Yay!!!!! Architecture has the highest unemployment rate!


Reason why I declined graduate school!


Jan 5, 12 12:19 pm

Some comments about this can be read on Greg's blog post.

Jan 5, 12 12:26 pm

Ahh so true....delete post

Jan 5, 12 12:35 pm

Fact check please:

 According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 110,990 employed licensed architects in the US in May 2008, (this figure does not include self employed practitioners).

Again according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2010 there were 78,700 employed licensed architects, or a net loss of -23,290 architects from 2008 until 2010 which would equate to a 21% unemployment rate within the professionThis does not include 2011 numbers which I think is safe to assume there was further erosion in the job market for architects.

According to NCARB (National Council Architectural Registration Boards) in 2010 14,737 people sat for the ARE (Architecture Licensing Exam).  In 2009 13,326 people sat for the ARE exam.  This is undoubtedly pushing the unemployment rate higher as more people become licensed in a contracting profession.

According to the NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) there were 27,852 students enrolled in a NAAB accredited degree program.  Of this, there were 6,017 accredited degrees awarded in the academic year of 2009 to 2010. 

So if we take 6,000 grads per year and multiple it by 3 years, we have added 18,000 individuals into a profession which has been in contraction not expansion, from 2008.  Although the graduating students are not licensed architects, they are obviously entering an extremely battered profession.

Therefore I am sorry to report the “13.9%” unemployment rate for recent grads in architecture sounds way to optimistic!  Where in the world are 5,100 graduates finding jobs in a profession with a 20-30% unemployment rate?

Jan 5, 12 3:07 pm
won and done williams

Interesting post, Keith, however I'm not sure what you write necessarily refutes the 13.9% unemployment figure for recent grads. Over the last few years, I've seen many mid-to-upper level architects laid off as a result of the sputtering economy. These lay-offs of upper level architects were generally for two reason: higher salaries, less versatility (i.e. lacking computer skills that are in demand - CAD, BIM, modeling, rendering, etc.). Lower level architects, particularly those with some experience, were both more easily retained and reabsorbed because of lower salary obligations and greater versatility with skills necessary for production; junior level staff were generally last to go, first to be rehired. My feeling is that as economy recovers and demand increases for architecture, I believe the more senior level staff will be reabsorbed as many firms are bottom-heavy right now without adequate leadership at an experienced project architect level. Until the economy shows stronger recovery, however, unemployment will run higher at the upper levels of the profession, providing relatively greater opportunity for recent grads.

Jan 5, 12 3:47 pm

I read an article just a day or two ago about how the software industry doesn't have people that can both design and produce.

Jan 5, 12 4:15 pm

How is it that peeps in the liberal arts are more employed than architects. Oh yes, Starbucks.

Jan 5, 12 4:25 pm

Won, thanks for the valid point, and actually after posting, I did think of that scenario, which I think can be partly valid.

Although, as a side note, I do not think that is a particularity healthy scenario for the profession, certainly not a constructive one.

But you will have a hard time convincing me that 5,100 students are finding full time employment within the profession at this point of time, the math simply does not support it.

There is no there, you are absolutely right, I bet you will be able to right your own ticket in the software business with a couple of years under your belt.  Touch screen applications is going to be a great great area, it is just starting also.


Jan 5, 12 4:28 pm

Keith, A software engineer can get a really good job right now, with a signing bonus too. Funny how the virtual world is hiring but not the real world... A sign of the times i guess.

Jan 5, 12 5:36 pm

There is, if you have both design and technical skills at lets say, android touch screen development, you will not have to look for jobs, jobs will look for you.  Let the bidding begin!

Jan 5, 12 6:02 pm

many architecture grads are getting jobs into other fields, which accounts for much of the gap.

Jan 5, 12 6:10 pm

Keith, someone from a software development firm actually asked me if I would be interested in switching careers and joining them because they need people with design and management know how, not just coding. They are that desperate. :) I think it could be a good job for an architect who is frustrated in the real world.  

Jan 5, 12 6:49 pm
w. architect

Our profession does have the highest unemployment rate for all of us, whether junior or senior level architects.

What is most disturbing about the academy and the NCARB system is that the truth of little or no work is never addressed, obviously it is not in their interest.


Jan 5, 12 6:54 pm

The NCARB and the AIA do not give a rats ass about the smaller guys like most of us -- their main goal is to protect the bigger fatcats that win all their stupid awards. However, if the architecture profession continues its decline, these organizations will also cease to exist. Free licenses to all!

