Would you give up architecture for an 80K job?


With the uncertain job market, long, stressful hours and low pay, would you quit architecture if you found an 80K (with the possibility of pay to increase to 100K in a year and more) job in a different field? However, this job isn't your passion and provides you with little challenge.

Oct 13, 13 3:11 pm


just kidding 


i am feeling ambitious on this sunday monrning /afternoon ! 

Oct 13, 13 3:17 pm

let's also assume that this job is more stable than architecture, less stressful, and with the possibility of increased pay with time.

Say you've finished your Masters, have a huge debt from tuition and are dismayed by architecture.  Do you give up chasing your dreams of running your own architectural practice someday, perhaps becoming a startchitect, possibly winning the Pritzker, or becoming a well respected principal at a good firm?  all for stability, less stress, guaranteed success and pay etc :)

Oct 13, 13 3:21 pm

i would now, but then again, I'm licensed, so dip wouldn't hamper me practicing.

Oct 13, 13 4:55 pm

Well you can make 80k in architecture too, maybe after 8-9 years of the question then is, how long have you been outta school?

Oct 13, 13 5:14 pm

i've always had the idea that architecture could be something to do on the side later on once you have a license and enough exposure to certain things.  has anyone here left and gone on to something semi-related that pays a little more like CM or RED, while sustaining maybe a couple residential projects on the side?  to me that would be ideal.

Oct 13, 13 6:14 pm

I gave up and 80k job for architecture though - Video game 3D artist to architecture

from social irresponsibility to financial irresponsibiity

Oct 13, 13 6:50 pm

When you have a job your time belongs to someone else. When you work for yourself your time belongs to you.

When you have a job you can forget about work when you go home. When you work for yourself you are always on duty.

When you have a job you have the illusion of security. When you work for yourself you have the illusion of freedom.

In the end it is learning to like what you do, no matter what it is, because not liking what you do, no matter what it is, is misery.

Oct 13, 13 7:08 pm

this job is more stable than architecture, less stressful, and with the possibility of increased pay with time

You know what architecture is.  How do you know that this job might be more challenging and even more satisfying than you are giving it credit for?  If it potentially pays $100K I am quite certain it's more than just watering the office plants.

Personally, I would at least try it out.  You can always go back.  Architecture isn't going anywhere (in more ways than one).

Oct 13, 13 7:14 pm
Nah, I'm not gonna make less and do something I don't enjoy. Now if you asked: "would you give up architecture to build custom rat bikes" I'm there.
Oct 13, 13 8:04 pm

I like beta's answer.  Getting the damn license makes me feel so much freer to *not* do architecture.

At this point in my life I would absolutely shift to a higher paying job with more security not in the field. But it's not my life, it's yours. It needs to be the decision that's right for you.

Two things I would point out:

1. Your career is loooooong.  I've made two major career shifts (went from traditionally employed to private practice at age 38, went to work for an institution (not a firm) at age 45) and feel like I have at least one more major change in me before I get too old to do so. In today's bizarro employment world shifting and leaping into new areas is not as taboo as it once was.  There is time to change and recover if you make a decision that you later regret.

2. Think about how significant the financial stress in your life is. Financial stress is *real*.  It occupies the back of your mind at every moment and the front of your mind frequently, it leads to anger and physical issues.  Are you wanting more money because you are seriously having a hard time surviving, or because you need to fund big decisions like buying a house and setting up retirement, or because you want a better iPhone? What would you do with more money than you have now? If the answer is "not have debilitating panic attacks because my bank balance is down to $.30 every pay period" then a move for more money would change your life significantly, in a good way.  

Oct 14, 13 8:28 am

++ Donna

balance is important.

Oct 14, 13 8:37 am

The fact that you are (presumably seriously) contemplating leaving the profession probably means you aren't completely, totally, passionately in love with it.  That's probably reason enough to leave, at least for a little while.  As has been noted ad nauseum on this site, the profession offers very very little in tangible rewards, so there just isn't much reason to put up with the disadvantages absent a real passion.

Oct 14, 13 11:15 am
On the fence

"Do you give up chasing your dreams of running your own architectural practice someday, perhaps becoming a startchitect, possibly winning the Pritzker, or becoming a well respected principal at a good firm?"

I dont think most people in school or starting off in architecture think this is the end goal.  Maybe they should, at least the part of owning your own practice.

Oct 14, 13 3:52 pm

This article seems appropriate.

We need to get over this prejudice that leaving architecture means you somehow weren't "passionate enough".  Whatever. Life is a journey, total commitment to one thing is good for some people and not for others.

Oct 14, 13 8:14 pm

I left an 80k job (video game 3D artist) for architecture

Oct 14, 13 8:23 pm

If you take this job (and, only you can decide what's right for you) with the idea that some day you might return to architecture, you might want to continue living frugally and bank the excess. I've seen several people travel the path you describe, then decide they want to return to practice - only to discover that they had grown accustomed to expensive living. In the end, the economic sacrifices needed to return kept them away.

