Is architecture a hard career?


I am asking this because I found this on the internet. Look at this


I think this guy is completely wrong about what he is saying because architecture is not easy. 

Firstly, it is a long career which needs a great sacrifice. 

Secondly, You have to be born with ability of creativity. So, not everyone can be an architect.

Thirdly, it is a career that is always changing. It is not like Laws that is a career which changes once a while when they modify the constitution or something similar. 

The problem with architecture is that has had tough times, more than other career have had. 

May 20, 11 2:57 pm

I think that many aspiring architects do not feel that it is difficult because you are enjoying what you are studying. 

May 20, 11 3:09 pm

It doesn't pay well.  

May 20, 11 4:02 pm

It doesn't pay well.


Tell that to the 96% of the general population that makes less than you do.

May 20, 11 4:05 pm

But I think architects have to start to change that. 

May 20, 11 4:16 pm

It's a matter of what value society-as-a-whole gives this profession.


Just before starting my BARCH I waited tables and one of the clients (an architect) said: "Do not go into architecture, it does not pay well".  My thought, even after a few years of finishing my BARCH was that I would find a way to make a decent living even if it meant having to change to the profession (pretty idealistic).  But there are a few factor which work against good wages, 1)It's a global market - architects in NY, LA, or any other major metropolitan area are competing for the same jobs throughout the world,  2)Architects whom come from wealthy families or somehow have the capital to work for starchitects for $600/mo in Manhattan, make it nearly impossible for the rest of us whom have school loans to pay within 6 months of exiting school. 3)Architects whom are willing to work for free really fu@k things up. It devalues the rest of us including themselves.


These four words will never leave your mind: It doesn't pay well.   

May 20, 11 4:34 pm

You take Yahoo! Answers seriously?


May 20, 11 5:50 pm

That is the problem with architects that All of architects think that they will never be well paid. Of course, if they think that way. They're never gonna change that. Architects need optimism that they can change. 

May 20, 11 10:51 pm

You are right ! Architects need to value their time more. I think with too much passion many architects tend to doing thing for free or at low fees. Putting too much time and effort without pushing back is devaluing the profession.  


I think architecture is the career with most negative people because none of the architect want to see a change in their career. The problem is not economy. The problem is architect's mentality. It is impossible to progress in a career if people always think that way. All architects say the same " Oh, architecture does not pay well." Of course, architecture is never going to progress with people like that. 

May 20, 11 10:55 pm

I just say something : " Nothing is impossible"

May 20, 11 10:56 pm

The problem is not economy.


It isn't?  What is the unemployment rate in this profession 30%?

May 23, 11 2:26 am
le bossman

the average architect's pay is not in the top 4% of the population


May 23, 11 9:13 am

Yes architecture is a challenging career - which is part of what makes it so rewarding.  


I highly recommend this entire Matt Taibbi column, but will put the money (ha) bit here:


I would give just about anything to sit David Brooks down in front of some single mother somewhere who's pulling two shitty minimum-wage jobs just to be able to afford a pair of $19 Mossimo sneakers at Target for her kid, and have him tell her, with a straight face, that her main problem is that she doesn't work as hard as Jamie Dimon.

Only a person who has never actually held a real job could say something like this. There is, of course, a huge difference between working 80 hours a week in a profession that you love and which promises you vast financial rewards, and working 80 hours a week digging ditches for a septic-tank company, or listening to impatient assholes scream at you at some airport ticket counter all day long, or even teaching disinterested, uncontrollable kids in some crappy school district with metal detectors on every door.


Most of the work in this world completely sucks balls and the only reward most people get for their work is just barely enough money to survive, if that. The 95% of people out there who spend all day long shoveling the dogshit of life for subsistence wages are basically keeping things running just well enough so that David Brooks, me and the rest of that lucky 5% of mostly college-educated yuppies can live embarrassingly rewarding and interesting lives in which society throws gobs of money at us for pushing ideas around on paper (frequently, not even good ideas) ....


Brooks is right that most of the people in that 5% bracket log heavy hours, but where he's wrong is in failing to recognize that most of us have enough shame to know that what we do for a living isn't really working. I pull absolutely insane hours in my current profession, to the point of having almost no social life at all, but I know better than to call what I do for a living work. I was on a demolition crew when I was much younger, the kind of job where you have to wear a dust mask all day long, carry buckets full of concrete, and then spend all night picking fiberglass shards out of your forearms from ripping insulation out of the wall.


If I had to do even five hours of that work today I'd bawl my fucking eyes out for a month straight. I'm not complaining about my current good luck at all, but I would wet myself with shame if I ever heard it said that I work even half as hard as the average diner waitress.


Bold emphasis mine.  I'm exactly like Taibbi: I log insane hours, have high stress relative to income, and have no stability whatsoever.  But I use the word "work" with delicacy lately, especially when I look at the laborers and craftsmen on my jobsites: it's their WORK that lets me do what I love every day, and even at low pay I'm fortunate.

May 23, 11 9:37 am

Work smart, not hard. If only it were that easy, but that is what I strive for at least.

May 23, 11 9:43 am

Donna, work can also be 'mental' in nature. I don't really agree with that article. I think it's wrong somehow to glamorize the importance of waitressing at a diner, and sneer at the importance of designing and planning buildings.


I do agree that anyone employed in our profession is at once privileged and blessed to be here, instead of being uneducated or impoverished. 

May 23, 11 12:03 pm

According to this, the average architect's salary of $62,600 puts them in the top 1% for incomes in the world. Sorry, le bossman. Architects, especially ones not self-employed, have some of the highest salaries in the workforce.


I just don't think how many of you realize how many people in this country make $12,000-18,000 a year.

May 23, 11 12:33 pm

yeah.. i agree with jk3hl...

why is physical labor the only type of 'work'?


in addition.. i've spent time with construction crews on job sites..heard alot of talk about money... a laborer on a jobsite..the guy that walks around and does odd jobs and cleans the floors and such..makes 65k as a union employee here in NYC.  That's not including overtime...that's working 7-3 or 7-2 five days a week.  That's STARTING PAY!  If i worked as a carpenter I would expect to make much more than that.


I think the real problem with our profession is articles like that one (or at least that excerpt)...that belittle what we do for a profession and create the festering, prevailing self loathing/self hatred/low to non existent self confidence that what we do is unimportant and not work.  BULL SHIT!  Ask one of those laborers to tell you how they'd coordinate a job..or how they would do one other job on site that was outside their task.  Admittedly a head GC on a job has a tough job..but they're pulling in 100k min.  A 26 million dollar job I was on a few years ago was run by a 28 year old kid who had two cars and a house..The car that he regularly drove to the site was a Hummer.  The site super was the one that did all of the negotiating and real work with all of the trades and designers.


We as architects should not be perpetuating this idea that what we do is not important... there are plenty of people in the world that do that already.  I could work as a dishwasher tomorrow without any problem..would I expect to get paid more for it because it's harder physical labor?  of course not... same goes for most physical labor... the reason we get paid more, (but much more when you think about it) that we went to at least five years of college and have studied and worked our asses off.  That education is not cheap and shouldn't be belittled. 


How many doctors or lawyers or whomever would agree with that article?  We as a profession need to be the ones who think that we deserve not only what we get paid, but that maybe even deserve to get paid more.


I realize that I am fortunate to be have attained the education I did and to have had the opportunities I have had..and i understand that some do not get those same opportunities.  However, I don't think that should be used to say that what we do is not work.  I've worked summer jobs, carpentry, cleaned bathrooms, churches, painted etc.  and I would much rather go home physically tired than mentally exhausted as I do most nights when I leave my architecture job.

