Do you think the job market will get better soon?


I am a high school student entering college next year. I was planning on studying architecture, but after reading all of these things about how horrible the job market is for architects, I was wondering if it was even worth it to start off college majoring in it? I am not entering a B.Arch program, I will be going through the 4+2 program so I won't actually start working for at least 6 years. Do you think the job market will be better by then? Do you think I will be able to even get a job or should I just go with my second choice and study medicine which honestly I don't find AS interesting, but it does provide a stable career. I know I should always follow my passion but if I am never in a stable job, unemployed, and always looking for work, will it even be worth it? I know that nobody can predict the future, but I was wondering if anybody had any insight what so ever of what they think the market will be like when I enter it, if you could please let me know what you think. Thank you.

Jan 8, 12 7:44 pm

The Magic 8 Ball says

Jan 8, 12 8:28 pm

balboa - if you're asking: where will the job market (presumably in the u.s.) be in 5 years, when i graduate?, then the answer is: likely to be better than it is right now. there's not much worse that it can get.


but, i don't think that's the right question. almost every profession, over the 40 odd years  you'll be a part of it, is going to have ups, downs, transformations and many, many changes. it will be hard, perhaps, for you to appreciate, but i'm about halfway through that cycle. when i started, we drafted (with pencil and pen) on mylar and vellum. we actually handwrote notes on the sheets and 3d computing was a glint in form-z's eyes. kodak was part of the dow jones 30 biggest companies 40 years ago. nearly everyone in the country interacted with their film products as part of their daily lives. it's filing for bankruptcy protection this week. 35 years ago, apple didn't exist. the first true web browser didn't exist until i'd graduated from high school. facebook was invented while you were just starting junior high/middle school.


point is: the acceleration of change in every industry is enormous and isn't going to slow down anytime in the foreseeable future. if architecture is something which truly fascinates you and you can't imagine a life without helping create buildings... that's a good reason to go into the profession. you'll do well. if you're simply looking for a job... there's much less onerous ways to earn a living and provide money for yourself. it's not easy or 'safe' - but, there probably isn't a profession left that is. you'll make a career because of who you are, not what you study...

Jan 8, 12 8:58 pm
mr. minimal

This is exceptionally well-said, Gregory.

If you love architecture and are willing to work incredibly hard, then you have the potential to become a talented designer, and if you can accomplish that you will probably be just fine.  While you're in school you'll meet a lot of folks who are studying architecture for the wrong reasons, and if they make it through school, they'll be the ones that have a hard time finding employment.

I once heard a professor tell a class, "If you think you could be happy doing anything other than architecture, you probably should do that other thing." I think that's pretty sound advice that entirely too few architecture students take to heart.

Jan 8, 12 10:18 pm
w. architect

If you love architecture....oooh dear, you have so much to learn.

If you love anything, you will discover that it will break your heart.

Do not study a technical subject because of your LOVE, but study because you are very good at it, and it comes very easily to you.

The job market in the USA will not be very good in the next ten years for construction or architecture, unless we are hopelessly bombed! I hope not, but the only tea leaves I can read is that usually a Major War is necessary for the bankers and the industrialists to clear their books and we archtects get a chance to build over over again...and again...and again.

Jan 8, 12 10:40 pm

I think other countries will fare better in the next 5-10 years than the US. There is rampant building in Ontario and the prairies right now if you know where to look. Australia has remained relatively untouched by the global recession and continues building. I'm not going to touch China, but you know what it's like there right now. I think the market will be okay as long as one is willing to leave their bubble. You're young so there shouldn't be much tying you down geographically, anyhow.

Jan 9, 12 9:09 am

But, hey guys, we should be telling these people to buzz off to another major to avoid workplace saturation, right? Right guys?

Jan 9, 12 9:10 am

6+ years and you can almost be sure that we'll be starting another recession.  Real estate markets are cyclical, up and down.  This makes architecture, construction, etc., particularly vulnerable to economic swings.

Obviously, no one knows what/when/whatever.  We are also in unprecedented times, breaking records all over the place.  Globalization is largely to blame, as everyone, everywhere has access to assets across the globe.  So when one area booms, so does another.  When one plummets, everyone goes down (look at the European mess now and the continued discussion of US bank exposure).


So, the only thing you can be certain of is that times will continue to be more and more volatile.  I would not count on anything better, things can always get worse (while this was a massive recession, we didn't have lines around the block for food and the iPhone sold tens of millions of units, not exactly what you picture as a depression).


If you want a better job market (and I would, I wish professors knew an ounce about economics and business, as architecture, more than many professions, relies on markets and money), I'd look elsewhere. 

Programming, various interactive design, business, etc., will continue to be in high demand.

Jan 9, 12 10:36 am

Maybe nobody can predict the future, but I can tell you this.  Every young, prospective architect is advised by older peers to get out while you can because the profession features long hours, lousy pay and a general lack of job security.  And 25 years later every young architect that ignored that advice is now telling the next generation the exact same thing.

 It's been this way for a long time and I doubt it will change anytime soon, yo!

Jan 9, 12 11:11 am
On the fence

My son really really really loves legos.  Is there a future in legos for him.  I mean he really really really enjoys them.

He is 8 and I tell him to rethink his career path.  Sometimes you have to tell people the truth. 

Jan 9, 12 1:45 pm

In response to OP, have you looked at Civil Engineering (or Structural Engineering) as a possible option?  You can do four years of Civil/Structure and if by then you still are interested in becoming an architect, you can pursue a masters in architecture.  A career in architecture is a tough decision to make out of high school and a background in engineering will definitely not hurt - if anything, it will give you an edge over all the arch school grads who can only design pretty stuff. 

Jan 9, 12 2:26 pm

On the fence


Believe it or not - yes - When I worked for Rockstar Games in Carlsbad, Ca.(Lego Land), one of the programmers there designed robotic software to animate Legos - He would work with the people at Lego Land to animate many of their robotic amalgamations.

send your son to this:

Jan 9, 12 2:36 pm

The economy is not getting better anytime soon.  Anyway, what is better? A return to pre-recession status quo?  The system was unsustainable and now we are at some kind of tipping point and I don't think we will or should go back to how things were.  I can't see how things are going to improve without them first completely falling apart.  As for architecture...there will always be a need for architecture as there always has been for thousands of years, its just that now it is very difficult to make it in this field.  If your the kind of person that see's this as a challenge and wants to find new ways of doing things in these crazy times than go for it, but if you are just looking for a steady career try something else.  Only a small percentage of arch grads will make it out there and the others will move on to other things, so don't waste your time unless you know you got the talent, drive,  and passion to be one of those few.

Jan 9, 12 3:15 pm

j. - you are forgetting LUCK and MONEY.  Forget passion, forget talent, forget drive, many have those qualities.  It is LUCK and MONEY that get things done, like it or not.  Anyone that says that isn't true has at least one of those on their side.

The economy will come back.  It always does, just like most organisms, they get sick, take recovery time to heal, but emerge (almost) as good as new.  Or, if that doesn't happen, then we die (almost literally).


Yo! - I think things will change.  When I started, there was no Archinect to get answers, it was all just assumptions (naive, like most people think of what architects are/do/make).  I do think this site will make an impact and help educate some youngons as to the reality, other options, costs, etc.


Jan 9, 12 3:28 pm

trace, that is very true luck and money is a big part of it but you need those other things too.

Jan 9, 12 3:44 pm

It's like the SEALS - there is a 70% washout rate - if you can't take the pain, then stay out. If you aren't the best, then you will sure be the brokest.

Jan 9, 12 4:18 pm

Good point.  The youngsters today do have much more information available to them.  When I was a young teenage student I was constantly searching for info (encyclopedias were my best friends).  Who knows where I might have ended up if I had had resources like the internet and Archinect.  Maybe I would be a billionaire by now and not just a millionaire, yo!

Jan 9, 12 4:36 pm

In 1970 I started architecture school. Vietnam protests, Kent State shootings, things were not good. I feel my architectural degree gave me something that most other degrees could not. I feel that I am more well rounded in the arts, history, math, and critical thinking than many of my friends that were stuck in accounting classes. I attended a lecture in the early '70s where R. Buckminster Fuller said, "Specialization leads to extinction". I think that has been my main focus during my 33 years of practice. I am an architect, an artist, a designer, an author, an inventor, a lecturer and a world traveler. I owe it all to my fantastic architectural degree and my fun time in architecture school......hang in there.

Jan 9, 12 9:06 pm

j. - yes, you need those things.  Problem is, people think those things are exceptionally rare, but they aren't as rare as so many think, particularly while in school.  Luck and money, however, are significantly more difficult to come by.

Unfortunately, the world doesn't (necessarily) reward people in proportion to their efforts or talents.


[not to say you one can't achieve great things, but I think that most in architecture are led to believe that talent and hard work are all that you need]

Jan 9, 12 11:17 pm

"Specialization leads to extinction". 

great quote.  I see a problem in the field as well as others because of specialization.  As the world becomes more complex we need specialists, but we also need generalists to connect the dots.  there are far too few generalists nowadays.

Jan 9, 12 11:50 pm

Specialization is a favorite whipping boy of those who don't understand fully what it means to be effective as a generalist. "Connecting the dots" is important, but it's also a role that few architects do sufficiently well to make much of a difference. Being a generalists isn't about floating high above the project and waving one's arms. To be effective as a generalist, one must have more than a cursory understanding of the other disciplines involved, so as to credibly direct - not just coordinate - their roles on the project.

It seems to me this cynicism about specialization is misguided. Most architects abandonded -- long ago -- any real interest in becoming expert in more than those few areas of practice that we deem "fun" ... i.e. planning and design. IMHO, we've pulled back too far from the technical side of the profession and, as we have done so, others have filled that vacuum and the respect we once were afforded by other members of the building team (and society) has been severely diluted.

Jan 10, 12 11:06 am

"I’ve always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got." -Alan Bond

Jan 10, 12 11:29 am

Historically, architects were builders and had a thorough understanding not just of materials and construction techniques but also of how they could be integrated into a complex structure.

Architects today are largely administrators of myriad constantly changing codes and regulations, contracts, budgets, etc., and most are not properly trained either for this or for practical construction. Compartmentalized specialization is largely the result of these conditions, which propagate "downward" to some extent, and building projects and the state of architecture in general suffers accordingly.

Jan 10, 12 11:58 am

Miles..very true. A good Architect friend of mine passed away 2 years ago, he was 84 years old. He was a very gifted Architect, apprenticed with FLW in the 1950's, and had a tremendous 40 year career on his own in a small town. His work is stunning, he could do it all, even his own structural calcs. He was taught and learned Architecture as an integral whole. His drawings are a treat to look at. That is what I consider a real Architect. I am always amazed at what he was able to do on his own. Your comment "hit the nail on the head"..

Jan 10, 12 12:29 pm

I think the real question is a supply and demand issue for architectural services (however they are defined) moving forward.  It is completely unrelated to how much you love doing something.  I love making horse whips, but my demand fell off once that Model T came on the market.

I could in fact argue a couple of ways the job market for architects could actually be worse in the 5-10 year time frame, but I will leave that for another thread.

Let's just look @ the numbers for a moment.  I stopped by a well known architecture school to check on tuition and estimated attending costs.  So I tallied everything up and came up with a 250K cost to attend a 5 year program.

So, if a graduate does manage to obtain gainful employment, at the current average salary for a 2 year professional, how long does this take to pay this loan back?

Jan 10, 12 12:52 pm

But Balboa, I do not want to encourage or dissuade your decision on whether to attend an arch program.  I am just trying to give factual information to base your decision.

For anyone entering college I always urge people to go get a job in the profession of their major, doing anything, just be around it.  I think you should do this before selecting your major.