Oct 14, 13 10:51 pm

That's a big assumption that many of us will ever hit $80k as architects ;)

Oct 15, 13 12:40 am

Let's ask the opposite question -- would you give up an 80K salary for a chance to enter architecture? Donna, would you keep giving it up for the 11.8 years it takes to get a license today? At the $8 an hour most folks are getting after a graduate degree? The opportunity cost on that is seven figures.

Oct 15, 13 1:25 am


Oct 18, 13 5:35 pm

My last day at a 75k/year job in IT is Nov 1st.
Off to become an intern and I can't fucking wait.

Oct 18, 13 6:04 pm

mespellwrong, I would not give up a high paying job to become an architect knowing what I know now about the profession.  But without that insight based on experience who can say what the right choice would be?

Oct 18, 13 8:03 pm

is 80 k hard to hit as an architect in usa?

i would not classify it is a high wage either.  middle of the road really...i know i live in an expensive city, but 80k is considered high in us?

Oct 18, 13 10:12 pm

An $80,000 annual income is in the 94th percentile of wage earners . 

Oct 18, 13 10:22 pm

According to wiki, 87% earned less than $75k.

Oct 18, 13 10:34 pm
Ugh, that map hurts.

On another thread someone posted they were making $33k when they gave up and left architecture. The sad truth is $80k is *not* a lot of money to live in the US but it's more than most architects are making.
Oct 19, 13 10:52 am

You need to look at where the $80k architects are living.  In DesMoines that's pretty good money.  God knows how you could live on it in San Francisco or NYC when you consider the high cost of housing and living in general.

Architecture is really only an appropriate career choice for someone who is (pick one or more) a trust funder, spouse of a high earner, semi-retired from some other profession, socially well-connected, a monk, or just dumb-lucky.

Oct 19, 13 11:41 am
won and done williams
I left architecture before getting the license to make about 2.5x what I was making in architecture. In fact, it was the licensure process that convinced me being an architect as the license connotes was not for me; however I still love architecture and have been able to remain close enough to it to still feel a connection to design.
Oct 19, 13 12:39 pm

won and done, when did you leave and what are you up to now?  I'm finally feeling like I'm hitting a groove where my earnings are likely to steadily climb, however if somebody offered me a salary like that, and the work was half-interesting, I'd be compelled.

On a personal note, $80k isn't a lot of money, nor is it a little (but it is significantly more than I currently earn, 2.5 years out of school).  Unlike a lot of folks in this profession, I don't come from a privileged background ($80k is more than my parents' income combined) and I'm the most educated person on either side of my family, from any generation.  Standing up for your earning potential is difficult when you were raised by parents who were just happy to have steady work (which wasn't always the case).  Such is the power of being at the top - make employees feel,like they're easily replaceable, and they're less likely to ask for a raise.

Oct 20, 13 4:02 am
Tinbeary There there

won and done, I was in the middle of licensure when I left the profession too, taking the tests helped me realize that I had lost interest and that that was ok. I make almost 3 times the wage (hourly) that I used to make as an architect, but I don't work near as many hours and I am self-employed so I pay all my own benefits so it is only a little better in the end, but the best part is that I don't have to do CAD anymore and get to actually use my mind.

Oct 20, 13 6:18 am
won and done williams
I left the profession last year, eight years out of grad school. I'm doing development-related consulting. I raced through IDP right out of grad school, but over time started doing more strategic planning work, less conventional architecture. I built up a good network and eventually clients asked if I would be willing to take on projects myself.
Regardless of whether you stay in straight architecture or not, the real money is in owning your own practice. For me, I could either have a firm bill me out at $80/hr or bill $80/hr myself. Not for everyone, but if you are wired that way with a solid pool of potential clients, it's a good living.
Oct 20, 13 7:57 pm

same deal for me bowling ball.  except my dad, who decided to get an education when i was in high school.  he sold his home to pay for masters degree. am pretty sure he was making quite a lot more than 80k within a decade after that. he chose his career though, didn't just look for the money. That is the best way to do anything as far as i am concerned.

80k is ok for tokyo, but not enough to have a comfortable life. maybe buy a car, no way near enough to buy a house closer than an hour from the center.

so according to that map, 80k is for the 9% i guess. hm, not so nice. the gap between 9% and 1% is gigantic, no? am pretty sure the 1% make millions a year not merely 5 figure incomes...

Oct 20, 13 8:08 pm

The 1% represents Billionaires I'm pretty sure

Oct 21, 13 9:37 am

i'm pretty sure a millionaire is in the top 0.1%.  million is still a lot less than billion too.

part of the whole income inequality isn't that the 1% are getting all the money.  the whole "i am the 99%" is more of a marketing thing.  i bet it's about 400 families getting all the money.

Oct 21, 13 10:11 am

Apparently the top 1% is now $506,553 and above. That gone up quite a ways in the last four years -- it was $368,238 two years ago. The 0.1% at the same time was over 9 million, so I'd guess we would be looking at closer to twenty now. Still, there are close to seven million people earning that much or more annually.

Oct 21, 13 10:43 am

The "L" Curve

Good visual demonstration of US income distribution.

Oct 21, 13 12:13 pm

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