Any recent career changes? advice?


So I graduated two years ago from a top ranked school with a BS in arch. After graduation, I spent 6 months.   After countless hours of searching, I landed a job at a medium sized firm in Chicago doing prototypical work for large chains.  It has been soul crushing to say the least. countless unpaid overtime hours sitting in front of a computer (line, trim, line trim).  Little to know mental stimulation and no signs of any opportunity for professional growth.  After a year and a half of this torture, of pushing myself forward based on some stupid notion beat into our brains that "we are meant to be architects" I m calling it quits.  I m 23 and I m enrolling at a local college here in Chicago to finish up my premed recs.  I was considering going into something along the lines of construction project management or real estate development, but unfortunately those fields are not much better than architecture.  I want job security, to help people, to use my brain, and to be taken seriously as a professional.  Architecture does none of that for me.  Not to mention that it would take me just as long to become an MD as a RA (5 more years).  But none the less this has been a stressful decision, any one pull anything similar lately? Advise?  

Apr 7, 13 9:50 am

Job security? Join the military.

Help people? Join the Peace Corp.

Use your brain? That's up to you.

Be taken seriously as a professional? Be serious about whatever it is you do.

Sounds like you don't have passion for either architecture or medicene. And if you really want to help people you may find medicene more soul-crushing than architecture. At least traditional western medecine.

Apr 7, 13 10:06 am
boy in a well

I spent six months once. Best time of my life. I love architecture. Love it more when some folk leave.

Apr 7, 13 10:27 am


Do it.  But make sure you like medicine in advance, and not as an afterthought ... meaning it has always been something you considered at some time before.  I've been accused of being shallow here, and who isn't, and I thought I would have liked being a plastic surgeon.  (But there's no erase button and I was always much better at graphics than model building and handling the cutting instruments). 

I once wound up in ER and needed minor surgery pursuant to an injury.  I was speaking to the doctor who was fixing me up.  He had an undergraduate in architecture and had worked for 2 years.  The one thing is that if you go the pre-med route, you have to get damn near perfect grades and a high MCAT to get in.  The problem with architecture isn't architecture, which is fascinating.  The problem is that it's a professional field of study and then you get there and find that the behavior and attitude in work environments is far less professional than what your friends who became lawyers, doctors, dentists, engineers, or actuaries experience - where there is higher collegiality, higher earnings, and you don't feel like a hair above a bohemian with a BFA who is struggling, until many years later.

In a way, your experience supports the 4 year degree system.  It tells a person if they need to pull the eject button, and even get some experience en route, because it satiates the need to study and experience architecture.  The most common changes I've seen have been both architecture and bus. admin. into both health fields and teaching, with the latter being mostly women.  Make sure you're doing this because medicine interests you, and that you can handle some morbidity and seeing various bodily fluids.

CM won't feel like much of a career change and RE development is replete with more assholes than you could ever find in architecture.  At least those in architecture are passionate about their craft.  Those in RE are only passionate about money and keeping up an appearance, that they sometimes border on depraved.

Apr 7, 13 1:12 pm

Well I've got news for you. No matter which profession you're in you have to do some repetitive boring commodity work until you learn the ropes. If your firm doesn't give you any professional advancement opportunities you have two options: 1. Talk to the boss and ask for more responsibility 2. If the boss rejects that idea then simply apply for another firm that will provide that opportunity. Wanting to change careers because you had bad experiences in one firm portrays you as an immature person who seeks instant gratification and I'm saying this as a soon to be 27 years old. Architecture has a steep learning curve, steeper than most other professions so don't expect to be designing buildings with 2 years of experience. Job security only happens if you convince employers that you're really helping with their bottom line.

Apr 7, 13 2:28 pm


You make some good points about instant gratification, but we don't know all the facts.  For some people who enter a field, they may find they don't like the work and may have had some doubts during school.  I would say this is MOST common in law school - 3 years, no prescribed type of degree, and beaucoup bucks.  I know quite a few people who, 20 years later, are up front about hating both law school and the practice of law.  It was just "the thing to do," often a family expectation.  If the OP had doubts all along or doesn't enjoy the work, his complaint is valid.  If he does like architecture, but isn't getting handed the plum assignments, then it does sound like an instant gratification problem.  Or, it could be that he has weighed his personal slate of positives and negatives and found that it's not for him.  The same is true of the most popular major - business administration.  People do it because it's "the thing to do," they have no concrete career plans, and then either become a cog buried deep in the bowels of a large company, decide to do something entrepreneurial (one girl opened a successful beauty salon), or go off in a completely different direction.  The OP has to be honest with himself as to why he is doing what he's doing.