Jan 5, 12 6:57 pm
w. architect

Thank you for that link:

It proved to be very informative about several areas of study, however as a person who has been awarded both a Fine Arts degree (B.F.A.) and a Masters  in Architecture...I can assure all of us here on this that a degree in Architecture is a much difficult a task of study.

I remember long nights drinking with my art students friends after a gallery show, I don't remember much drinking in Architecture or much else, except charettes and how exhaustive and the hardest I have ever worked in my life.

To equate a Fine Arts degree with an Architecture degree as the same for unemployment 13 % and over, should tell us something is wrong...very wrong with this country.

My grandfather I believe had more fun and less struggle getting those Mid-Century houses built then we do today simply getting a design review approval.

Jan 5, 12 8:08 pm

keith, another explanation is that, by their very nature, unemployment figures only count people who are actively looking for work. that, in part, gets determined from people who have filed for and are on some kind of unemployment benefits. quite simply, it wouldn't be able to account for recent grads (who most likely haven't filed for unemployment or have simply moved into other areas of work) and it's going to miss a lot of people who were laid off 3 years ago and have exhausted their unemployment benefits or who have simply given up and gone into another field or are working for themselves. also, the bls on the # of architects can't take into account retirements/deaths (some of which do occur, but which would be a small number regardless), nor can it account for the biggest stat: sole practitioners and/or underemployed architects (who are likely, at this point, to be sole practitioners). you're still technically employed since you can't fire yourself, but you're maybe pulling 1/2 or less of your 'normal' billings. so, as high as that number is, i think the effective number is much higher as you suggest. those 5100+ kids are certainly not all getting abosrbed into traditional practices (some are though), but are hopefully finding a productive alternate. software is, yes, a whole other universe. we should chat - my own effort ( is 'open', but it's a whole other world on that side. there's definitely plenty of money out there - talent does win out right now though...

Jan 5, 12 9:31 pm

Thanks Greg, congratulations on the web application, I would like to learn more, it looks really great, are you in beta right now?

I understand with the unemployment stats, I'm just trying to establish some hard figures to get rid of this "fuzzy math" stuff which gets thrown around in conversation.   Also, I would like to encourage folks to question some of the figures which get presented to us.  What are they really?  Where did they come from?


Jan 5, 12 11:15 pm

I fully believe it's higher than 13%. I graduated in May 09, still no arch job :( . Just applied for grad school even though that might not be the brightest thing to do. But I have no idea what else to do. Ish' sucks. Absolute worst time EVER to graduate. And of course all the jobs want to hire people who have experience but no one wants to give your first experience, freaking catch 22! 

Jan 6, 12 7:46 am

I didn't read this so I'm not endorsing it, but it might be the best article headline ever:

Want a Job?  Go to College, and Don't Major in Architecture


Jan 6, 12 10:00 am

Quentin, I am sorry to hear about your situation.  Now you are a source that I trust on this subject.  If you were to give a general range, judging from your peers and colleagues, how many are actually working in the architecture field?  Is it like 3 out of 10 or something like that?

Jan 6, 12 10:09 am

keith - kind of advanced public beta. email if you want me to sign you up - we're not doing fully publicly accessible sign ups just yet.


hard numbers are going to be freakishly difficult to do. and it shifts so fluidly for our profession right now. for example, from 2008 to now? i believe a lot of people who were laid off have moved on into other fields, whether related to construction or not (or even employed or not). so, technically, they're not part of the pool to consider when looking at unemployment - they've jumped camps. 


if the stat we're after is: how many who go through an architecture degree actually end up remaining in a traditional practice? then, yes, that could be more quantifiable, with a little help from the schools and ncarb.

Jan 6, 12 10:40 am

Keith most of my peers have arch jobs but I've only been in contact with a handful of them. The rest I'm not sure what they are up to. Seems like most made out better than me. Half of them went back to grad school and half just went straight into the  market. Not every one is working in the arch industry, I know a guy in construction and a guy in roofing. A lot of people seemed to have landed a job from someone they know. 

Jan 6, 12 11:28 am

Quentin, thanks.  That is a very interesting stat that approx 50% went back to school and did not enter the job market.  Good luck on your job search.

Jan 6, 12 11:37 am
w. architect

I believe that the illusion and romance of being an architect simply gets us to a marginalized position of discussion.

The ageless joke of becoming a millionaire as an architect...Well...."Start with two million".

Oh, yes...I do love being a Registered Architect in California!

Being an architect is great when you are at a cocktail party....!

Jan 6, 12 5:31 pm

Is everyone surprised?

