Grad School or Work?


Hi, fellas!

I need a little advice.

I am currently finishing the final semester, and receiving a bachelor of science degree in architecture from Ohio State University. Since last semester, I have been working at a small architecture firm in Columbus. It's a small firm, but a well-recognized one. And better still, the architects work on a wide range of scales and programs, and let me help with little bits of each project. The training I've had so far has been excellent.

I was hired there only coincidentally; I initially visited to meet up with a former professor, and was unaware that they were looking for an intern). and after spending the last 5 months working, I've come to realize how fortunate I am to have not only found a job in architecture, but one as successful and interesting.

In the middle of January, I completed the last of my graduate school applications. I'm on track to head straight into a masters program, but since getting hired at my office, I've kept the option of staying home this year in the back of my mind. I'll need to log those intern hours sometime, and I do really enjoy my job. My doubts concern whether I will find one like this one after I graduate. And I'm excited to begin graduate school, but it wouldn't kill me to wait a year either. A job also means money...

I applied at many schools I'm not so confident I'll get into, and I would certainly love the opportunity to reapply down the road, should that be the case.

Anyway, with all factors considered, I'd appreciate thought from anyone who has (or has had) similar conundrums.


Feb 8, 13 7:42 pm

If I were you, I'd stay on with the job. If you're enjoying your time, getting real challenges, and learning a lot, I don't see any compelling reason to leave. What you're learning now in the office is actually incredibly valuable, and when you do go back to school, you'll be all the more prepared for it. Or at least that's how I found it.

Looking back at my undergrad days, I wasted so much time... You know, random coffee breaks, studio chit-chat, etc. . After working in a rigorous office environment, I learned to value my time more. To treat studio more like a job. Arrive early, get to work, and have results to show... Even if things didn't really work out, it's still much easier to get some meaningful feedback on a series of unresolved drawings/sketch models. That, and I imagine your "production" skills will be much greater. Less time dicking around with auto cad / learning new modelling or render programs means more time to do the interesting stuff.

And like you said, you're getting paid, and logging hours. Seems like an easy decision to me. Grad school can wait another year.

Feb 8, 13 8:05 pm

Work. Easy decision..schools will always be there to accept your cash in exchange for that piece of paper... time out of school working will give you time to grow professionally, socially and technically.....way more important the the loose parameters of design school. If and when you decide to go, you will be more that much focused and efficient.

Feb 9, 13 12:15 pm

Do you want to be a student, or do you want to be an architect?

Feb 9, 13 12:17 pm

Since he will be getting a BS, he will have to go back to school at some point to get his M.Arch in order to become licensed Miles.

If you love it there and don't get into your dream school this round I'd say wait a year. You will learn tons of valuable information.

Feb 9, 13 12:29 pm

Drew, I also say work... but maybe you can do your M. Arch part-time? I am in my final semester of grad school now and one of my classmates decided last year to go to class part time while she worked full time. She can focus more on projects too since she is only taking two classes at a time now. Life isn't always a race.

I also have a personal question for you regarding your hourly rate at work since you are still in school. I have been working part time through grad school at a small, but reputable firm for over a year now. So happy to have the experience, but I feel grossly underpaid (surprise lol). We work in different locations of the country, but I am curious to see what interns still in school are making. And do you expect to get paid more once you do graduate/will your firm even offer more? If you don't feel like answering publicly you can message me or at not at all, I understand. 

Feb 9, 13 12:30 pm

I was in the same situation last year and decided to defer all M.Arch acceptances (3, two in Canada and one at a good US program) to work instead for a year.

I cannot recommend this iotuib enough, now that I am approaching the end of my year out from school. There is an incredible amount of information and skills I never would have had the chance to hone in school quite like I've been able to do in a true office environment. I found an internship/full-time job at a good firm in southern Ontario and have worked on all aspects of project work, gaining a ton of valuable experience. At this point I am seriously considering extending it to a second year out to continue growing professionally and personally. Sure, academia is a great place as a vacuum for design work, but when you can come into that environment with a much better skill set, your work output improves exponentially, both in quality and quantity.