Apr 7, 13 2:42 pm

Aright I feel like I didnt give you guys enough information here.  Miles Jaffe you a douche bad and help no one.  Architecture is not for everyone sorry that dosent fucking please you.  I graduated from Michigan undergrad (which unlike the M.Arch is actually competitive to get into) with a full ride, I work my fucking ass off and give everything 110% no matter what it is i m doing, so fuck you.  When I transferred from the school of engineering to the school of architecture, I had no idea that Architecture would be that un-science related (I was great at math and science.)  In regards to my current firm, the people are great and I truly have a developed great relationships with some of them however hearing 40+ year olds talk about how they were recently unemployed for two years and feel blessed to be back in the work force making 65k a year and no where near retirement is simply not motivating.  Or seeing my department head work over 80 hours a week for 90k a year.  I have researched different career options and want to do medicine because I find it fascinating, from all the different research opportunities, to the human interaction and to simply not being in front of a computer 12 hours a day, its what I want to do, and what I see myself doing.  Is this a result of my impatience and need for instant gratification...maybe.  Maybe I want to see that I helped someone that day, and see the look on there face when I help them feel better.  I want to make a solid contribution to field that can help the masses and I see no better place to do it.   I like to play my life like chess and I feel this is a strong move.  The idea that you guys are saying i m taking the easy way out by leaving architecture to go study medicine is fucking hilarious.  Observant, thank you for the advice, I appreciate it lol.

Apr 7, 13 4:02 pm

Hey, I've gone about this from a different angle so I think I can see some different angles.  I went from a bachelor's in business to a M.Arch. (3 year).  In business, I went to school with a bunch of great people who were fun, not ego-invested, not overly politically correct, and could laugh at jokes.  The only exception was a small squadron of people chasing "haute finance," to be able to work at managing money and/or real estate for the elite, and they were annoying.  On the other hand, any kind of work stemming from that major was too boring, and I worked after my first degree.  In architecture school, the content was fascinating, because it spanned the artistic to the technical, yet there were a lot of douche bags.  I managed to meet some really fun people who were individualistic, creative, philosophical, and friendly all at the same time, but the majority were offputting, as were many faculty members.  The word I like is pissy. Talk about a mix and match situation.

When you mentioned you were in Chicago and had gone to a top school for a BS, I had assumed it was either UIUC or U of M, and it was U of M.  Either of those schools mean you could crack the admissions code to good universities.  That will help you with your next step, whatever it may be, because having such a good undergraduate school will weigh in your favor and indicates you are academically oriented.

Like I said, I only bumped into one R.A. to M.D. professionally and it was to get stitched up in the emergency room.  I personally know someone else who did the same thing.  She did a BA in Arch (4 year) with a minor (or double major) in all the pre-med prerequisites.  She had it all planned from the start. I don't see her as the designer type, but more of a 4.0 good architecture student type, and her school's faculty was basically asking her to do the M.Arch.  Instead, she ended up in her school's medical school, that's all she knows, and she is happy with it.   If I had to do it again, I probably would have gone B.S.Arch. with a minor in business, worked a short while moving an AutoCAD (at the time) mouse, and gone into a helping profession - either teaching or health related.

I'll grant that the Vitruvian ingredients of firmness, commodity, and delight are essential to our well-being.  We can't live with just the first 2, or it would suck the souls out of us.  We need to 3rd to lift our spirits.  The problem in architecture is "Whose delight is it?"  Is it the population we design for, or is it the starchitects, many of whom are a hair better than movie stars in my book?  I'm afraid to search for an answer.

I'm sure you'll do well at whatever you choose.

Apr 7, 13 5:07 pm

You could always join Architecture for Humanity or something, although they pay won't be nearly as equal :/  Atleast you'll be helping towards a better cause.

It is wise for anyone in this field to have a backup field, perhaps one they can do part-time or switch to when things dont go the way they envisioned. 

Apr 7, 13 6:22 pm

So what made you transfer out from engineering if you were great at math and science? Would you have not done well had you stayed?

Apr 7, 13 10:57 pm

No passion. Plenty of anger, but no passion. Until you find that you won't be happy no matter what you do. Engineering, architecture, real estate, medecine - they are all the same if your heart is not in it.

23 and you haven't got the world by the balls? Go figure. By the way, if you're researching medecine you should probably research insurance, because that's how you'll get paid. And if you really want to help people, research the differences between eastern and western medecine, one is about treating symptoms, the other is about curing conditions.

