Lost: Architecture Career


I graduated 2010, from UC Berkeley, with a B.A. in Architecture,I still have no job experience in Architecture-- no internship--nothing. I've been so discouraged for the past three years and I feel like everyone else is moving forward leaving me behind. I have so much doubt and there are so many things I don't know how to go about doing.

With all this time, for the past three years, I have just been learning different programs like 3DS Max, and Revit. I feel like I have fairly good mastery over Rhino and V-ray and can produce realistic images from them. I've been learning how to program in the Python language. And now I'm teaching myself Grasshopper for Rhino.

 I haven't been able to find a job so I've just been taking classes in my local community college. Taking classes on Building Inspection learning about building codes and title 24 chapter 6 of the California building. I've just been trying to learn more to be more attractive to employers.

I'd like to say that for the past three years I have been working on portfolio--but I still don't have a version I can be proud off. I have a bunch of projects but none are fleshed out to completion. My 3D models are thought out and modeled but graphical representations like sections and plans are lacking. I tend to focus more on renderings--because honestly I've just been hoping that my 3D renderings are enough to land me a job.

Can some one please just direct me in how to progress in life. I feel like I have a lot to offer. I've applied architecture related jobs near where I live but they are mostly drafting jobs--and sadly enough I still can't get employed as a drafter.

Is there something wrong with me that I can't get any job experience? Should I just go to grad school; can I even get into grad school? Are my renderings not even as good as I believe them to be? I am desperate for advice and guidance because obviously how I have been operating is not working.

Sep 13, 13 11:07 am

First off, with a B.A. not a B. Arch that may set you back a bit. My advice is to get a job with a Construction Management company or some sort of GC. You will learn way more this way than taking classes and you will get paid for it. It really is not that hard to get a job in construction if you network and apply yourself to finding one.


Second, forget about working on the renderings, employers want to see drawings a details. Show them that you can work through a construction detail (construction experience will help with that as well).


If you work in construction for some time, you may find you like it even more than you would like working in an architecture office. I just switched to a CM company and I love it, I get to be on site everyday and am constantly interacting with people rather than being stuck at a desk in an office. I am also learning much quicker than I was at my previous design office. That is just my opinion. The pay is better as well and it allows me to have a life outside of work.

Sep 13, 13 12:16 pm

A few things:

- First, I can sense your angst and it is justifiable.  I was going crazy from 2 to 3 months of waiting in a decent enough market.

- Berkeley, being the powerhouse that it is, should have some notices coming in for people wanting to employ their B.A. grads, especially with the Bay Area having 7 million people.  I've worked with several Cal grads over the years.  Call their B.A. office or get in touch with fellow alums who found work.

- Are you limiting yourself to San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley?  Would you consider a position in the South Bay, the other side of the tunnel, or on the Peninsula?  That could help.

- Right, the firms want to see portions of working drawings and details more so than renderings.  Interesting that a c.c. did not provide that, from what I could read, or maybe you didn't take those classes.  Typically, c.c.s have a more vocational approach.  That's where I learned both manual drafting and AutoCAD.

- I second the motion for possible work for a GC or CM company.  Personally, I found it was interesting, but I prefer the community of peers in architecture.  Don't kid yourself, that makes you a better architect and also credible for entry into the field.

- Also, with all its certificate programs, check to see if Berkeley offers one in Construction Management.  Berkeley can be kind of fluffy in environmental design, but an extension certificate will NOT be.  Their certificates are more vocational.  Check to see if they have one, and if GC and CM outfits respond to it.  With a BA in Arch and a certificate, you could be more employable.  Also, if you plan to stay in Calif. and they don't change the rules, a B.A. can get you licensed some day, so don't push through to a M.Arch. at THIS time.

That's my 2 cents.

Sep 13, 13 12:30 pm

Another recommendation to get a job working for a reputable general contractor or developer.  This experience will go a really long way in making you more appealing to architecture firms because you'll have actual field experience.


