Is architecture a hard career?

No, that title was suppose to have an asterisk to denote that they years may not be calculated as full years since the slope calculation was done for 19 years! Oops. Egg on my face. Buy yes, if you start out making $40,000 a year and after 20 years are making $110,000, that would equal less than that ($3500). [Average pay in the 90 percentile bracket was $119,500.] I double checked the percentile groups with average reported salaries based on experience and found most jobs' pay maxes out after 20 years experience.


Even if I were to change the time aspects of this, the lines remain in relatively the same shape but just slightly flatter. The shape is what is important.

May 25, 11 12:05 am

If you're referring to the first graph, architects' pay has risen somewhere between $10,000 to $30,000 over the course of the 2000s.

May 25, 11 12:09 am

since 2000 gas prices have quadrupled, food prices have doubled or tripled and insurance premiums are up considerably with employers pushing off more of the cost onto the employee.  it seems you would need between $10000 and $20000 of pay increases over the last 11 years just to maintain the standard of living on an average salary from 11 years ago.  if you did get $30000 + in pay increases over that time, it probably would mean that standard of living went up.  but i think its likely that $10000 to $20000 increase over that time just means you're not getting poorer


May 25, 11 12:57 am

Being an architect requires long and difficult training, much learning while working,and requires skills in many areas: artistic, scientific, and business. But it is a very satisfying job, because you work to create something that will be used for some time and will affect many people.


chicken coops


May 25, 11 6:15 am

J. James R. you crack me up.


I thought you were joking, until you started plastering graphs about how wealthy architects are.


I don't know where you get these facts but I guess if you search on google hard enough, you will find what your looking for. Top 1% with $62,600 a year ? Good one. I guess my brother who is a registered nurse and makes $65,000 a year is considered hyper rich.


You and 'burningman' are like Beavis and Butthead, minus post-modern satire.


For the rest of us broke ass, jobless architects: You are in this because you love this shit and can't see yourself doing anything else.


Do you want to be a rich investment banker or broke architect ?


Thought so.

May 27, 11 6:03 am

Top 1% with $62,600 a year? If you bothered to read the rest of that, those are figures are global figures.


I get these facts from various government agencies and from relevant publications. The difference here is hard data has a high-level of "truthiness."


Anecdotal evidence is just as cherry-picked, too. Do I know your brother actually makes that or are you just using that as a prime counter example? Do we really know the exact number of unemployed architects? Can a licensed architect really be considered "unemployed?"


Sure, there are other jobs where you can make $65,000 a year— like nursing or union construction. But do you really want to spend all day picking at diabetic sores, inserting catheters and having people eject fluids on you all day long? Do you really want to work a job, like construction, that will more than likely leave you physically handicapped and riddled with skin cancer?


Or would you rather have a job where a big portion of your day creating the facilities when your brother the nurse gets puked on or where Jack, the construction man, will get one of his fingers chopped off while cutting the pipe you specified?


This is exactly where these hypothetical and frankly phony arguments always lead— pointing out the issues with either the top 10% or the bottom 10% with a handful of exceptions in the mix.




Also, I need to strongly point out that architecture firms are not made up of just architects. Salary data is highly specific on the classification and identification of different job types. One may think they are an architect at an architecture firm but the reality is that they could very well be classified as a drafter or even an assistant.


In which case I can sympathize with an "architectural drafter" who never makes and probably will never make more than $40,000.

May 27, 11 3:50 pm

J. James R,

You are right that guy " ACrowley" does not know what he's talking about. Really, a lot of architects want to change more the world than make a lot of money.  Hey ACrowley, tell me how a bank investor changes the world as an architect would do. Of course, bank investors help the world because they control the economy.
I just have a last question for everyone, when I am asking if architecture is a hard career. I want to know if you have to be smart to become an architect. Do you have to be really smart to become an architect?

May 27, 11 4:27 pm

is architecture a hard career?



May 27, 11 6:04 pm

Why not? Why yes? 

Hey TED,


So, what you are saying is that anyone who wants to study architecture would be a successful architect. I am not talking about financially, I am talking about academically. Do you think any engineering would be more difficult than architecture? In my opinion, I thought that architecture was more difficult than some careers, not all because it requires many different skills. If you do not have those skills. You won't be an architect. 

May 27, 11 7:04 pm

Why not? Why yes?
Hey TED,

So, what you are saying is that anyone who wants to study architecture would be a successful architect. I am not talking about financially, I am talking about academically. Do you think any engineering would be more difficult than architecture? In my opinion, I thought that architecture was more difficult than some careers, not all because it requires many different skills. If you do not have those skills. You won't be an architect. 

May 28, 11 7:41 pm

Im late to the party, but I agree strongly with Donna and Matt Taibbi.  Architecture is not "hard".  Important absolutely, difficult certainly, mentally exhausting sometimes.  I bailed hay once.  For those of you who think architecture is hard have you ever bailed hay?  Another job I had was as a laborer.  I spent an entire 8 hour day moving buckets of sheet rock mud.  One bucket in each hand till I was hoping my arms fell off.  Luckily most days were only half that bad. I also have sat my butt in a chair and drafted til midnight or 1 am for a week or two straight.  (overall I have spent a couple of years doing office work)  There is no comparison between the two.  I don't think Taibbi was trying to glamorize blue collar jobs as much as give a clown like David Brooks a clue.

May 29, 11 12:58 am

I question that $20,000 dollars puts you so high on the world wealth scale.  Does that take into account cost of living? Many of us are aware what kind of life you would live in America on that kind of paycheck.  Yes it sure beats living where people suffer without basic medicine or children die for lack of a meal.  The income may be relatively high but the cost of rent, medical etc is also high.