Feb 9, 13 2:51 pm
future hope

Work for a year (or more) and then go to grad school.  The work experience will be so important for landing a job after grad school.  Someone with the school but no experience is going to have a tough time finding a job.  Also, I think you will gain more from the grad school experience after working for awhile.

Feb 9, 13 5:36 pm

temporality: I make about 12 dollars per hour at the moment. I'm not sure I'll be paid more after I graduate, but that isn't something that I have brought up at work. At my interview though, it was hinted that 12/hr was where I would "start".

I agree that the experience will be valuable... There are obviously countless skills that can only be built by spending time in an office. And having both work experience, and an undergraduate architecture degree will prepare me for grad school even more. At the moment, I don't think my time management could be much worse. And there's probably a good reason that (from what I've read) the average age of the typical architecture graduate student is in the late twenties...

At the moment, I'm not absolutely certain that I'll be able to stay on at my office through next year. I spoke with a coworker who advised me to mention it again after I begin hearing back from schools. And most of the schools to which I applied don't allow applicants to defer. Based on my observations though, I would expect that next year, they'd still like to keep an intern around.

Feb 9, 13 9:42 pm

Yup, I'm grossly underpaid. Thanks for being candid! I think we should both ask for raises soon :)

Feb 9, 13 10:50 pm
Dr. Architecture

$12/hour translates to $24,960 for an annual salary, but do not only focus on financial compensation.  What about benefits - health insurance, vacation/sick days, etc.  How support is the firm on IDP?  Is there overtime?  

I will agree with most others that pursuing work is a better option but only you can decide knowing all the circumstances.  What are the criteria that you will use to make this decision?    Have you thought about pursuing other firms?  The KSA Career Fair is coming up; why not seek a more appropriate firm.

If you gain admission to your top 1-2 programs, you have a more difficult decision.  There is no right or wrong decision, just what is best for YOU.


Feb 10, 13 7:27 am

So would you be a junior designer, or merely an 'intern'? I agree that working is a better way to go, generally, but NOT if you're only an unsalaried intern. That kind of experience is not going to enhance your resume in the same way that a junior designer position would. (can you even use intern-hours for your IDP?)

You don't need to make your decision yet. Stop mulling it over for awhile, concentrate on your work. When you get your acceptance letters back, consider the offers. If one of them is really excellent, reconsider your situation. Maybe at that time you have a candid conversation with your office and ask them to hire you on as full-time/salaried if you're not already. Work your butt off until then.

Bottom line, in my opinion it is not worth putting your trajectory on hold in order to work as an intern for 12$ an hour. I'm sure you would learn alot, but the important thing is to find a serious, 'real' position. If you're very hesitant about graduate school now then I would begin searching for that junior architect position.

Feb 10, 13 11:13 am

Yes- sorry, I probably should have mentioned that when I explained my situation in the first place.

I am only an intern with an hourly wage. I'd say that I get a good range of work to do as far as this type of job goes, being that I'm not always doing redlines, and redlines only. I am receiving Revit training, much as it pains me to say, and I know that will at least me an attractive skill to have coming out of undergrad, because obviously, it isn't taught at Ohio State.

I understand that putting my trajectory on hold is only a good decision if you feel that you aren't excited about grad school. I do feel I have the momentum to go straight into it.... And I can't be absolutely sure about this, but I don't think I'd lose that momentum after waiting a year. 

Feb 10, 13 4:14 pm

I understand that putting my trajectory on hold is only a good decision if you feel that you aren't excited about grad school.

In my opinion, your feelings are not good reasons at all, my friend! Don't spin your wheels for over a year, working as an hourly-wage intern. You can do that in the summers during graduate school.

Either obtain for yourself a full-time position so that you gain legitimate experience, or go to graduate school. You need that credential to become an architect.

Besides, by the time you would go to graduate school (over six months from now), you will have learned everything you could use in graduate school from your current firm. Believe me, that is mooorrreee than enough time to intern at one office.

Feb 10, 13 10:10 pm

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