Too Old To Be an Architecture Grad Student?



I'm 31, and I am planning to start to grad school in the summer of 2007 for my M.Arch degree. Do you think I'm too old to be starting a career as an architect? I mean by the time I finish my degree I'll be 35 then 38 by time I can practice on my own/be licensed so that leaves 3 years where I'll be interning probably for people younger than me??

I have had my own interior design business for 4 years and I have a Bachelors Degree in Interior Architecture and Design as well as a business degree in marketing. I am hoping that I will be seen as desirable to architecture firms in the future for having both an interior design degree and an architecture degree.

Any thoughts??

Nov 14, 06 5:59 am

never too old. (and younger than i was.)

Nov 14, 06 7:32 am

really steven? cool.

31 is not old at all. lots of us were in our 30's in grad school...most of us married, with kids or kids on the way...maturity is a good thing for architects.

Nov 14, 06 9:29 am

The average age in most first-professional M.Arch programs (these are the 3 or 3.5 year programs for people without a B.Arch) is about 28. My class had a few folks in it that were in their 40s, about a third of the class was in their 30s, and the class 2 years ahead of mine had a woman in her mid 50s.

Nov 14, 06 9:30 am

One other comment though: the current average time between graduation and licensing is 7.5 years. The 3-year internship is the minimum in most states, but it's the ideal - and the reality is that it often takes much longer to get all required units in the various required categories. There is also quite a lot of waiting time for paperwork involved. Between finishing the internship and being approved to test it often takes 3 to 6 months. The test can be completed over a few months but takes the average candidate 1 to 2 years. There is more paperwork waiting at the end of that (sometimes several months, by the time you combine the NCARB wait and the state board wait.)

So, you may want to factor that all in to the idea of how long it would be before you would be practicing on your own with a iicense.

There are a few states that allow testing concurrently with the internship, and there is some plan to make that the norm for most of the tests, but this has been in the works for a couple years and hasn't been implemented yet.

Nov 14, 06 9:35 am

wont the fact that you've had your own interior design firm and a bachelor in interior design factor into your "internship" qualifications? i think it should - you should look into it. i've heard that ncarb will entertain substitutions to their qualification reqs...

Nov 14, 06 10:04 am

I am 35 and applying this year for grad school. If it is something you want to do, you are never too young.

Nov 14, 06 10:17 am

or old either, heh.

Nov 14, 06 10:18 am

There are IDP rules that allow a certain percentage (6 months to a year for various situations) of your units to be earned in other settings - such as supervised by a licensed engineer or contractor, or employed fulltime as faculty in an architecture school, or working as an interior designer in a firm. But you can only count units from while you were self-employed if you have been a principal specifically of an architecure firm and you have to provide documentation of this ranging from a portfolio to references from 3 licensed architects who will testify that you were running an architecture firm (this is possible in some states, where an unlicensed person can be an owner or part-owner of an architecture firm, and not possible in some other states.)

Nov 14, 06 10:37 am

woah, i feel like my program is full of really young people...
there is only about 3 people over 30 here.

Nov 14, 06 12:06 pm

there was someone in my incoming class who was 64...

Nov 14, 06 1:12 pm

i wish i was older when i went to grad school. probably wouldn't have spent so much time boozing and chasing females...

Nov 14, 06 1:16 pm

The range in ages of my MArch program was 23-40. One of the coolest things about the 3 year programs is the diversity of your peer group. I know people who started grad school in their late twenties, early thirties and went on to win SOM travelling fellowships and work for superstar firms around the world. Thrity-one is definitely not too old to start a career.

Nov 14, 06 2:24 pm
Rogue Agent

I'm getting ready to start my M.Arch this spring and I'm 28 (well 29 in a week). I don't even have a related undergraduate degree. I say do what's going to make you happy, no matter how old you are.

Nov 14, 06 5:17 pm
Rim Joist

Mespellrong -- we had a guy like that. Thinking back on that, I wonder what on earth was he doing? He had no intention of working in the field, he was just "very interested". Wow.

Nov 14, 06 5:57 pm
Living in Gin

I'm applying to 3-year M.Arch. now, and if all goes well, I'll be 32 when I start classes next fall. Looks like I'll be in good company.