Unless you get extremely good at rendering or design, I wouldn't count on these skills to get you a job.  Firms want people who can manage projects in addition to doing production - rendering skills are more a plus, but pretty much anyone can do passable rendering these days... it's not a unique skill.

Sep 13, 13 12:35 pm

As always. Listen to Observant.

Sep 13, 13 12:52 pm
I myself took the GC route. Graduated in 2006, spent a few years working for an engineer then an architect before being laid off at the start of 2009. For the next three years I was unemployed or working odd jobs and even spend a year doing security at a mall.

Last April I found a job working for a GC doing shop drawings for a big job they had. I was slowly given other task and now I am involved in not only shop drawings, but bidding, estimating and project engineering tasks.

I am now looking to move my way up to Project Management as I see it more interesting than the time I spend working with an architect. That's not to say I don't plan on getting licensed, but it's just on hold for now.

Even as a project engineer, you'll learn a lot. I've actually learned more about building working here in the past year and a half than school and previous jobs combined.
Sep 13, 13 2:37 pm

As always. Listen to Observant.

LOL.  Not quite.  I try to read a lot and learn about different schools, different cities, and stuff like that.  Cities are fascinating, that's for sure.

As for the work stuff, in addition to architect (and in-house ID) firms, I've also worked in-house for a developer-builder and for an A/E firm.  The latter 2 experiences were "different," that's for sure.  I'm glad I had those experiences, for learning purposes, but some of their attitudes toward architects, based on THEIR cultures, were eye-openers.  I think that, for most architects, they are places to pass through.  For people who don't feel a great need to be involved with the whole range involved in the architectural process, they could be a good alternative career path.

Sep 13, 13 2:52 pm

^ part of that comment was the fact that i wrote a comment but didn't post it for a while and by then you had already posted what i was going to say and i couldn't figure out how to erase the comment all together hahaha

Sep 13, 13 3:44 pm

When looking for jobs, I highly suggest looking for an 'internship' since you have no real experience working in a firm.  Most firms are reluctant on giving you a job unless you have a kickass portfolio and educational background, but they are much easier to give you an internship.  You could intern for 4, 8 or a year at a time.  Prove yourself to them and hope they give you a permanent position or be thankful for the experience you received and move on to another firm.  Do this 'internship' route for atleast 3 or more times until you land a job.  Truth is, hundreds of students coming out of university have already had multiple internship experience under their belts.

Sep 13, 13 5:38 pm

If you live in the bay area. City College of San Francisco has a construction management certificate that you can get in ~1.5 years. However, that might not pan out since they are dangerously close to being discredited in their accreditation.  If not, you might want to try that. The good thing about that is that all the classes are at night so you can do an internship while polishing up your resume w/ the classes.

Sep 13, 13 6:47 pm

Here ya be.  Right at your alma mater. And I believe it's in the evenings.

It's comprised of 5 courses and 2 electives, more or less.  The base courses look pretty good - the typical 5:  scheduling, law, safety, project management, and estimating.  Then, for the other 2, I would lean on 1 in LEED materials and 1 in procurement methods.  Also, it would be ideal if the scheduling, project management, or estimating course included one or more of the popular software packages.  This might be good for you, though I won't discount that City College of SF is a good community college that offers a lot of programs.  Their program could be longer because it might also be vocational training for those who don't have a degree.  Note that Berkeley says a degree is recommended.

And I've got yet another hilarious and politically incorrect story emanating from SF City College, too.  Meh.  Maybe you needed to have been there.  I'll let y'all slide.

Sep 13, 13 7:10 pm

Thank you all for your  input. 

I actually moved back home to Sacramento and there are far less openings in architecture than compared to the bay area.

And since I'm not near Berkeley it would be difficult to go back and enter the extension program.

I will widden my net and look for entry within construction management and general contractors.


Again thank you all or your consideration.

Sep 14, 13 7:51 am

UC Davis has/had that same program in extension.  Evenings.

Sep 14, 13 11:28 am


It looks ok - same idea as UCB - 5 core and 2 electives.  I think UCB's is better.  I think a basic course in project management, focusing more on documentation, and another one on safety should be there, making it more relevant for people newer to the field.  It looks like you could work during the day and do this at night.  It's on quarters.  UCB, as you know, uses semesters.

After a more theoretical education at Berkeley, something like this will feel very applied.  Be forewarned.

Sep 14, 13 12:42 pm

Expand your job search far and wide. I didn't get my first arch job till I moved several states away from home (VA to GA). Also try posting your resume on Craigslist (most people don't do this), that is how I got my first few contract drafting jobs. It's always easier when an employer/company contacts you first.

At this point you're more than likely going to have to take a crappy job just to get your foot in the door. That's the route I went.

GL, I know the feeling. Took me 3.5years to find an arch job.

Sep 14, 13 3:28 pm

Your renderings could be a lot better.  Don't use Rhino and Vray for rendering - use 3ds Max and Vray.  Nobody cares about seeing your test renderings without materials applied.  Put people and life into your renderings. Read about architectural photography and learn what makes images nice to look at. Check out rendering firms like MIR, Luxigon, Peter Guthrie and DBOX.  If you can take your images closer to that level, you'll have a better chance of getting hired to do renderings.

Sep 14, 13 4:31 pm

without reading your entire post I can tell you by my experience and how I got a job is by telling people about the problem and putting yourself in a position to where you can be first on a person's mind when a architecture job comes up. Tell your teachers, family and friends that you are looking for a job when you get a job you'll see that you have the skills(learned from school) to pay the bills. This is a key I learned to get into and advance(I'm hoping) into the architecture profession there is the AIA and AIAS which is costly and won't be immediate but it will put you in front of someone who can start or advance your career or in front of someone who knows of an architect who can hire you.

Learn 3ds max learn all you can to put yourself into a memorable position from your peers if you have a B.A there is no reason why you cannot find a job when I have a 2 year degree and am employed in the architecture profession.

Sep 14, 13 4:32 pm

^^ you can use rhino for renders alright, the real key is knowing how to make a rendering look good no mater what software you use because technical proficiency useless without an artistic eye.

I think looking at professional renders is good advice in that sense, but you also really need to learn Photoshop if you render.

Sep 14, 13 5:00 pm

natematt, I agree with you about the need for an artistic eye, but there are reasons why professional renderers or firms that are serious about in-house renderings never use Vray for Rhino.

Sep 14, 13 5:14 pm

You never miss what you never had. Move on and don't look back.

Sep 14, 13 6:22 pm

at risk of derailing thread, why do the professionals not use vray in rhino?

Sep 14, 13 8:02 pm
Alien 8

Professionals do use Rhino. I believe that some arch-viz firms developed a preference to 3DS Max because until recently Rhino had very limited RAM capacity. The program would often crash during renderings or RAM-intensive commands if the model was too complex, and 2GB didn't go very far. However, the new version no longer has that limit.

Sep 14, 13 10:00 pm

You never miss what you never had. Move on and don't look back.

I disagree.  That could be a minimization strategy.  How can a person say they don't miss the house or unit that was selling at a decent price that they could have bought, a lost love, or the inability to go to a place seen in National Geographic that has yanked their chain?

I'm sorry the OP is having such a prolonged search period.  That he's now in the CV of California and it's tough makes it a head scratcher.  The state's interior tends to be slightly under-supplied at most times, except maybe now, and drastically so when there's a lot of building going on, except for more in demand places like the Napa Valley, Chico, mountain resort areas, and the Palm Springs area.  Again, with or without cert., try the big GCs and CMs in your area.  You will be learning and can then switch to a firm, where you'll hit the beach running compared to someone wet behind the ears.  Then, you can stay on or if you don't want to, you have the credibility to go back to a GC or CM.  Or you can do something altogether different.