Jan 10, 12 1:00 pm

keith - 250k must be for a private school. i can't think of a public school, unless you're paying out of state tuition the entire time, costing 50k a year (well... housing could be the wildcard. take that out to make it more comparable across the board). 


but, i agree with you on where we have to look 10-20 years out - are we making buggy whips or will we actually evolve? i think the market is both better and worse. worse because consolidation/mergers are going to create ever larger firms (believe it or not) which will focus as much on infrastructure as anything else - see aecom - but better because i think it's going to allow more botique firms (similar to my own) to flourish within a more narrow range. the firm types that are going to struggle are 1 person firms and 20-100 person firms. latter won't have much but super small projects to do and will struggle more with swings in the market; the latter will struggle with their internal infrastructure being too high for so few traditional architecture jobs being out there. a 10-20 person firm can do well within a niche (lower overhead is less susceptible to market swings; enough expertise to do small to medium sized projects or be an executive designer if good enough). 120+  - you can get to a level of expertise and be able to compete nationally for work that the mega firms find too small. 


just some random thoughts...

Jan 10, 12 5:35 pm

Thanks Greg, yes, I had "sticker shock" when I added it up, you are correct, a private school.

Thanks for your insights on the dynamics within the profession, I am willing to bet you are an advocate for the customer service a boutique firm can offer.

I keep proposing that there needs to be a seminar class titled "client relationship management" @ the college level.

Jan 10, 12 7:32 pm
chatter of clouds

"If you love architecture and are willing to work incredibly hard," mr. minimal

i don't understand this concept of working "incredibly hard". no, you should not work "incredibly hard"; this capitalist ethos is part of why many intern "jobs" were being offered for no pay, even prior to the onset of the crisis. at that extreme end, work loses value..and more importantly, so does your life. i much prefer the moderate socialist model. 

and architecture cannot be loved, it is inanimate. no, its not the beautiful statue that came to life and enjoyed your sperm on its buttocks. you love what you do with architecture - that is something else, to be in love with your mind. now, if your mind simply is working on a generic office building or mcmansion or any of thes wonderful edifices for loooong hours ad near infinitum, you will not find yourself loving your mind very much.


also this is the same sort of wise-sounding idiocy coming from first year arch professor cliche ridden fear mongering lips :" "If you think you could be happy doing anything other than architecture, you probably should do that other thing." 

in truth, you won't know exactly your proclivity and you won't know how you will progress, just like in all other aspects of life, given that you work reasonably hard of course. i have seen some clever boys and girls produce uninteresting designs and some dull seemingkid produce something that is quizzical and interesting. architecture school, unlike the office, is interesting that teaches you that not everything is overt and that intelligence is not of a specific comes in many different ways. you will find the farm boy coming up with a beautiful ultra modernist structure and the city girl come up with an organic proto-naturalist design.

Jan 12, 12 5:44 am
chatter of clouds

i know i didn't answer your question; to be honest, its a valid but not interesting question that you posit - so i contribute to one of the post branches. but to go back to your original question - i would highly recommend that you excel - in your studies and experience - in at least one facet of the profession.

if you like IT- then be the software boy/girl. if you like structure- pursue a postgrad or secondary degree in structural design/engineering. if you like reading - study-indepth- the histories and theories of architecture; if you are into drawing and painting, then focus on your representations and design flair...etc. if you are the architectal jack-of-all-trade, then that is exceptional...but if you aren't, then better to excel in something than to be mediocre at everything. it will help you secure a more secure niche.  

Jan 12, 12 5:53 am

To find your way, you need to try everything.

Jan 12, 12 12:45 pm

Architecture is analogous to the Marines - you need to make sacrifices and take a lot of pain for possible glory that may never happen - it's tough because thats the way it is - architecture makes no apologies for it.

Jan 12, 12 4:14 pm

I don't think it is at all like that.  Hard work, but that's where that analogy ends. 

Jan 12, 12 5:18 pm

To answer your question, go to medical school !!! And it will make your mother happy.

Jan 12, 12 11:09 pm

I have an observation on the general employment picture.  For the past month I have been visiting clients all over LA county, NYC etc...usually I stop in @ a Starbucks while on the road not to get coffee, but use their Wifi signal to check e-mails etc...

I am noticing more and more young people parked at the Starbucks, during normal business hours, laptops in hand.  I am assuming they are not employed due to the time of day, and by the looks of it, they are really camped out there, kind like an informal occupy without the signs.