Apr 8, 13 12:47 am
Tinbeary There there

What kind of medicine? I changed careers and interact with medical docs often. I can attest to a high level of professionalism as compared to architecture and construction. But that shouldn't be a surprise. There are some very interesting things that are popping up in medicine where I can see an architect's spatial and cross-disciplinary sensibilites applying: quantum biology, arthroscopic (sp?) surgeries, prosthesis/new body parts, brain mapping... Who wouldn't want to study that?

Apr 8, 13 2:45 am

Architecture is the only thing I would ever want to do but I absolutely hate the profession. Fortunately, you can avoid the profession and still do architecture if you have the passion and balls to venture outside of the box. You just need to get rid of the mentality that the profession owes you something and the mentality that you owe something to it. I know many people that wasted years looking for a way in rather than inventing a way in. I also think your attitude is a bit hostile. Anger is weakness and a waste of energy. Find your passion find your purpose and then find your way to make it a reality. Since each purpose is unique the way you achieve it must also be unique. A conventional path will never lead to an unconventional goal. Your goals should be customized to your own desires and abilities.

Apr 8, 13 5:02 am

During the beginning days, every profession would certainly seem stressful so does architecture field. You should be passionate about your work irrespective of whether you are an architect or a medical practitioner.

If you do your work with full heart, I can tell you that you will definitely start loving your work. Take one firm decision, and stick to it. 

Apr 8, 13 7:25 am

DaveZ, your academic background is irrelevant. Your academic background has nothing to do with real world success. You should have researched architecture more by visiting departments and talking to real architects before switching from engineering. Studying IS the easy way out. Be it medical school or law school, school is always easier than dealing with the stress of the professional life because all you need to do is read books, memorize some things as the professor instructed; now compare it to the professional life where your hard work goes unnoticed in a lot of situations but you need ask yourself are your working hard on the right things? Because if you're working hard on the trivial things you won't succeed. If you're trimming lines all day long, you're doing commodity work which is not valued any more. If you have a passion for medicine then go for it but it is a totally different situation than the current problem you're facing. Do you want to quit architecture because your current problem or do you want to quit it to study medicine? First figure that out and as I stated before, you need to talk to your supervisors. Ask for more responsibility, show them you want to do more and learn more even if you don't get paid for those tasks immediately. I'm sure they will appreciate the effort. If not either look for another architecture job or quit to study medicine but communication is the key to solving problems.

Apr 8, 13 8:52 am


God Bless you on your journey my friend! im origionlly from chicago so shout out to my old community!!! which reminds me, i once saw an oprah show that was about people who went to college for dis or dat, and once they grad. they were unhappy with their career choice. one guy in particular was a lawyer and he loved to bake cakes and cookies as an hobby, so he was encouraged by his friends to open a bakery and he did, he was so successful at that he left his day job.

IMHO, you already know whats behind door number 1, there is nothing stopping you from looking behind door number 2. Plus you are young if you fail horribly at the whole doctor thing, you can always come back to architecture working at a firm that produces healthcare facilities

Apr 8, 13 1:27 pm


I appreciate what you and tmston2 are saying.  The one thing that can happen is that one loves a field and hates the milieu.  It can happen.  One can be very cut out for the work yet not have the "requisite" personality.  When I began school and had my first arch. history class, the professor would make snide remarks about the profession.  He was a historian, an Ivy League educated curmudgeon, so I wonder if he had ever set foot in an architecture firm, let alone worked in one.  He made the comment "Architecture is for those on the cocktail party circuit who get to sketch on napkins.  For the rest, its busing drafting tables* and it's not a nice way to make a living."  *We were already in an AutoCAD environment.  At any rate, I contemplated whether to drop out ... or whether to be an architect that would work on less visible projects, and for a more "middle-class" audience.  I decided on the latter.  While there might be some truth to his comment, I found it nauseating, as was the professor.  And he's not totally correct, either.  Minoru Yamasaki, designer of the original WTC in NY, came from a working class Japanese-(American) background, according to his biography.  I think he used to work in the fisheries part-time during the summers to help pay for his education.

