Can I ever come back to architecture?


I've been working for my current firm for just over a year now. I'm very happy with my work, I love my co-workers, and my pay for my skill level is quite a bit higher than the industry standard (not due to me being extra smart, my company just pays well because it's small). Even with this being the case, I've always felt that architects are generally under-payed. Most of my friends graduated with other degrees and their entry-level jobs pay them at least 80k, and that's not even engineering degrees. Recently, a close friend of mine all but offered me a job at his company. When I told him what I make right now, he said "we can do better than that". This company is a sales job for a distributor, completely unrelated to architecture. For reference as to why I'm interested in this, my current job allows me 10 days of paid vacation, very poor health insurance, and no options to work-from-home. This other job will offer a higher base pay than what I'm making, plus commission, unlimited vacation, and good benefits. This is attractive to me because I have a wife and son, and will probably have another kid on the way this time next year.

Now for the con. The thing that worries me most about taking this job is the fear that once I take this job, I'll never be able to go back to architecture again. I've only been at my current firm for one year, right out of college, no masters degree or license. If something fell through with this sales job and I decided I hated it, all I'd have on my resume is a bachelors of design and 1 year of experience at a small firm.

Has anyone here ever left their architecture job for a completely different field? Did you try to come back? Any advice is appreciated.

Jun 7, 23 5:38 pm
Non Sequitur

unlimited vacation? That’s the real con there. Might need to get more info on that one. 

1y exp is not something most first will judge because if you were to go back, you’d still be in the junior roles. What more concerning is the loss of exp years of you were to come back in say 3 to 5 years. Will you be as valuable to an office then compared to fresh grads?

Jun 7, 23 6:17 pm  · 
3  · 

I've read studies that show people with unlimited PTO actually use less per year than those people with 2-3 weeks of PTO.

Jun 8, 23 10:11 am  · 
1  · 

We just hired somebody who came from an office with UPTO. She hadn't taken a day off in over 6 months because "it wasn't approved." WTF is that? Here's 4 weeks, please take them as you see fit, since you're a professional. The whole thing is a scam, like golf simulators and free lunches. I could go on....

Jun 8, 23 7:48 pm  · 
Non Sequitur lunches are a scam?

Jun 8, 23 8:20 pm  · 

Stop looking at Architecture as a vocation and life choices get a lot less complicated. 

Jun 7, 23 6:35 pm  · 
2  · 

Huh? Do you mean START looking at it as a vocation (rather than a lifestyle or passion)?

Jun 8, 23 8:51 pm  · 

I was using this definition: a person's employment or main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication.

Jun 8, 23 9:49 pm  · 
2  · 

You will probably get hired into some office as a grunt, but the pay and hours will make you never want to come back...

Jun 7, 23 8:11 pm  · 
1  · 

Why would you want to go back?

As far as getting back, yes it is possible. I graduated in 09 and there were no architecture jobs, so I took what I could get. I had no proper arch experience through '13, outside of some very short summer internships during school. I got back in. Had to work hard to do so, but it is possible. That said, I sort of wish I never did, this industry is a shitshow.

Jun 8, 23 2:29 am  · 
3  · 

Agreed with the above posts, if you were to come back in 5 years, with potential a larger family and more financial responsibilities, would you be able to start at an entry level designers pay? 

Also, although that may be the case for a typical architectural office job, you could also not see it as coming back to the same sort of job but coming back to an architectural adjacent job. Maybe the actual ins and outs of being an architect aren't alluring but after experience in a non related sales job you could possibly creep back in to the architecture/construction industry at a job that still pays better than an entry level designer but is more so related to the field. Like a sales rep or project manager job for an architectural fabrication company or materials company. 

Jun 8, 23 9:47 am  · 
1  · 

Unlimited vacation could be less attractive in practice - if you end up never having time to take a good amount in order to keep sales figures up. Digging deeper into company culture and exit opportunities might help.

Jun 8, 23 10:04 am  · 

I would leave and not come back. 

Since you say you only have a four year degree and not a B.Arch, that's another 2-3 years of schooling just to be eligible for a license which will take another few years to get at the least. Even if you did have the itch to come back to architecture that's a lot time and money not to mention a pay cut. 

If sales isn't for you, you'll find that out quickly, so a short gap won't stop you from coming back if you need a gig for money. Or find the next career that pays better. 

Jun 8, 23 10:33 am  · 
3  · 

In all seriousness, it depends. Like most things. Right now I'm considering hiring somebody not at all because of their experience in a firm, but rather because they know their shit, are enthusiastic, and can see the bigger picture. 

"Hire for attitude, train for skill." As an employee, it sounds so, so stupid, but as an employer, it's 10000% the way to go. 

Jun 8, 23 8:57 pm  · 
4  · 

Attitude trumps aptitude almost every time.

Jun 12, 23 2:01 pm  · 
1  · 

“The thing that worries me most about taking this job is the fear that once I take this job, I'll never be able to go back to architecture again.“

This is a very important consideration for you.  Some years back I interviewed a candidate who had been working for about 8 years in the “design” department for a fast food chain. He took that job for the much higher pay but soon became bored because the work was not challenging or satisfying.

However, he and his family had grown accustomed to the lifestyle supported by that higher pay.  As he started trying to return to a “real” design firm he had to come to grips with the economic reality that his current lifestyle could not be sustained if he left his current job.  Our firm could not come close to supporting his economic expectations, esp. since he had not grown much in the years he worked in fast food.  He’d contact me off and on for the next several years and he still was in fast food.  I’m not sure he ever escaped.

Jun 11, 23 4:36 pm  · 
3  · 

OP got headhunted by ZHA too? A Career Killer.

Jun 11, 23 6:53 pm  · 

I fucked up my A levels so I never could, been head hunted and worked for some but can't afford to study...

Jun 11, 23 6:51 pm  · 

Sales is a useful skill to have and develop in general, assuming the job is legitimate and not a scam/pyramid scheme sales opportunity. It's possible there might be ways you could spin it in the future as a skill you could offer to help architecture firms (esp. smaller firms) with their PR and marketing. 

If you're serious about architecture longer-term and if your plans include getting licensed you might want to think about graduate school in any event. If you found a way to afford it it would be a foolproof reliable way to pivot back into architecture in the future after trying a different alternative career.

Jun 12, 23 10:08 pm  · 

The one thing sales will teach you that relates to architecture is how to communicate with people. Sales techniques aren't really going to helpful to improve PR and marketing in a firm. PR, marketing, and sales are all different pursuits with vastly different goals and outcomes.

Jun 13, 23 1:55 pm  · 

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