How long is too long to be unemployed in architecture?


I am an architect currently residing in a financially depressed mid western state. With 2.5 years of experience I have been looking for work for 4.5 years with little success. So far I have only found two 2 month contract positions with a mentor of mine. I have sent out over 300 resumes / portfolios to major cities using out of state addresses to no avail.

Where I live the auto industry jobs are prevalent and I have an opportunity to study  Unigraphics and Catia V5 for free and receive a paid internship working in automotive part design. This opportunity will help me pay my student loans quicker, is more stable than architecture, and pays x2. I have also been looking into UI/UX.


My question is,  with 4.5 years of unemployment is there a possibility (without going back to graduate school) that I could still obtain employment in the near future, specifically when the economy turns around? Or should I take the opportunity I have now and never look back at architecture?

Mar 5, 13 12:29 pm

Never look back.  I think you answered your own question in the last sentence of the second paragraph.

Mar 5, 13 12:33 pm

2.5 employed and 4.5 NOT employed.  Are you honest about your own skills and interest level?  You don't have to answer that.  Is there something else you would rather do?  You have to answer that.

Mar 5, 13 1:17 pm

Do you have a family (husband, wife, kids) or something? Why would you not just pack your bags and fly to New York, Chicago, or San Fran. Many of my friends were unemployed. They flew to New York, crashed on a couch and went door to door at architecture firms. ALL OF THEM GOT JOBS at an architecture firm within 2 months. Even the ones who were out of meaningful work for more than 2 years.

I would go for the auto stuff, but if you want to give it one last ditch effort (and you really truly love architecture) you will have to do more than send out resumes. Pack the bags and dive-in without looking.

Mar 5, 13 1:29 pm

Go with the flow.

Mar 5, 13 2:49 pm

Dear archinecter,

I understand where you are coming from, as you likely graduated at a similar time from school when I did. I took whatever jobs I could to stay employed and it didn't always mean working directly for a firm.

The people on here are asking about your skill set and interest because they are probably having a hard time understanding why someone who is so interested in architecture isn't actually working in the field itself? Perhaps they think that if you were really hungry, that you would find a way! Don't be discouraged! I know how frustrating it is to be unemployed. Keep your head up! One door closes and another opens. Maybe life is telling you something, that perhaps you shouldn't be in architecture itself but maybe car design is the way to go? I am unsure. If you really want a job with a firm, start volunteering for habitat for humanity, look into working for construction companies as a project coordinator where you will get to talk to and interact with architecture firms every day, and lastly attend every AIA event that you can!

I wish you luck! 

Mar 5, 13 3:50 pm


my heart goes out to you! i have seen several individuals I was fortunate to grad. w/ who have'nt found a job yet (3yrs since grad, 5 since undergrad). i really do feel horrible for them or the flip side is they are working but completely outside of their field. i know one guy is working for a furnace co. doing installs, and another girl is working at a catering service.

Im not a big fan of my current gig but i feel extrmely blessed compared to those guys and yourself, but i think in the end its about how bad you want to be an architect?

Mar 5, 13 4:11 pm

I have come to the realization that in our profession, you need to have a backup plan.. Do something on the side which will bring in extra income or one you can fall back on in case you get laid off, don't find a job, get sick of this profession or just aren't getting paid enough for the amount of time you put in.  With our skills, it isn't easy to do something not entirely related to architecture.

Mar 5, 13 5:51 pm

with that said, its been a year and half since my graduation and I'm still jobless.  

Mar 5, 13 5:53 pm

OP, I feel your pain to a certain extent. Graduated 2009 and have very limited experience. You might want to do the car thing and continue to seek architecture work. Or you could move to a more opportune location.

mtt9999, not necessary. I lived in DC and Atlanta and attacked both markets aggressively with little to show for it. Way more than just 2 months.

accesskb, welcome to the sad club :( . I'm coming up on 4 years this May. Time flys. Womp womp.

Mar 5, 13 6:18 pm

being out of jobs ain't that bad.. it is when your entire family and extended family keeps asking you about your job.  They had this impression that after graduating I'd be building skycrapers ><


Quentin: what've you been doing in the 4 years?

Mar 5, 13 7:33 pm

If you click my profile name I believe it shows my resume. Which just doesn't show my latest job. Basically I was a business analyst up in till Oct of last yr. I also did some arch contract work on the side over the years. Since Oct. I quit the analyst thing, moved to Atlanta. Where I have been unemployed. I did get an arch job last month, but  was laid off a few weeks later. Right now I do a few random things online for a few dollars. However I need a full time job. I don't even know what to apply for outside of arch jobs, I have no other interest.

Mar 5, 13 10:11 pm


It's really weird how some entities, like governments or utilities, will hire people with backgrounds that are all over the map and expect them to bloom AND enjoy business analyst positions.  People with business and economics degrees often don't like those jobs.  Those people want to sit in a quiet area that allows for concentration and work on spreadsheets instead of going from one bureaucratic meeting to the next, as I can imagine might have been the case with you.  An acquaintance's brother ended up as a management auditor in government with an English degree and then, a year later, opted to be an educator.  What kinds of tasks did that job you had entail?

Mar 5, 13 10:40 pm

Archinecter1, dont look back. Frankly speaking its not looking too good for you in architecture. Remember the biggest enemy of architects are architects themselves, and will try to put you down in every way possible, especially when there are many kids who are fresher (and cheaper) than you.

Do car design and lead the rock star life. Much more exciting than architecture.

Mar 5, 13 11:18 pm

Do car design and lead the rock star life. Much more exciting than architecture.

I tried that - studied industrial design at San Jose State - came up with a design for an electric car to be built in San Carlos,Ca. - they laughed "it will never happen" - Somehow Elon Musk got it and the rest is all Tesla - I had my chance - 

Mar 6, 13 12:54 pm

I agree 100% with sameolddoctor.  Ignore any other architect who tries to look down on your decision to shift into a different design field, one which is frankly more lucrative and exciting than buildings are.  I won't be surprised if a decade from now your skills and experience make you SUPER valuable to some kind of crossover hybrid design realm that is yet to come (and will be led by industrial designers, not us retro brick devotees).

Good luck and keep learning.

Mar 6, 13 1:12 pm

Thanks to everyone for their words of encouragement and honest advice. I've been pondering this change for a while now. It's difficult to let go of something you worked so hard for and was passionate about but perhaps life has something else for me in mind.

@Donna Sink. Thanks for your encouragement. If architecture is out of the picture it would be nice to get off into other facets of design like those cool bus shelters you designed. Any idea on what type of agencies or local municipalities I could contact for that type of work? How did you get into designing bus shelters?

@Xenakis. I know you do UX/UI now, but how did you manage to get into designing cars? Where able to land any opportunities in that after school?

To those who question my commitment to the profession I have done everything I could to seek employment within my financial means. I have slept on friend's coaches for several months while looking for work in a major city. I've flown across the country to various coasts for interviews as well. But I must pay back my obligations so I can comfortably support myself.

Mar 6, 13 1:51 pm

A paying position is way better than unemployment.  A paying position at 2X is way, way better.  Take it and don't look back.  And if you end up looking back in a few years, there is no law against taking another run at architecture.  This is strictly a fair-weather profession, and the weather may not clear for many years.  Plus, this profession is horribly over supplied with architects and wannabes.  It's not your fault--it's just reality.  The people criticizing you most loudly for leaving will be the ones secretly kicking themselves for not making the same decision.

Mar 6, 13 1:52 pm


I work as a Production Architect/Designer whatever - unlicensed - I studied trans design when I was an ID major at SJSU - Never worked in car design - do UX/UI design on an occasional basis for structural design programs.


here is a Uber Industrial designer - basically changing the game everyday

Mar 6, 13 2:37 pm

just out of curiosity, are there any license requirements for car design?

Mar 6, 13 3:10 pm


Thanks for your advice. How could I take another stab at architecture in a few years? Wouldn't the opportunities be dried up for me then?

Mar 6, 13 3:13 pm

Archinecter1, the future is going to be wild.  like Donna said, you never know when your skills may cross back into some autotransit/arch realm.  also, it may be beneficial to you to start studying future trends with regards to electric car infrastructures.  At some point in the near future, when cars become 100% electric, the stations and infrastructure required to support this shift will certainly require an understanding of both architecture, urban design, and auto design.  You could possibly carve yourself an interesting nitch if you understand car design but can also help to solve urban design problems that are related.

If an auto company is hesitant to bring a new technology on the market because we lack the infrastructure, you could possibly figure out a way to integrate the needed infrastructure into existing landscapes, homes, ect... in a beautiful and efficient way...All I'm saying is to keep doing your thing, but keep thinking architecture. 

Mar 6, 13 3:29 pm
Tinbeary There there

jla-x, I'll take a stab at answering your question about licensing car designers. Car designers work in teams, industrial designers are not licensed, engineers are. Archinecter1, there is no reason you can't take a stab at architecture again in a few years if you find yourself wanting to do so. Car design will enhance your ability to do architecture. No architect employer should look at car designing experience as a bad thing, and if they do then you don't want to work for them.

Mar 6, 13 3:30 pm

Remember that perfect is the enemy of good. If you have a good opportunity in front of you, take it, instead of waiting around for the perfect opportunity. You may not be able to see the end game right now, where the path will lead. Walk down it anyways. You'll figure it out along the way.

Mar 6, 13 4:06 pm

You can't predict the future, but having your student loans paid off and an interesting, unconventional design resume sounds better than possibly more years of underemployment.  If nothing else, an industrial design background is certainly going to make you stand out from somebody who has been scratching out an architectural existence in the more typical ways.  Do we assume you are in the Detroit area and would prefer to stay there?  If so, does this new opportunity provide opportunities for some real networking outside the profession?  As in "future clients"?

A lot of this profession (and life) is dumb luck and being in the right place at the right time.  Personally, I'd be intrigued by industrial design exposure.

Your generation is really getting a trial by fire.  The ones who survive are going to be wiser than we Boomers ever were, and tough as two dollar steak.  Good luck.

Mar 6, 13 5:48 pm

car design? hmmmm i'd think that market is ever tougher than architecture.  I mean how many new cars are released every year.  There must be literally thousands of car designers trying to get work.  You'd have to be exceptional car designer/architect to get your foot into that field.. xDD

Mar 6, 13 6:21 pm

I used to live near Nissan Design America in La Jolla, and would peer into their windows to see what they were working on - later at Rockstar Games, we hired them to do car design for one of our games "MidNight Club 2" - they are very talented -  lot of the 3D game modelers that worked on cars had degrees in Industrial Design - the team leader built a 1966 Cobra - if you can't get into car design - then try games - you do mostly the same type of work with Rhino and or Maya

Mar 6, 13 6:30 pm


Yes, I am in Detroit. I prefer not to stay here but for financial reasons the auto opportunity is the best route for me to go now. In the future I would like to relocate to somewhere that has a more diverse economy, but I'm willing to go with the flow.

For clarity, in the mean time I would not be designing cars, but car parts to certain components in Catia V5 and Unigraphics, which are 3D programs similar to Rhino.  I would be very open to car body design and have looked into car body design using Rhino and Alias programs.

Mar 6, 13 7:22 pm

Architecture does suck in most ways, but is fairly open to late bloomers. It is an old woman/man's profession. So if you go back to architecture when you are older, it will still be OK...

Mar 6, 13 11:18 pm

Looking forward, recent trends in the incorporation of digital fabrication with architectural design and production might work in your favor, should you opt for the car part design. Time will tell, of course.

Mar 6, 13 11:48 pm

Think before you act. It is like dream come true, if you get a job in your area of interest. Try hard until you get a good job in the architecture field. Work on your weaknesses, if you have any. All the best. 

Mar 7, 13 2:39 am

Check out the March 4 issue of Forbes magazine.  There is an article entitled "The Evolution of Everyday Things" which talks about advanced computerization allowing redesign of components to strip out material and costs.  It applies to building components including structural elements and skns as well.  An example of industrial design and designers "poaching" on what architects used to think was their exclusive domain.

You will live (and practice) in interesting times.

Mar 7, 13 10:14 am

it took me almost 5 years, people skills are as crucial as Revit.

Mar 9, 13 11:47 am

Hi Peter. How is your new position going?

Mar 9, 13 4:27 pm
Dapper Napper

You gotta eat!

Mar 9, 13 4:54 pm

I remember reading about Peter's story, gives me hope! Shame the profession is so tough. Like it's ridiculous.

Mar 10, 13 2:44 pm

Seriously ... there are assessment tests which show what other skills and careers might be available to you (the OP).  There are lots of people who studied architecture, have done it long enough (2 to 5 years), and bailed ... some for related occupations and others for all new fields, and remained in those new fields.  That's why I ran a thread on "what else?"  There are other things I wouldn't have minded doing.  For one thing, it would be nicer to be in a line of work where you do your job/career, go home, and DON'T have to rip open a magazine cover about people who are treated like they are a breath away from Hollywood celebrities.  I know of one guy who went from the design professions to being a fireman, as one extreme, and said "whew."

Mar 10, 13 4:14 pm

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