Apr 8, 13 1:37 pm


You're young, you are more than academically qualified, so at this point I think there's never been a better time to explore a different career path. It will be a lot of work and very stressful once you get into med-school, but the financial reward is mostly assured (though you will also have a bigger pile of debt to pay off, since there's no time to work part-time).  And although doctors do enjoy a higher level esteem and authority within their workplaces and social networks, they have to deal with a whole other set of pressures and challenges that us architects would be happy to do without.  Even though you may hate the kind of tasks you do in your first architecture job, remember that there are plenty of doctors out there who aren't happy about what they have to face day to day: inocmpetent staff, bureaucratic excess, insurance companies, hospital governance and policies, and an infinite queue of ungrateful patients, many of which don't want to make changes to become healthier, who will question your expertise, and may entertain a personal death wish by insisting that they will continue to eat, smoke, or use painkillers until the day they die. Considering the broad panorama of human failings they have to deal with and how that must affect their morale, there's a reason why doctors make the big bucks. 

As a professor told me once (which explains why he is an academic and not practicing), "you're first job will influence what you will do later on".  In your case as well as his, economic conditions forced him to accept a less than ideal career starting point. Most of us architects as students were already the hard workers and relatively bright, but sometimes a little bit of luck will have some say on our career success.  I feel blessed to have had a relatively stress-free path in my 11 year career so far and that I've been able to do far more than "draw door knobs".  Still, I wouldn't wait for your luck in architecture to turn, especially since I don't envision things getting all that much better for architects in the near future. Take the leap, DaveZ!

Apr 9, 13 10:42 am


Being a doctor is a mixed bag.  There is no doubt that it is the most esteemed of the professions, that earnings are high, and employment opportunities are seamless.  On the other hand, it takes quite a stomach to do it - both having to deal with difficult patients and seeing death.  However, over time, doctors become desensitized to this sort of thing, as most people who visit a doctor know how clinical and matter-of-fact they can be.  One of the biggest hurdles will be the residency/internship period, where rotations are long.  They often debate that these rotations should be shortened, because the doctor in training will be in a better frame of mind to make decisions about someone's well being than at the end of their shift/rotation.

Architecture has different kind of stresses.  For the most part, the work is not that difficult.  The hours can wax and wane, but after the last all-nighter, most people take a day off.  The stresses are the cast of characters in the various disciplines one has to deal with, with the worst ones often being other architects, and the fact that there are way many more flaky architecture firms than there are good ones.  If one is able to navigate architecture by staying at quality firms, they are lucky and seemingly have a more fulfilling career.  However, the ratio is bad to good firms is something to reckon with.

Apr 9, 13 11:30 am

I have posted several times about my decision to take an alternate (but allied) career path. 

I had several bad experiences working in offices where structure and feasibility were of minor importance, and that was the overall impression school left on me. I had no desire to redline anyone else's drawings, or to be a Revit drone, so I left Architecture (or never really entered it). 

It was a good decision, although I had a solid plan and vision of where I wanted to go and how I would get there, and I found a compatible firm in the perfect industry - all of which made the transition much easier.

Apr 9, 13 11:35 am

That is really interesting Nicholas. Could be be give some specifics about which allied field you jump to and how you did it or post the links to your earlier posts? Cheers

Apr 11, 13 5:40 am

you're 23 years old with no experience.  honestly, who else is going to trim lines?  in healthcare you're going to be emptying bedpans.  when you graduate you start at zero, and you're not entitled to anything.  at this point, school is irrelevant.

Apr 11, 13 12:49 pm

honestly, who else is going to trim lines?

you could just snap 'perpendicular.'  then you wouldn't really need to trim lines.  you don't even have to have it set as a snap; just type 'per' in the command line or ctrl-right click. or you can do what i do and fillet with a radius of 0.  there are all sorts of options available to you as an architect that i don't think you're considering.  

turns out work is still work.  if it was play they would call it football and pay you millions of dollars.

Apr 11, 13 12:59 pm


"the fact that there are way many more flaky architecture firms than there are good ones"

please explain what makes an architecture firm flaky?


Apr 11, 13 1:18 pm

you're 23 years old with no experience.  honestly, who else is going to trim lines?  in healthcare you're going to be emptying bedpans.  when you graduate you start at zero, and you're not entitled to anything.  at this point, school is irrelevant.

Not true.  My sister just graduated nursing school.  Within a month she got a job making 60k with no experiance.  She was given complete responsibilities that any nurse would get.  She was never asked to sweep the floor or "pay her dues" to her senior masters...there are other employees that do that called assistants and janitors.  Architecture is a really shitty profession.  It is a great field, but shitty profession. 

Apr 11, 13 4:43 pm

Also, no stupid Intern period...that was done in school in 6 months and set up by the school so that upon graduating you take a test and get licensed.  To argue that architects pose a greater danger to the public than a nurse (who give meds, monitors life support, etc) is fucking stupid.  Architecture regulation is completely ridiculous and unnecessary and it is why the profession sucks.