May 23, 11 12:41 pm

I sit now in a cushy, air-conditioned office and all I do all day is pump CAD so our clients can get permits for the kind of buildings they warned you about in architecture school and I love it because compared to what I used to be doing, this is a cakewalk and it is in my profession.


Although I don't agree with glamorizing blue collar jobs, and we need to acknowledge that this profession is damn demanding.  Most of the folks I met working retail or party/tool rental fell into the jobs, looking for work, and would jump at the opprotunity to escape.  None of them are there because they really want to be.  The reasons I escaped were luck, salesmanship, and i worked damn hard in college  The barrier to entry in our profession is high, but once your in I'm not really sure it is more demanding than most other professional services.


It could always be worse...

May 23, 11 12:46 pm

"To calculate the most accurate position for each individual we assume that the world's total population is 6 billion¹ and the average worldwide annual income is $5,000². "


the $5,000 figure is taken from a quote on CNN from you think salaries have gone up a bit since then?


plus those numbers are for the world population correct?  top 1% based on that study starts at $47.5k a year.


why are we comparing ourselves to blue collar professions anyway?  what do those numbers have to do with anything JJR?

May 23, 11 12:46 pm

Because I am far too lazy to calculate what the spread is for architects salaries in the U.S. since most income statistics in the U.S. are for household income. Just in the last 5 years, architects' salaries have increased from $62,600 (AIA, 2005) to $73,400 (AIA, 2008) to $80,900 (Architect's Magazine, 2010)— a 5 year increase of $18,300. Also, I'm wrong about the top 4%. On closer inspection, it's the top 7-8%.


Here are the figures for 2010 and be sure to read the comments. After reading the comments, do you want to pay any of these people what they think they are worth?


Complaining about compensation is alienating and reductive. How many people on this messageboard might actually be well-heeled but avoiding talking about their income for fear of trial-by-mob? These sort of discussions hurt more than they help when all everyone does is throw up their hands and say "IT'S NOT ENOUGH MONEY."

May 23, 11 1:43 pm

I'm sure if we ask nicely, we can e-mail some people from KPF or Gensler up in New York to discuss their $350,000-plus salaries, their bonus packages and their firms' billion-dollar project backlogs.


You know, if you want to feel really depressed about not making $350,000 or are sitting on top of $1.5 billion in unbuilt work.

May 23, 11 1:45 pm
le bossman

personally i rarely if ever complain about compensation.  but if we are going to include the salaries of every single person in the entire world as a measure for what the average american architect makes, then the average american cashier probably makes more than that as well.


i have 6 years of experience, and by and large it is solid experience.  i make $35k.  i don't get any benefits.  the most i've ever made is 45k.  i'm not complaining, its just that it's not that much money for a person of my experience and education level, in the 3rd largest city in the US, that's all. for the two years prior, i worked as a cashier, a chairlift operator, and a dog shampoo salesman during the worst parts of the recession.  none of these jobs paid more than $9 an hour, and two of them were also in chicago.  so i am more than well aware of my financial position.  everything is relative.  personally i'm extremely thankful to be having work in my field, and in general enjoy what i do on a day to day basis.   


yes, architects whining on and on about how much their lives suck is irritating.  but in your scenario, the average architect in this economy (which i consider myself to be) isn't exactly making out like a king, either.  none of my colleagues' (who've lost work) wages would outstrip mine by more than 15% right now.   i don't know ANYONE who's received a raise since 2008, at least anyone who admits to it.  i have worked my ass off, really worked my ass off, for the last 13 years to be able to do this.  and i'm proud of that.  i don't complain, but don't make it out to be something that it isn't, either.  it is what it is.   

May 23, 11 2:21 pm

so naming two corporate firms proves your point how?

i think most of your posts seem to be cherry picking information that meets your limited criteria for proving whatever point you're trying to make without actually answering any arguments that differ from your own.


i know a lot of people that worked at kpf...i'm sure none of them made $350k.  The principles probably do make at least that...but if we're talking many firms have any where near the number of employees that KPF has?  You're talking about one of the highest grossing firms on the planet and then talking about some of their highest paid employees to somehow say that we as a profession are paid that the point you're trying to make?

May 23, 11 2:22 pm

and those highest paid employees in our profession still don't get anywhere close to sniffing any top forbes lists or the like.  I'm not complaining about my compensation.  i live fairly comfortably..BUT i also know I won't be buying a home anytime soon...that many of my friends with similar numbers of experience..and many of my friends that are far younger than me expect and ARE paid far more than I'll make in the coming years if I stay in this profession.


I had roommates two years ago working in motion graphics that expected and were paid $400-$500 a day.  They were even paid when the company that promised to hire them didn't keep them for as long as promised or didn't have work...less than their day rate, but still..can you ever imagine that happening in architecture? (these were kids right out of school)


i guess what I'm saying.. enough about calling it complaining...ENOUGH with trying to compare us to blue collar workers...ENOUGH of not expecting to be compensated somewhere close to other professions with similar years of experience and schooling.


We as a profession need to stop putting ourselves down.


And count me as one of the people that has been paid more or less the same amount since around 2006-7.

May 23, 11 2:33 pm


Quote below taken from the Architecture survey you used to prove your point... again if you do two seconds of research you realize that the number you're using to 'prove' that salaries have risen is flawed...

1. the fact that it's based on 1001 respondents ...MAJOR small sample size

2. a pool that had to have at least 50% nonresidential work?  what portion of the profession do you think was most effected by the economic downturn?

3. the average age of respondents was 58.1 yrs old.


I do think it's accurate to say that 25% of the profession in the US was laid off in the past few years.


"In January, we polled nearly 1,300 readers of this magazine, drawn at random from our subscriber lists. (For every completed survey, we promised to donate $2 to the nonprofit Public Architecture.) We did a screening to eliminate all respondents except those working at architecture firms in the United States with a portfolio of at least 50 percent nonresidential architecture. Our final respondent pool of 1,001 people spans all job titles and experience levels in the profession, although management-level architects and sole practitioners dominate: 77 percent gave their title as principal/partner/owner or president/vice-president/C-title, and the median age was 51.8."

May 23, 11 2:43 pm

It's a chicken-and-egg-thing. Bottom line is Architects are not trained to make money. Our main priority is to service.  We are a service industry that doesn't know how to make money.  

May 23, 11 2:47 pm

I don't think the article i linked was glamorizing blue collar jobs, in fact it was exactly the opposite: blue collar jobs suck.  You're right, lars, that there is a big difference between coming home physically exhausted and being mentally exhausted 24 hours a day, like I am.    But I'd take my plight any day.  


I watched a mid-50 year old man scoop ice cream for my kid today - he has to wear a uniform and hat, probably has no schedule flexibility, definitely has no security, and probably makes minimum wage.  Should I really compare what I do to what he does and say what I do is hard?  Mostly I get joy out of what I do, seriously.

May 23, 11 5:58 pm

Architecture is damn hard, but it's all they taught me in Architecture school...



May 23, 11 6:04 pm

Of course architecture is hard.  Do you really think all those skyscrapers could stand upright if it was limp, yo?


Also, link to the global rich list calculator for those of you who are curious where you rank.  24 000 £ goes a long way, yo!

May 23, 11 6:37 pm


I didn't mean to imply that blue collar jobs were glamorized per se... just that it seems a poor comparison when speaking of architecture.  I mean..does it really need to be stated that being an architect is better than working at McDonalds? or that cleaning out a sewer pipe would suck?  I guess what I'm wondering is: Do other occupations ask these same questions?  I understand the idea of 'there for but the grace of God go I' kind of idea..and thanking my lucky stars for being alive and for being somewhat gifted with abilities that others don't have... but does that mean I should be happy that I make what many occupations make coming out of school now when I have 13 years of experience?  Lucky to have a job?  Should i not consider what i do hard because i'm not breaking up concrete or lifting a piece of drywall up a stairwell when instead I have to check 50 doors and their accompanying hardware?  I love physical labor..and there are many days I'd rather work up a sweat doing demo..but I also know that over time physical labor would beat my body down.