Nov 14, 06 5:59 pm

we had a guy who was 56 and had a masters in musicology, used to teach at the Art Institute of Chicago, and then completed his masters in architecture. God knows whats hes doing now

Nov 14, 06 6:25 pm

I am 32 and struggled with similar I am applying now, I too have my own business.....I have now realized that the work you do in school is just as important to your sense of self-hood as the pro as long as you, or I, get over the whole "end result mentality" will probably be the positive experience we want it to be...for instance...if 3 years go'll still be 38 or whatever, but you may be a happier , cooler 38 year old,....especially if you make the grad school years count.

Nov 14, 06 9:51 pm

Wow, I really appreciate the positive feedback you guys gave on my going to get my M.Arch at 31. I feel much better about it now. And formfunction - I have thought the same thing - I'll be 35 when I finish my M.Arch and 38 when I can practice on my own so I might as well be 38 and be an architect which is my dream.

Thank you all so much!

Nov 15, 06 12:19 am

in UG i sat next a guy to the whole semester thinking he was my age (21) but turned out he was 35...

Nov 15, 06 3:46 am

.. you HAVe to follow your dream or you'll hvae no passion for your work

Nov 15, 06 3:46 am
chatter of clouds

there were a couple of 'geezers' (how they chose to refer to themselves might already indicate that they were) in their mid fourties i beielve, and one was in his fifties.

what might be a more important issue your feeling of reluctance. you're given birth, you're taken at the end...whats in between is up to you. i know guys who still like wearing pampers....well, not know..know of.

Nov 16, 06 7:22 am
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

<=== 35

Nov 16, 06 8:13 am

I'm 29 and I just started my BA in Architecure, so don't feel that bad. I have a degree in a totally unrelated field, but somehow ended up working in design for the last five years. I enjoyed it so much I decided to take the plunge, age be damned! I was suprised to find that there is actually one person older than myself in the BA program. One thing I noticed, working on my second college degree, is that I appreciate and enjoy school so much more than when I was 19. I think by the time you've hit your mid 20's, and have been out in the world working for a few years you are much more mature. You don't show up to class hung over every day, and your hormones aren't running amok, so learning comes much easier and is more thorough than at a younger age. I really think people should be encourages to start college at a later age.

Nov 16, 06 1:22 pm

Wasn't Corbu like 35 when they finally let him into Harvard?

Nov 26, 06 12:30 pm

emilyrides: I completely agree with all you pointed out. I too returned to school in my late twenties. Focus was much better as I was not worried about where the party was, what all my friends were doing, and getting a little.

Being married, having already had a career in the creative field, etc has helped tremendously. I am about 1000 times more successful at school than I was at 19 as well.

Nov 26, 06 12:47 pm

conormac...i don't think corbu applies in this conversation 'cause he's an alien from outer space...

Nov 26, 06 12:56 pm

i thought that was sun ra.

Nov 26, 06 8:25 pm

I'm in my thirties. A lot of people here are.

Nov 26, 06 11:19 pm

My school had several older students enrolled when I was their. We refered to them as "wisdom givers" as they tended to be the ones to always raise their hands to share stories of their life experiences.

Nov 28, 06 2:47 am

I've especially noticed the advantages of being an older student the last week or so as we're getting to finals for the semester. Most of the other, younger students appear as if they're about to drop dead, whereas I know how to manage my time, have a realistic grip on time management and a fairly stable home life. It's also nice then when I got to speak to one of my professors, they treat me like a human being and they don't speak down to me, like I noticed they often do to the younger students. I know that isn't right, but I've found it to be pretty true. In addition, all the years I spent out working in the 'real world', as a designer just make things easier for me now. I definetly know the fact that I'm older and had real work experience is what landed me the fantastic internship I currently have.

Nov 28, 06 2:04 pm
Chili Davis

A while ago, a kid in my undergrad program asked me how old I was. At 25, I never thought of myself as an older student. His respons was "Wow, I thought you were just a punk ass kid like the rest of us." I told him I was, just a few years older.

Nov 28, 06 2:11 pm

Got my Barch at 37

Nov 30, 06 1:08 pm

NEVER TOO OLD (as it has been said)

Lots of good feedback, but jump said it quite well earlier (alot of my mates in grad school were married, etc, etc.)

It's better...maturity is good!

<--- entered grad school at 30.

Nov 30, 06 1:57 pm

Not to offend anyone, but middle aged individuals who decide to become architects without a background in a relevant field are far more likely to become mediocre architects. While this sort of indecisiveness is tolerated and even encouraged in the United States, it certainly isn't the case in the UK and Japan - and for the better.

Nov 30, 06 6:06 pm

"not to offend anyone", of course not.

seem to be a few bold assumptions and generalizations in your statement however:

"far more likely"


"and for the better"

Nov 30, 06 6:34 pm

I believe quite simply that architecture requires experience of architecture. The earlier that experience begins then the better the architect, in general. There are very few individuals, I believe, who would be capable of achieving an experience of architecture equivalent to that offered in an academic setting by themselves alone.

If it's a long standing interest and someone has made an effort in some way or another to study architecture and then decides one day to actually pursue that goal, then I say good for them and the best of luck. Someone older is likely to be more mature and more committed as a student, yes, but on the other hand isn't that just because they can't afford to make any mistakes?

I'll I'm suggesting is, in the midst of all this camaraderie of the 30-somethings, that being older isn't an entirely positive thing when starting out on a career in architecture. There are plenty of negative aspects as well especially in a profession that requires so much time to achieve excellence in.

Nov 30, 06 6:54 pm

well, maturation would tell you to worry about something you can do something about, age would not be one of those things...outside of staying in shape.

"without a background in a relevant field"

what would that be? music, graphic design, computer science? what? what is someone became a programmer, but always played music and did sculpture, is that ok?

your generalizations seems very short sighted and misses the point of what makes an individual and individual being import, including experience in life, from almost any perspective.

Nov 30, 06 7:16 pm

I'm 39 and will be applying to MArch programs this year. I'm also a registered P.E. so will be able to stamp my own work. Time well spent in my opinion.

Of course, when it comes to abstract expressionism I probably fall a little short.

Nov 30, 06 7:22 pm

How to put it another way...

Music, graphic design, and computer science? Great, if somehow you have managed to extract something architectural out of those disciplines.

I don't think who you are as an individual matters nearly as much as who you are as an architect, especially when it comes to architecture! How many people who are excellent musicians or graphic designers suddenly want to be architects? Only very few. The majority who make the switch weren't very good at what they were doing and thought they might be better at something else, and architecture 'sounds cool'. The majority, with some exceptions.

Nov 30, 06 7:23 pm

many many very good architects were doing something else at one time or another, do your homework.

Nov 30, 06 7:44 pm

...and very, very few architects ever manage to become 'very good' architects. Among those that do you have to admit the majority started young.

Nov 30, 06 7:50 pm

young individuals who decide to become architects without a background in anything are far more likely to become mediocre architects.

Most of the best architects I know, were never young.

Posters who decide to make an inflamitory statement with less then 10 posts to their username, typically piss off a lot of 'nectors.

say 'firetruck' ten times really fast!

fire truck
fire truck
fire truck
fir truck

Nov 30, 06 8:20 pm

firetruck, what do you consider an early age to start?

Nov 30, 06 8:23 pm

firetruck, define "mediocre" & "excellence"?

Nov 30, 06 8:42 pm

Treekiller, Inflammatory statements? I've been opinionated but civil. I questioned this orgy of self-satisfaction and mutual shoulder-patting, that's all.

While age is a sensitive subject nobody needs to get offended. If you start learning a foreign language at an older age you are less likely to achieve fluency than had you been raised around that language. I think it's the same way with architecture.

Dammson, during high school/college I guess, but 'starting' might mean any number of things. Imagine what how beneficial it could be if for example you concentrated in biology in undergrad with an interest in architecture. You could graduate with a fascinating source of potential architectural ideas. Same goes for any of the subjects listed above.

I'm not claiming people who studied architecture from undergrad are better off, since that's patently false. But I do think "the earlier the better" does hold. People who say, "I want to be a pianist," then next, "I want to be a graphic designer," and then, "Oh dear, I'm 30, I better fulfill my dream of being an architect" are suspect in their devotion to the discipline as far as I'm concerned!

Nov 30, 06 8:43 pm

Come on, you don't have to define terms to see the difference between a mediocre architect and an excellent architect.

Nov 30, 06 8:50 pm

you are too old if you are not able to adapt to new ideas...otherwise don't worry about it.

Dec 1, 06 2:01 pm

i don't know that age is a sensitive subject. i think suggesting that someone not pursue what they want to do because they might not be great at it is, well, the very type of advice that prevents people from doing what they want. i'll tell you what, don't have kids, you'd be a mediocre parent. don't even think about kissing anyone because i can tell you are bad at it.

as far as success in school, age was not a factor. i look at my program and i will say this; the younger students, students who were coming directly from good undergrad programs, were more plugged in when it came to software and what was happening in the world of architecture. but whatever advantage that was became irrelevant after a semester. of the 14 or 15 projects (of 80 students) that were nominated for the top design prize, half were by students in their 30s.

the shit that's posted here sometimes drives me crazy. i do think that if you, firetruck, are going to say that older students become mediocre architects then you have to define what the hell you are saying. do they work for mediocre firms, or start mediocre practices. who are you talking about? how would we know them, and how would you? and if we do know them, then by some measure they are successful.

people choose their fields at different times because of opportunity or self realization or whatever. suggesting that if you haven't decided what you want to be by the age of 30 you are doomed to under perform is ridiculous. how about this; the true advantage of becoming an architect at an older age is that you haven't been brainwashed into believing the mystique of the practice.

go to a good school; get a job with a respected firm; go on your own or stay in a firm. if you don't become "fill in a good architect's name here", i'm sure you'll be able to find a bitter and aged firetruck at some lower east side bar with a bad attitude wearing woman's sunglasses, which will be the sure sign that he is in fact a good architect.

Dec 1, 06 8:43 pm

i was 26 when started my BArch and 32 when i graduated (decided to go for concurrent degree...BS in Political Science ;) i can tell you i came out a MUCH better designer than many of my peers for a few simple reasons:
1) i knew what my focus was and how i wanted to practice architecture so could mold my courses and assignments to that goal
2) i was not afraid of the professors and was capable of "questioning authority" so rather than sucking up what i was told and taking it for their word, i questioned everything and talked to my professors as equals and vice versa
3) b/c of my age, my professors sought me out to work on special projects and involve me in work typically given to to option 1 graduate students (those who had a professional degree in architecture)
4) i did what i wanted b/c i wasn't afraid to stand up for my ideas, unlike many of the younger students, undergraduate and graduate

i can tell you that there are days when having a project manager 7 years younger than you is difficult, particularly when you've also got more overall work experience than them, but you find your path and if you love it and have a passion for it then who cares what others are doing or what they say.

imagine it this way (this is what i do when feeling annoyed at myself for not having gone to college earlier), look at the people you interact with everyday, the store clerks, the secretaries (sp), the benign office workers, and imagine doing their work everyday for the rest of your life, just a job, don't care about what you're doing, can't wait to get the hell out of the store/office/etc. and you'll soon get over any worries about your age, which honestly, you're still very young!

and if you've already got a degree in a related field, you can probably get through grad school in 2 years, particularly if you've been practicing for awhile. my university waived requirements for students who had proven experience doing the work you would learn in the class. never hurts to ask.

even though i've been in the industry since 1997, working all through college part time, i've only been out of school for a year and a half and i can tell you, most people are willing to give me more credit b/c of my age and my lack of cockiness and ego. i know i don't know everything, my younger friends think they know it all already b/c they went to college for 5 years. it's a maturity thing.

and finally, with your experience, even if it wasn't in the field, it helps you look at problems from many more perspectives which helps you solve it better.

Dec 1, 06 9:23 pm

Only beautiful women are granted the opportunity to enjoy my kissing, my friend. If you're a hard working architect you're probably aware that kids and a wife are pretty much a hindrance if they aren't a support. Interesting way to begin, but let me reiterate what I've said already since it's obviously been a little unclear.

All I'm saying is, the older you are, the less time you have.. Since architecture takes time, it follows that the more you have of it, the better your *chances* are of becoming 'really good'. You would be hard pressed to name many 'world class' architects that started studying architecture over the age of 30. It's not a definitive indicator of 'excellence', by any means, and mature students may very well be exceptional architects. I'm just pointing out that the odds are against you.

You have to work twice as hard and make up for that lost time, because I assure you there are plenty of young people, say under the age of 25, working their ass off from the beginning.

Dec 1, 06 9:24 pm

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