Value of an education in Architecture --- Honestly


i ve just finished my first semester of my freshman year in Architecture and it set me thinking on a couple of things...

as a kid who has barely seen the world .....i am hoping that some of you people would share your views on getting an architecture degree.

Perspectives that are fresh as compared to those that i ve been getting from schools .... and preferably leaving it RAW and un-sugar coated ...

other than providing you with a path towards becoming an architect ...

what does it REALLY train you to do?   

what are the skills that you will learn?

which areas that you think recent architecture grads fall short of?

do you find any inadequacy in the architecture curriculum offered by most schools? is it still relevant for the realities of today's built environment (eg. warmer climate, denser cities)? and if you have the power to do so, what would you change? 


Jan 5, 13 12:03 pm
Most will say that the inadequacies of an architecture education is that it falls short on teaching practical skills and understanding in construction and structures. Most do not know how to put a set of construction documents together and that will be what many graduates work on once they graduate. There are a few schools that do teach more practical education but many times it at the expense of learning about design.

I used to have a gripe with the education system in architecture. It is myopic many times and subconsciously encourages students to be naive bc in the "real world" especially in the USA clients don't appreciate Architecture, rather fragments of architectural history such as refabricated classical columns and gables that have no relevance in the modern world. But as I finish my last semester of grad school I realize that education should to some degree focus on design as long as there are research-based reasons ( such as ecological, climate, economic, etc) for it rather than pure aesthetic quality. It is easier to learn technical skills once you are able to see all phases of building development in your professional life but it is not easy to learn design once you leave school. Take advantage of your internships if you wish to close that learning gap.
Jan 5, 13 12:30 pm

become an architect is one goal which I may or may not achieve someday.  Making good money is a maybe too. 

What architecture has opened up for me, nothing else would've.  It has given me passion in so many fields related to this industry.  I may be struggling and probably unhappy, but I do have passion. 

I see waaaayyy too many doing jobs they aren't really passionate about.  They go to their 9-5 job, do it, come home and repeat without much satisfaction other than earning money.

Jan 5, 13 3:12 pm

The two guys above nailed it.

The biggest deficiency in the Architecture curriculum today is the lack of practical skills taught; most schools (such as UIC, where I went) are so theory and design heavy that they almost neglect to teach you how to draw and annotate detailed drawings, compile sheets, understand construction phasing, etc. However, I must note Bob Somol's opinion on why this is (he is the principal of architecture at UIC). He wants school to spend the time mending a student's mind to think like an architect, and he believes that textbook knowledge such as what I listed above are best acquired through real-world experience, mainly internships. I sort of agree with him and disagree with him all in one, considering how hard it is getting an internship when they know that you are inexperienced in those areas.

As for the worth of an architecture degree, I have this rather radical opinion that, and bear with me here, that Architecture as a broad field is not really about buildings at all. Crazy right? Well I believe that what schools teach us today through the Architecture curriculum is more of a way of life, a way of shaping the mind and your thoughts to think design, layout, organization, and more design. It is a degree that will transform you into a critic of fashion, of graphic design, of every single icon and logo you lay your eyes on, of every book cover, of every painting and sculpture, and quite literally of everything made by man. Architects everywhere are grand designers, they just choose to make their medium "buildings". Thus, as stated above, and as corny as it sounds, an architecture degree will give you passion and appreciation for the visual beauty around us.

Lastly, as ugly as it may sound, no one here became (or is becoming) an architect for the money. That should be quite clear. There is so much more to this profession than the medium salary that we have come to accept. That being said, if you want a translation of the worth of this degree into long-term dollars, I have bad news for you. But I can say with certainty that you will be content with the perks and benefits of being a real architect to be worth more than that extra money could buy.

Jan 5, 13 11:15 pm

how can you have passion and not be happy?

that doesn't make sense to me. if you are passionate about something, you do it because you enjoy it,  and you enjoy it because it makes you happy. 

Jan 6, 13 3:30 am

^ well passion in architecture, but unhappy that you're struggling to get by in life, struggling to pay bills, struggling to save money for the future etc

Jan 6, 13 5:51 am

of course you can have passion and not be happy. passion often sets you on a path of searching and - in many cases - what you're searching for is (nearly?) impossible in the given circumstances. 

that said, architecture education is priceless. it's been said by others above but the essence of it is that an architecture education gives you a way of looking at the world differently. aspirationally. critically.

you will be dissatisfied with what you see and you will want to make interventions. whether you get to fulfill the aspirations with which your education fills you will be a result of the decisions you make after school.

get all you can out of school while you're in it. absorb everything. follow the paths along which instructors lead you, whether you trust them or not, just to see what happens. never miss a lecture, even if you miss a deadline. overuse every resource, because you may not have the same access to them later. find a mentor and wear him/her out. 


Jan 6, 13 8:46 am

if your school is molding your mind to believe that architecture is this thing that is about something other designing buildings, i think the value of your education (if you want to become an architect) is pretty much worthless.  i think the role of an architect in the building process is being reduced, and our compensation along with it, at least in part because this sort of thing isn't offensive to us.  it's like a lot of us are so stuck with these grand ideas that building owners and contractors have given up on us, and they have to design buildings themselves because we can't contribute anymore.  if you keep thinking architecture is outside of the building trades, our role is going to continue to be reduced to drafting and stamping.

if you want to be a successful architect, it seems to me that you would want to be able to contribute in a meaningful way to the design and construction of buildings in the real world.  a worthwhile education should teach you how to do that.  if your professors are unable to teach that because the only thing they know how to do is some useless mental masturbation, then you're not being prepared to be an architect.  i really think you would be better served for your money if they also taught you a bit about buildings.

Jan 6, 13 10:32 am


I completely agree with your post. I find that the professors that  I had in school had a very naive assumption on what an building architect in society is and mainly used academia to serve their own agenda. Very few of them even had architectural registration, and if  you look closely at any school's faculty biography's, only a fraction do. This naivety stems from the fact that the majority of professor's never actually go thru the mill, and are instead handpicked and groomed by faculty on their oral skills. They can talk their asses off about tangential ideas on architecture, but ask them to wade through the IBC or put a construction detail together...

An architectural education is what you make of it, but even this has slowly degenerated into a glorified liberal arts degree. Nothing of what you learn in school will actually be needed in the "real world". Look at any course requirement and design will account for a whopping 6 or 8 credits per semester, but construction management or structures will account for a measly 1 or 2.

Search on youtube for any design critique, and you'll be surprised how far their heads a large share of critics have up their asses. It easily turns into a game of one-upmanship, a contest of "who has the biggest cock" at the expense of the student's efforts, or intellectual sniping. Many guest critics see this as an academic job opportunity.

At the end of the day you can't live on a theory, or support your family on one.

Jan 8, 13 11:52 am

What does it train you to do? Depends on your education - but our predominant educational legacy is faltering hybrid of liberal-arts and applied systems. Unless you have a technical education you won't graduate as a production-asset to a business. In this economy that is priority - what tools can you use efficiently and can you follow professional processes. Your portfolio is 'cute' unless you showing the business what tools you are competent with and that you are worth the cost of training.

Like other posters have said - production skills. I think it has been a fault of our education to rely on the profession to make us technically skilled as a result of the last 20 years of economics (when money/construction was bubbling up). This is no longer the case - the work you do is primarily bureaucratic - learn to manage your time, your tasks and priorities. Good ideas require seeing as much of the world as possible - that takes time, so let that go.

Jan 8, 13 12:16 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: