"To pursue" or "Not to pursue"


Hey Everybody!

So, I’m at a crossroads in my life….I'm debating about following a childhood dream and becoming an architect; however, I curious if it is too late to follow. Here’s my story…

When deciding on what to major in…I had it narrowed down to three options: Geology, Architecture, or Business; I took the business route. So I got my Bachelors degree in Business Administration, and now I’m working on my MBA degree in which I intend to receive this coming May. For some reason though, I have the feeling something is missing, and I believe I narrowed it down to the fact that the right side of my brain (the creative side)  is being smothered by the lack of creativity  in the financial service industry (where I currently work a full time job). My current thoughts tend to make me believe Architecture is the answer to this predicament, so I’ve been looking into Iowa State’s M. Arch program. I mean in my free time I can sit and work with Photoshop for hours, as to where I can only sit and work with business in increments of 15mins before I’m bored out of my mind.

I guess my question to you is…“should I take up architecture?” “Is it too late in the game to do so? (keep in mind I’m only 24 and ISU’s program is 3 years and would allow me to sit for the ARE upon completion) How is it perceived, in the architect world, when someone has an MBA and M Arch degree? Any other insights or words of advice would be great! Feel free to post here or via email:

Best Regards,


(PS. If you want to read more about me…check out my LinkedIn profile… )

Nov 12, 12 10:55 am

sit for the ARE right after school?  I'm pretty sure you're still going to need IDP, even if you can do that concurrently with the tests, which may be a bigger barrier to entry than school. 

I'm sure there are some firms, especially larger ones, that would value an MBA.  I've always worked in small firms, and small firm owners could very well believe your 2 masters degrees are equivalent to their bachelor's.  large and unjustifiable egos are common among architects.

can you really afford to spend 3 more years in college and then live off the low wages common for entry level intern architects?  i can't help but think there are better ways to invest that money.  maybe day trading?

you are not too old to pursue architecture as a career, but i would lean towards "don't."  besides, i'm sure there is plenty of creativity in finance if you focus on clever new and complicated  ways to fleece municipalities out of their tax dollars.

Nov 12, 12 11:28 am

Too Late?

“Is it too late in the game to do so? (keep in mind I’m only 24 and ISU’s program is 3 years 

I went after an M.arch at 50 - was it too late for me? 

No it's not too late for you - do it now - because believe you me - You don't want to go through what I went through - I am the poster boy for why you don't change careers at mid life. Just do it now because to do it later is - you don't want to go there -

Nov 12, 12 11:54 am


My vote is :”to pursue”

But before you do, go visit a few architecture firms.  There is a huge variation of what constitutes being an “architect”.  I want to say the majority of what an architect does requires creative thinking, but most of us do NOT nor want to be stuck fiddling with photoshop for hours on end.  Not only do we need to care about the visual aspect of the building, our primary charge is also to be able to realize the visually appealing designs into safe and functional buildings, all while making a profit (or at least attempt to do so) to sustain our firms.  Said realization process is what the majority of us spend most of our time on.  Let’s call it creative problem solving, but it’s definitely not purely graphic or stylistically driven. 

Once you feel you have a good understanding of what an architect does for real (believe me, there are so many myths), and you still thirst to become one, then do it.  Where you are at is by no means too late.  I changed my major 5 times in undergrad (including business admin) before settling down to architecture, for reasons unlike your own.  I find the varied background tremendously beneficial.  I got my March at 26, was licensed 2.5 years after that, and never got the sense that I’m behind compared to my slightly younger peers.  Architecture is a field that touches on SO many other fields and aspects, a purely architectural focused education actually does one disservice by limiting one’s perspective (IMO, of course).

One reason you will hear on this forum against “to pursue” will be a financial one.  Understand that architects do not make much money, at least starting out.  So if you are carrying or will be incurring a lot of student loan, than you’ll have a harder time paying it off as an architect.  The job market is also not the healthiest compared to other professions.  However, I’m assuming with your training in business and finance, you know (better than most of us here) how to do your own math.

Judging from your linkedin page, you seem to fit the profile of what will make a good architect.  Your business experience will help a lot.  However your MBA degree may not matter much unless you focus on the business side of architecture (but it sounded like that’s not what you are interested in).

One final piece of advice:  don’t let the negativity on this forum drag you down.  Unfortunately, it seems architects complain a lot.  Most of us mean well.  It’s just that our training in critical thinking makes us overly critical at times.

Best of luck.

Nov 12, 12 12:03 pm

Have you explored options that allow you to leverage the education you already have? Say, by taking your MBA and going into real estate development?

Nov 12, 12 3:53 pm

Phenomenal advice! The feedback is exceedingly appreciated (both the negative and positive) and will come in handy when making my decision. Would it be wise to seek a mentor? How do architects view being asked to become a mentor? Nuisance? Honor? (I'm aware it varies person to person, but how do you view it?) Thanks and keep the advice coming!

Nov 12, 12 5:26 pm

Most architects like to hear themselves talk.  The majority will consider being approached for mentoring a pleasure.  And yes, having a mentor (or several) will be beneficial.