May 29, 11 1:03 am

Architecture is a "hard career" if you make it one.  Learning to say "no" to people will make it a substantially easier and less stressful career.

May 29, 11 6:56 pm

The difference is that all other professions start making the bucks 4-6 years down their career. From what I am hearing from my seniors, at age 33, you are making 55-60k in architecture. (whereas our peers, who are in IT, medicine, accountants, pharmacists, start making $100 k at that age and 90% of them will make that much) . Architects, only a few select ones, maybe 10%, make $90k - $100k, at the age of 55. 

Good luck to our future. How will we buy homes? Send our kids to school? Get them married? Obama do something. This profession needs ObamaCare. 

Feb 8, 13 7:13 pm

Mostly, I would say architecture is NOT a hard career.  The actual work may be detailed but, for the detailed mind, it is not difficult.  The context of architecture is what's difficult.


(a) you won't watch the clock because you are likely to be absorbed by what you are doing, (b) tangible rather than intangible work, (c) it is very multifaceted, and usually has a lot of variety, (d) it's not technical, as in requiring advanced calculus or evaluating the chemical reaction of 2 adjacent materials, and (e) you can make a middle class living once getting enough experience and/or license.


(a) there is intense territoriality within a "good old boy" network, and the professionalism and collegiality are less than that in other professions, where they are less likely to slam each other, (b) the basic cost structure of maintaining an office and all the technology is high, (c) the profession not only cycles economically, but cycles in trendiness, with architects having to frequently reinvent themselves, (d) the intricacy of the work, when long hours are needed, can be tiring, and more so with each passing decade of life, and (e) that middle class living may not be a steady stream, with some up and down bumps in the ride.

Feb 9, 13 1:14 am

Disagree with the article.  I have worked many blue collar jobs in my life, and I was much happier and generally healthier.  Working mental jobs is more stressful.  I also feel worse physically sitting behind a computer screen all day than I did when I was on my feet all day.  There is a kind of zen like state that manual labor allows for. 

Feb 9, 13 12:34 pm

Does a bear shit in the woods?

Feb 9, 13 1:43 pm
future hope

I don't think architecture is a hard career. 

It isn't perfect, but I haven't left the profession for greener pastures yet.  I thought about it for a year or two when I didn't like my job (even though it was the job that I had worked so hard to get - design opportunities, respected firm, and interesting work).  There really weren't other jobs that sounded preferable that also paid at least as well.  I'm not cut out for teaching or nursing or dentistry.  I ended up getting a job related to the profession that I actually like more, and that also happens to pay really well. 

My husband is also an architect, and while he has more experience and is really good at his job, he currently does make less than I do.  That may change soon though.  He really enjoys his work and it has led him to some very exciting opportunities (teaching, speaking, writing, etc.) 

We own a house, paid cash for a major remodel/addition, send our kids to a great daycare, etc.  Yes, we are also very frugal in some areas.  Yes, there are many families who make more than we do, have a bigger house, nicer car, etc.  However, I am grateful every single day to be where I am.

Feb 9, 13 5:29 pm
Architecture sucks. Quit now so the rest of us can work.
Feb 9, 13 6:46 pm

Architecture is interesting work, but it is, as others have said, not the highest paying nor the more stable of the professions.  I did it as a graduate degree, so when a friend of mine with a B.Arch. and about 18 years of experience said "Architecture is the least professional of the professions," I thought this was a keeper.  She is usually not that perceptive of the human condition, preferring to naively see the better side of everything.

When I hear the word unprofessional, I think of a friend of mine who was sitting in a review at school and this very pissy "passing through" design prof, with the "way cool" "flip hair," was shrieking at some student's project, yelling that it was "mental masturbation."  The student also got riled up and they went at it.  As can be expected, the other pseudo-intellectual design profs were sitting there, with their index finger adjacent to their chins, as in typically displayed on any a-school's website, completely quiet.  I thought to myself "Would I want a friend from the law school or the business school to watch one of  my final juries in the event something like this would go down?"  NO.  It was disgraceful.  I felt it was a hair away from those TV programs where some guy who is a fashion expert gets up there to cattily critique who the best and worst dressed in Hollywood are at this moment.  A friend of mine from South America who is a mechanical engineer said architects are often jokingly referred to as "women engineers" in his country.

Unfortunately, that creates a very bad baseline for what the didactic process is supposedly to look like and it then translates into how principals treat beginning interns.  I was once talking to a principal who was talking to me about his staff and kind of sighed when talking about some of the interns, murmuring "sometimes they are more trouble than they are worth."  I looked over at his administrative assistant, and she looked down at her desk in embarrassment.  I thought "Weren't you in their shoes at one time, mofo?"  Then, the fact that it's a creative process, and therefore a subjective one, makes for a lot of creative differences.

The other thing is that, unlike other professions where professional deportment in a courtroom or during a patient visit can be previewed on the screen, the ACCURATE dynamics of architectural schooling and architectural practice are not viewable on TV.  There are a couple of movies where the protagonist is an architect, but America mostly thinks of Mike Brady of "The Brady Bunch" as this very level-headed, practical, and congenial guy who had a drafting board in his main floor office.  Actually, it would be better if the profession had more Mike Brady-alikes, assuming their work is also good, and fewer "Mr. Mental Masturbation" types.

Feb 9, 13 8:03 pm


"quantity surveyor" = cost engineer

Feb 10, 13 4:30 pm

Life itself is hard, it's not just our profession. Ambition, financial stability, social impact, life-work balance, ego, risk management... all things that are not unique to architecture. 

Feb 10, 13 5:42 pm

"quantity surveyor" = cost engineer

Very prim and proper British term for "estimator."  Usually salt-of-the-earth guys, minus the pomp and circumstance heaped on it by the Brits.

Feb 10, 13 5:48 pm

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