Other occupations like bankers, doctors, lawyers EXPECT to get paid...and aren't shy about asking for it...for some reason we as an occupation belittle ourselves and each other and then undercut each other with fees that are impossible to make a profit off of and require us to work ridiculous hours.


'no schedule flexibility, definitely has no security, and probably makes minimum wage'

other than the minimum wage part i can say the other two apply to most architects as well...add no healthcare...usually no bonuses and retirement plan and you're most of the way there.

May 23, 11 6:52 pm
le bossman

According to the rich calculator, when I was a cashier making $20,000 a year I was in the top 11%.  A minimum wage earner working full-time for 50 weeks a year is in the top 12%. 

May 23, 11 7:26 pm

larslarson - could not agree with you more.


BTW - USG is coming out with drywall which is 30% lighter. So maybe its not too late to start hanging drywall. 

May 23, 11 7:28 pm

Check out the thread on this site "Must Have 4 beginning an office?".


You will get an idea of why we are doing so bad as a profession.  The first thing you need to start any business is a business plan.  The rest will follow - yes, including the espresso machine for the clients!







May 23, 11 7:35 pm

In my opinion,  how it is possible that other profession which work less than architects make two times money what an architect can make. For example: a Software designer makes two times more money than an architect makes, and a computer is important but I do not think so that a computer is more important than a house. The profession is never going to change if architects do not try to solve this problem which is affecting them, and the career. Architects have to be realistic, and fix some issues in their career because architecture is not a good career right now. It probably is one of most beautiful and enjoyable, but architects currently need to make good money, and they are not doing it. Furthermore, many people currently want to have the most beautiful houses without paying anything. And, I do not think so that the profession will change if architects are still think pessimistically about how much money they will earn, and their future. Really, an architects change the world. That is something which many careers do it. A car could be something good, but we do not travel to see a car. Although, we travel to see a building. This is the best example, How many people just travel to Cambodia to see Angkor or how many people travel to see the Taj Mahal. People travel from the other side of the world to those poor countries. Only to see those magnificent  buildings. So, you think that architecture does not affect at all. Thus, you are going to tell me that architects do not deserve more money. Of course, they deserve it because they change world more than other careers in the world. 

May 23, 11 7:41 pm

Architecture is one of the most important things in life because it shows how we civilize and advance in this world. You can see many differences from buildings in Rome with buildings in Dubai. 

May 23, 11 7:44 pm


May 23, 11 9:04 pm

Other occupations like bankers, doctors, lawyers EXPECT to get paid...and aren't shy about asking for it...for some reason we as an occupation belittle ourselves and each other and then undercut each other with fees that are impossible to make a profit off of and require us to work ridiculous hours.


I agree lars.  Architects are, relative to many professions, not paid well.  I guess after being in practice for 20-some years I don't know how to change that so I'm thankful for what I do have.  Which is an enjoyable profession/vocation, for the most part, that remunerates me well enough to get by, at least!


But who said upthread that we are a SERVICE industry?  I mostly agree with this, but I think we often don't proved a very good service, so we don't get paid well.  But not getting paid well is not the same thing as being a hard (OP's word) profession!

May 23, 11 10:27 pm

I think most architects cast the net too wide and unable to provide good service in the end. Every little piece takes so much time to design, document and coordinate from design to final construction and all this cannot be repeated and scaled up like manufacturing. 

Unless one do chain stores design and work with the same team of contractors over and over.


"USG is coming out with drywall which is 30% lighter. So maybe its not too late to start hanging drywall."

carrying a 4x8 sheet up a flight of stairs sucks regardless.