Nov 12, 12 6:39 pm

damn you're only 24.. follow your heart's desire.  I'm 31 and recently got my undergrad.. will probably be 36 or so by the time I get my Masters :/ 

threads like this make me feel like a dinosaur

Nov 12, 12 7:32 pm

Here is an update...

I've decided to look into ISU's program a bit further, so I set up a visit for later this week. Currently, I'm gathering and compiling a list of questions to ask the college representative.  What would be some questions you would ask?

Nov 14, 12 1:57 pm

2-5 in the big 12.  what's the deal with that?  it's a shitty conference to begin with (except for K-State and maybe OU)

Nov 14, 12 3:36 pm

yea, i would lean towards don't


if you ever just want an easy life that consists of making decent pay having free time to spend time with friends, or your future (or current) wife and kids..

i would say anything is a good choice other than architecture, i really love architecture,

but i dont love it more than my family,.. and health... and quality of life..

im young only 26 and im working in a firm now, but im pretty sure i wont retire an architect, its too unstable... if you wanna stay in the US and practice....

i wanted to be an architect since i was 9, and i did everything i was suppose to to get here.. and i loved the journey and i love my job... but there is a time when dreams, ... sometimes clash with reality.....

Nov 20, 12 5:18 am

I agree with Ms. Winston. After years of looking for an architecture job in the US I gave up and went back to my native country which I hate. There are more architectural job opportunities over here but  I'm the kind of person who values freedom over career and being a gay person makes it harder to just move anywhere due to personal safety. After working in architecture for a while over here I decided to take the risk and change my career at the age of 26 because I'll move back to the US and I can't keep practicing architecture if I move back. You need to consider your priorities. Are you willing to move anywhere for a job, are you willing to live in constant uncertainty? What if you decide to have a family someday?  Think about these issues.

"I mean in my free time I can sit and work with Photoshop for hours, as to where I can only sit and work with business in increments of 15mins before I’m bored out of my mind." Then why did you choose to get an MBA?? It seems like you lean more to the artistic side and to be honest architecture is more about contracts, technical drawings than design. You can always do creative things in your spare time whether as a hobby or for additional income so I think you should consider changing your job instead of your whole career.

Nov 20, 12 11:41 am

It's a great hobby but a lousy profession. Whatever you do, go into it with your eyes open.

Nov 20, 12 7:30 pm

You're in Financial Services?!?!  ha ha ha, most architects would kill to get a Financial Services paycheck.  You're in for a huge shock when you see what kind of dough (or lack of it) you'll be making for the rest of your life.  Better stay in Financial Services for awhile before you make the jump so that you can at least build up a nest egg with which to buy a house.  No architect of my acquaintance in my generation (mid 30s) has been able to afford to buy a house yet.  It's the most depressing thing in the world.  We design houses all day for other people, get laid off a few times, land a sweet $50k salary, pay down some credit debt, and what are you left with?  No savings for a down payment, and watching other people snap up the cheap underpriced houses in this down economy.   At this rate if I can ever afford a house it'll be long after their prices have risen back up to bubble times.  BUY A HOUSE BEFORE YOU CHANGE CAREERS.  I mean that totally seriously.  You don't have to live in it - make an investment somewhere where you can rent it out with a good steady flow of renters (in a town, or near a university) and just let that rental income flow in.  It'll steady you through the periods of your architectural life when you can't get a job, and give you some assets to start your career with.  I am dead serious about this advice.  Stay in Financial Services for another 2 years and save save save save save that money.  You will kick yourself later if you don't do this.

Also, you are REALLY young for architecture - it's a mature person's profession.  You have PLENTY of time to make this change.  There are likely 60 more years of your life ahead of you.  Don't make all of them paycheck-to-paycheck years like we are.  The only financially secure architects I've ever met are those that married spouses with good careers and $.  There is a reason for that. 

Nov 21, 12 12:40 pm

For the first few years out of school, depending on where you live, you'll be making in the $30k for salary.  And it only goes up slowly from there.  You can expect to max out around $80k or so by the time you're middle aged.  Anything more than that and you have to either own your own firm (which is very up-and-down, because it's a risky profession with lots of down cycles) or be a partner at a good-sized firm (which means you're spending all day chasing down new clients, and not designing much anymore).  Owners and partners are, of course, a smaller proportion of the workforce so not everyone gets to be one.  I tell you this because you should think long and hard about what kind of salary you would ideally like to be making when you're 55 and have 3 kids about to enter college.  Most people assume architects make good money (I have no idea why this myth is so pervasive) so you should know the reality before you make your leap.

Nov 21, 12 12:45 pm

Take mantaray's advice and stay in financial services while you think and research long and hard about architecture as a profession.

As for why people think architects make good money, I think a lot of it is because movies and television always portray the architect as having a cool car, nice house, hot wife, and always looking calm and relaxed from lack of worry.  Think Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle.

Nov 21, 12 12:57 pm

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