Sep 14, 13 10:13 pm

Vray for 3ds Max has a lot of features that aren't available yet for the Rhino version - there's more control over the camera settings, HDRI mapping, proxy management, material mapping, material types, displacement modifiers, and modifiers like renderable splines, not to mention all of the 3rd party scripts for 3ds max that allow a high level of realism in a short amount of time (multiscatter, floorgenerator, etc).

Sep 14, 13 10:53 pm

ob, the OP's got three years of no internship and no job. He's got almost as much time unemployed as he has in his education. How long would you have him persist?

Emarson, look for a job in construction. Maybe you can leverage your education to some advantage. At the very least you'll learn what you should have learned in architecture school and *maybe* become more employable in architecture.

Learning more computer programs is simply a waste of time. Learn how to make buildings instead.

Sep 15, 13 12:48 am

I acutally do not use V-ray for Rhino. I do use 3DS Max for render. Rhino/V-ray is a little bit lacking compared to 3DS Max. Just wanted to clarify that.

Sep 15, 13 6:24 am

I too graduated a few years ago; I didn't really have much a portfolio but worked for a small firm for short while.  The lack of stability in the work coming in and the fact I could be losing my job at any moment had me reconsidered architecture as a means to an end.  Thankfully, I was laid off.

It may have jumpstarted my path in discovering who I was as a designer (hence I never had a completed portfolio), but I took on stable jobs  that would allow me some down time to find my niche which became my second job so to speak - putting in the hours to learn about materiality, understanding how things are made, learning to program, the act of simply creating and learning even if it meant crawling to get things done is what had kept me content and moving forward.  Over time, I've come to appreciate the process of becoming a better thinker and designer than to be so fixated in becoming an architect for the sake of being one.  Eventually I'll get to where I need to be in a matter of time and with a real sense of purpose of why I do what I love doing.

So in a way, I came empathize what you're going through but rather than trying to cater your soul in what the world wants, make sure it aligns with who you are and how you've applied yourself in the things that strikes you fancy.  People will see that and would more likely hire or trust you as a designer.

So the real question to consider is: Do you love that "rendering" you made?  If not, keep at it; navigate if you have to.

Sep 16, 13 1:05 pm

My advice, try a small project in Revit or some drafting and modeling program, a coffee shop with seating for 30 perhaps. Draft it out in plans sections and what ever else you think you need to communicate design intent. 

In this Coffey shop start out modeling and designing the counter. Look up the ADA codes and figure out how they influence this, then move on to a restroom and then the rest of the project. Make an 11x17 set of drawings and then take them with you to a firm and ask for advice on how to become an architect and show them the drawings, then very quickly follow up on any suggestions they make and show them again.

Try this, also think about places in the community that your design skills can be used such as a local charity or neighborhood association. Do something, make posters, design a park bench, or a community garden. Have a now project that you are working on and get yourself familiar with construction details, and managing clients and deadlines. This will help you demonstrate that you can work on many things at once and as you engage in the community people will start to help you out in return for your help with their design problem that you have just solved.

Sep 16, 13 2:39 pm

is it a personality thing?  that's all i can think of if you've spent 3 years out of school.  sorry, i don't mean to insult you.  but maybe you just come off really bad at interviews.  

at this point you need to start working on the hard skills, not rendering.  maybe work with a construction company or a contractor?

why don't you go to a zoning hearing or something, where the public is welcome and you can meet architects?  i know the people i work with would think really highly of meeting a potential hire that way.

if i was in your shoes i would have looked for free work somewhere at the 6-8 month mark, just to further/begin my professional career in some way.  i know there are a lot of people against that sort of thing, but at this point what do you care, honestly?  it can either lead to a job or at least put experience down on your resume (it would be infinitely easier to find a job with 6 months of office experience).  But doing nothing will just get you nothing.  if you have to support yourself with a real job, do it part-time in the mornings or something.

habitat for humanity is also a good idea.

Sep 16, 13 8:16 pm

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