May 23, 11 10:36 pm

it seems that, whereas someone like a pharmacist is paid well for a technical skill right from the start, the avenues available to architects to be well compensated involve taking on and managing lots of risk and responsibility --- which is really more of a business skill, for which most are not trained (unfortunately), though some have a propensity --- perhaps if it was taught as an integral skill as part of the design and analysis process but from a business perspective, architects would be better compensated from the start


of course we can also specialize in technical areas to differentiate ourselves, but doing so tends to be fleeting with a need to always chase the latest trends --- business principles seem more rooted

May 23, 11 10:36 pm



I want to tell you that you're completely right. That is what architects did not understand in the past, but they have to start to do that. They need involvements in business. They need to revive the profession because there is no business in architecture. 

May 23, 11 10:47 pm

Donna... I agree.  I have been comfortable for most of my adult life and have a lot of nice things that architecture money has paid for.  I don't need a lot of money to live..but I would like to own a house someday.

I also agree that money doesn't have anything to do with the thread topic really...

I still think that the hours we work and the dollars that ride on each potential email we send, each submittal we review, etc does add a difficulty level to our profession...and i don't think that mental strain should be discounted either.


i guess the question is is what makes an occupation 'hard'?

May 23, 11 10:49 pm

Delicious Excel is delicious. Data courtesy Department of Labor Statistics. Graphic by J. James R., Licensed under Creative Commons.

May 23, 11 10:53 pm

You know. It is impossible to find a positive mind because all these architects negatively think about themselves and their future. Therefore, it is impossible to change this career. Architecture is economically dead. 

May 23, 11 10:57 pm

I would say a word that many people will say that it is rude. Architecture is economically fiasco because architects do not want to do something else to become bigger. They just want stay conservatively. 

May 23, 11 10:59 pm

...architects do not want to do something else to become bigger.


Well, yeah - THIS architect intentionally does NOT want to become bigger and take on all the accompanying headaches and complexities of doing so.  But I'm not stopping you from doing it (and I don't undercut fees or use free labor, trust me.).


Tell me, piero, how old are you?  How much office experience do you have?

May 23, 11 11:24 pm
my fault.

as they say about the top 5% wealthy owns 80% of the wealth. i'm interested in what percent the top 5% architects own of the major projects out there.. :/ 




May 24, 11 1:20 pm

"Architects are late boomers". So don´t expect to get important commisions even after 10 years after  the scholl degree. 

The 1949 Fountainhead Movie featuring Gary Cooper, sums up the architects career.

Its a very hard career. You must enjoy a lot architecture to endure.

May 24, 11 5:25 pm

is the picture for this thread from 'love actually'?

May 24, 11 8:12 pm
le bossman

James what is your point?  It's roundly obvious in the profession today that between 25 and 30% of architects are out of work.  That graph doesn't take wages of those who don't have jobs into account at all, so it doesn't prove anything.  For almost three years, people have been graduating by the thousands to nothing.  Many of the people on this thread don't work for the average architects' salary because they just finished six years of busting their ass in architecture school and they can't find employment at all.  This is a field where a lot of people are struggling right now; really, actually struggling, working menial jobs for the between 12 and 20k that you mention, not making 60k per year like you think they are.  What are you trying to accomplish by waving statistics in the face of professionals from a field that is one of the hardest hit by the recession?  Fine if the bitching is irritating you, but it comes from somewhere beyond simple self-pity.  Trying to use statistics and graphs to prove to a group of people who've been hit in the gut by the downturn that it is all in their heads and they should just be thankful is a complete waste of time, and does absolutely nothing but add more salt on the wound, and generate more negativity.  Sorry, but your statistics don't speak at all to the stories that I've heard, or my personal experiences working in the field of architecture.

May 24, 11 10:54 pm

so is that graph really saying that over the last few years architects have seen $4000 per year salary growth?  i find that very suspect.


May 24, 11 11:53 pm

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