I stopped in a place yesterday in LA, literally every table was taken by a young man staring at a screen, the whole place.

I am not sure what the Gov't is reporting for unemployment stats for this age group (lets say 20-28 year olds), but if my observation is correct, the young unemployed is literally bursting at the seams. 


Jan 13, 12 9:27 am

In a very informal survey of my peers here in NYC....everyone has found jobs..and even their friends who have been stragglers have found jobs.

There has also been a lot more work coming into the office...or at least a lot more calls.  I don't know if this is the beginning of an upturn or if it's just a small sample...but it seems as though people are getting busy.

Jan 13, 12 9:54 am

Thank you everybody for all your comments. They really helped answer my questions and some others I had as well. @larslarson, my ideal location to work when I graduate would be NYC, but I don't understand how architects afford to live there. I always read things about how bad architects' salaries are, but a lot of architects work there. If I lived in Manhattan would I have to live in a small studio apartment with roommates or would I be able to afford rent for a decent place?

Jan 13, 12 7:52 pm

Architects' housing for NYC?

Jan 13, 12 10:41 pm

I think that no one should go I to any field for any type of glory, no matter whether personal or monetary. I believe that if you are really good at what you do and are business Savvy you can find a way to sell your talent and skill. Regarding architecture school- there is a big disconnect between academia and practice. I don't like the advice someone gave above about working in an office prior to making your decision. I think that having some formal training may expose you to different types of work that you may want to engage in as an architect. The statement automatically limits architecture to just buildings. I hope that you have chosen a school that will demonstrate not just the pragmatic fate of architecture but also the more theoretical as well. No architect practices without some theory or approach toward work no matter how mundane or out of the box that theory or approach is.

I was always passionate about architecture and that's why I chose to get a B.Arch. I believe that you should visit some classes rather than offices to see what kind of education you will be getting. Most people dropped out of my foundation year because it was 'too artsy.'

Nov 30, 12 11:02 am

Thank you everybody for all your comments. They really helped answer my questions and some others I had as well. @larslarson, my ideal location to work when I graduate would be NYC, but I don't understand how architects afford to live there. I always read things about how bad architects' salaries are, but a lot of architects work there. If I lived in Manhattan would I have to live in a small studio apartment with roommates or would I be able to afford rent for a decent place?

Same with SF

Nov 30, 12 1:01 pm

I have always worked and lived in Manhattan. If you currently live out of town, then moving will be a big deal. Astoria, Queens, Chinatown, Lower East, Hell's Kitchen, and some areas in Harlem are a good deal. Rent stabilized homes also give you the opportunity to live affordable. In my college days, I lived with my parents in Greenwhich Villuage and now have an apartment on the Upper West Side in manhattan.

Nov 30, 12 1:16 pm

I hope the market gets better im trying to get a co-op education course for this spring and it is just impossible. So i don't think it's getting all that better and it is probably going to be a  long time before it grows positively

Dec 2, 12 6:33 am

if you are asking this question even before you've started, I suggest going to another field.  Its crap if all you care about is a job and pay.  Heck, my younger brother who studied computer engineering got a job lined up and hired for a 6 figure pay 6 months before his graduation for his 4 years undergrad degree.  I, on the other hand, am jobless after my 5 year undergraduate degree..  I'm entering 6.5 years without a stable mediocre paid job in this field.  However, the truth is, I would not have it any other way.  I'm glad to be without a job if it means I can keep learning in that time and get better in this field for a few more years. 

If you don't have such passion, get out now because you'll hate it.  Most who end up hating the profession entered into this field with all the lofty dreams and no idea of what it actually is.  You'll be kicking yourself even more if you don't switch now.



Dec 2, 12 7:02 am

archietek52: well said.. I owe a lot of what I've become today to architecture.  Before I started archtiecture school, one could say I was a lost cause.  Today, I'm richer in every aspect of life (minus $$) and continue to grow.  Thanks to the education I received from architecture.  When many are hating what they do as a career and are bored about what their life has become, I cannot find nearly enough time to enjoy and do many of the things I want. 

Dec 2, 12 7:07 am

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