Jan 6, 12 6:33 pm

so, just to make this discussion take a 180 - on my blog post, i've outlined the Department of Labor unemployment stats, which came out today. guess what? our 'official' unemployment rate for 2011 was 7.3%....

Jan 6, 12 9:19 pm

So as a 2007 M arch graduate I can estimate that 90% of my peers including myself had multiple offers. Half including myself lost their jobs within a year.  Some of the class of 2007 55-60% are working but only 45% are full time and most had to take a pay cut. The practice of architecture requires you to have experience, and or to be proficient in the latest technology or construction innovations.  This is hard to do when you are not working and you have your survivor jobs to do.  I would be curious to see how enrolment and applications to undergraduate programs suffer with this mainstream press coverage of our plight, will schools try to dismiss it will they lie or distort the truth on your career prospects.

I think the greatest deficiency in my education is not learning how to land a job. How do you apply for a position, how do you find clients?  I am struggling to learn this and not having a license I have to land a job and a listened architect or partner with a small local firm.  I pulled this off for a few small freelance jobs each year of the recession, but barely squeaking buy with three to four jobs and then to find the time and energy to hunt for work is hard.  I think the temporary jobs are morphing into the new permanent jobs.  A pianist who is young must practice regularly each week if not each day. If they stop for a month or a year they risk losing their ability, architecture is the same.

Try to do something architectural every day.

Also look for solutions, architects like any good employee are problem solvers not problems to be solved.

Jan 6, 12 9:32 pm

PJN, sorry to hear about your status.  Now that seems to make sense to me in terms of %'s etc....

I have one thought for you in terms of marketing, landing your first clients etc...

For years I have been active in something called "SCORE", it is sponsored by the SBA and has chapters across the country I believe,

They have these great workshops, lectures, and one on one counseling.  Most of the instructors are successful retired business people. I can't believe the expertise I have access to through this organization.  For instance I am currently working with a gentleman who used to be president of a major ad agency.  If i want to learn how to market and sell my product or service, he's the guy.

And here is the best is completely FREE!


Jan 7, 12 10:10 am

you know when politicians make speak, they love to talk about stats, percentages, and other info that quite simply wraps the entire population of this country in a nutshell. That in itself is not a very democratic thing to do, because everyone is different, with different facets. So when the media, politicians, hire social scientist grads or grad students, math grad students they conduct surveys based on numbers that only reflect the quantity of people that are alive. but it is impossible for them to say who we are as individuals, and why we are unemployed, or employed, and what the terms of those unemployed are and what the terms of contract are for those that are employed. It is a very Communistic mindset to bundle up everyone into a neat little percentage and cal it a day. can you imagine a social scientist getting to a point in his calculation and saying " well thats close enough lol" laughing because that's what will get printed for the world to see even if it is an empty representation of reality. anyways happy new years keep surviving

Jan 7, 12 11:48 am

delete "make" from make speak lol

Jan 7, 12 11:48 am

Response to a NY Times article ("Hard Times") about this subject:

(I take issue with the first comment about the failure of higher education to teach "good design.")

I would also suggest that you consider the hugely important question of American infrastructure and urban space. These issues will provide a variety of interesting design problems in the near future when, as we've already started to see, existing ways will have no choice but to be adapted to more efficient models. (in terms of money, material resources, time, fuel) Architects, landscape architects, planners, and engineers will be the major players here. 

The money isn't there yet, but for now, I think students should be preparing themselves to address the issues in and around the subject of adaptive infrastructure and urban space.

Jan 8, 12 8:04 pm
w. architect

Adaptive infrastructure sounds like a wonderful theme, however where will the money come from for this investment in the future? Taxes on the general population, or private venture money which will result in a transportation or energy tax on the general users.


Jan 9, 12 8:44 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

this was on the new last night (NYC)

worst graduate unemployment 14% for architects

followed by 12.5% for fine arts (my wife)

we were both so excited to know we were in such great fields...ha

Jan 10, 12 12:38 pm

I only know about 10 out of 40 people who found arch work since may and a few of them have already been laid off.  The market sucks.   

Jan 10, 12 12:53 pm

Anything that keeps another 18 year old from incurring $100k in debt to become another unemployed/underemployed/unpaid architectural intern can't be all bad.

Apr 4, 13 10:47 am

geezer, don't interfere with progress. This country runs on economic enslavement and trickle up.

Apr 4, 13 10:53 am

Ooops, I forgot.  Forget that 14th Amendment crap.  But is it "enslavement" when it is voluntary-at least in theory?

Apr 4, 13 11:40 am

(In)voluntary indentured servitude.

Apr 4, 13 12:53 pm

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