatever you can. Be curious about the built environment - why humans organize cities and social hierarchies the way they do, wonder about the dynamics that shape our lives. Approach architecture from the outside, as an outsider - trust me if you do end up in architecture it will be much more helpful in the longer run than getting into it because you were good at drawing. 

Oct 27, 21 9:50 pm  · 
2  · 

I think something to emphasize is that the day to day work of an architect or a civil engineer is very similar, a mix of office work / CAD / site observation / meetings. The difference is mostly in the background understanding you bring and focus of the work. Totally agree getting into because you like drawing won't go so far in an architecture career. Though it is a useful skill and fun hobby.

Oct 27, 21 11:18 pm  · 

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