Apr 11, 13 4:49 pm

I agree sometimes you do have to crawl before you walk, but sometime i think some companies use this as an excuse not to pay you or limit your role. i hear a lot of "well when i first came into the field i made such and such, and did yada yada" that was then this is now! i don't expect to come in as lead designer, but i dont expect to be out pulling weeds and washing toilets. i once had a job were i got hired and had to build my own work station out of a couple old doors! wasnt to bad,  pay was ok, & it was a small firm so i learned a lot!


i guess you never heard the diff btwn an architect and doctor is we kill multiple people at once!

Apr 11, 13 5:28 pm

thats bullshit. 

Apr 11, 13 5:32 pm


"the fact that there are way many more flaky architecture firms than there are good ones"

please explain what makes an architecture firm flaky?


Where to start?  First, I think architecture is fine if you go to a high ranked, and not to niche focused, a-school and then try to stay at larger, more corporate firms who do good work, but aren't necessarily always in the limelight, that way you avoid being undervalued and avoid the company of "starchasers."   So you get a good balance of professionalism, pay, benefits, diverse alma maters, facilities, and design competence.

Flaky firm:  small, alumni club mentality, bare bone benefits, might have people in their employ through the spoils system (relative, favor for someone), disparate treatment by marital status or gender, low quality design commissions, and/or reluctance to acknowledge licensure (through lack of monetary uptick, unwillingness to pay for AIA dues and continuing education, or let alone pay your cheap $100 to $200 license fee).  To get all of these negatives in ONE firm would not only be unfortunate, but a veritable DISASTER.  Clearly, in a normal job market, people would not be sticking around.  Of these, I have experienced the alumni club, the marital status pay premium (to others), and, in the first job, it was obvious they didn't want additional people to license and would never pay for anything ancillary (like AIA, continuing ed, or your license fee).

Apr 11, 13 5:40 pm
wurdan freo

total bullshit. When is the last time an architect's design in the US caused a death? 

information obtained by Death by Medicine shows that an estimated 106,000 people die from adverse drug effects -- from properly prescribed drugs -- every year, and approximately 98,000 die annually from some sort of error by medical staff. Compare this to statistics from the Department of Justice and the U.S. Centers for Disease control for the year 2004, which show an estimated 16,137 people were victims of homicide (not just firearm murders) in the United States.

Learn more:

Apr 11, 13 5:51 pm

Engineers, codes, inspectors make sure the buildings are safe...but if the bathrooms are hard to find someone may shit their pants.....hardly a huge public danger though. 

Ironically, the real danger we pose to the public is a sort of slow death due to the polluting shit most architects build...of course the clients are the ones that hold most of the blame, but we cater to their whims...NCARB dosent seem to care about that. 



Apr 11, 13 6:42 pm

"doctors kill people, architects kill their great grand children" is a more accurate saying...

Apr 11, 13 6:46 pm


"When I transferred from the school of engineering to the school of architecture, I had no idea that Architecture would be that un-science related (I was great at math and science.)"

Wow. Why on earth would you do that? I did the exact opposite. Moved from architecture into a job in civil engineering. I have enough spare time to pursue activities that enrich me. I do graphic design, illustration, renderings, sketches, etc.


Would you consider such a change? If you are good at math, then it's truly a waste not to go for engineering.  Actual engineering design is just as gratifying, if you are passionate. It's just a different outlet. 

May 2, 13 12:09 am

Would you consider such a change? If you are good at math, then it's truly a waste not to go for engineering.  Actual engineering design is just as gratifying, if you are passionate. It's just a different outlet.

Agreed.  Some civil engineers are managers, some are bureaucrats, and some are designers.  Some design bridges, though that would be a plum job among those available to CEs.  But CEs do seem to like their jobs and seem to bitch way less than architects.

A friend who was too academically gifted in his HS years signed up for architecture at Berkeley and then switched to CE because he thought it was so low-tech and theoretical ... especially there.

May 2, 13 12:23 am
value engineer

I switched from architecture to civil engineering a year ago - landed an internship. I still have a year to go to graduate with an MS in civil , but I have already been promoted to engineer I. Many of my aesthetic skills have transferred and improved my designs. I see a lot of opportunities in CE - office personalities are a bit dry, but there is respect from clients and coworkers that is nice.

May 2, 13 5:25 pm

Block this user

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

  • ×Search in: