Studying Architecture after 40


I'm 42 years old and will be studying calculus and physics this coming fall in order to apply to architecture schools when I will be 43. I'm interested in reading about the experiences of older students or of younger students with older classmates. I wonder about how I will fit in with all of those young whippersnappers-he he he, (although I've been told I appear much younger than 42, whatever that means). I must confess I'm a little worried about competing in the marketplace since I will be about 47 when I graduate.

Jul 3, 09 7:10 pm


You'll get a raft of opinions and answers to your question. Here's mine.

I studied architecture as a pup and got my license fairly early, but decided to get a master's and doctorate later on. I finished my PhD at 46. For me, this was exactly the right move. It might not be for others.

In my opinion, your question is more about following your dream than about architecture in particular. You sound certain about this, which suggests to me that you're already decided and just looking for reinforcement, rather than seeking help to make the basic decision.

Of course, marketplace realities do affect job prospects, and, in your case, my hunch is that the profession will be well past the current downturn and on the upswing by the time you're done. Your strength on graduation --what will set you apart from the whippersnappers-- is your life experience and maturity, along with whatever other professional/ business skills or knowledge you bring. What have you been doing until now? Figure how to market that as complementary to your architectural training, and you'll be more competitive.

Jul 3, 09 7:27 pm

Thanks Citizen. I appreciate your insights and suggestions. I've been an assistant teacher for about 21 years but I'm uncertain as to how that would make a difference.

Jul 3, 09 7:32 pm

ahhh, but teaching is about communication & leadership, correct? Those are two very important skills in the architecture field and also it just so happens that both are difficult to find.

I did not come to this as a second career, but I can offer a few thoughts from observation I suppose. Take with grain of salt.

You're in luck in that this field has much less of an "expiry date" than many fields do. If your work is good, and you have other experience and skills (and of course, added maturity & life experience), then you'll make a strong candidate for many firms I'm sure. (With the sole exception, perhaps, of sole proprietorships... I've found that sole principals tend -- not always of course, but tend -- to be less comfortable working with someone close to their own age / experience level (unless they are in the mindset of seeking out a suitable protege / partner).) The only caveat is that you shouldn't expect a salary any higher than that of a typical intern with the same amount of architectural experience as you. This profession does not tend to be very monetarily rewarding in general and I don't think life experience is going to get you a better salary (not that you were thinking that, but just a thought).

Jul 3, 09 7:45 pm

I actually find that architecture and teaching share many common skills. My teacher friends and relatives often compare notes with me and there are some eery similarities -- not in the superficial, day to day stuff but more in the overall currents of the job. Much more similar than, say, my doctor friends.

Jul 3, 09 7:47 pm

A lot of people seem to think that architecture is all about drawing & designing buildings. It is, yes, but there is a whole, whole, whole lot more to it than that -- and that is where communication & leadership come in.

Jul 3, 09 7:48 pm

why are physics and calculus the topics you chose to start taking?

Jul 3, 09 9:32 pm

well if I can say something...
It really depends on what your goals are.
Architecture takes a long term to master and school is only the beginning of that. Typically one goes to school and has to acquire quite a lot of experience, pass licensing exams in order to be called an architect.
If you are ok with being called an intern for this amount of time and be psychologically ready to paid less and learn whatever ropes there are to learn, then you should be fine, because most people become established later in life anyway.
And I am sure, as others have noted above, that you should bring a different perspective to it then your younger colleagues.

Jul 3, 09 9:57 pm

I'd just be certain that what the profession can offer is what you are looking for. There are many misconceptions about it, and, frankly, many polar opposite opinions about the profession in general.

It is a long, painful road. One that many of us chose to (mostly) abandon partway through. I went through 7 years of arch school and chose not to pursue the traditional path because it was not what I was looking for (ie I like to get paid for my time and enjoy designing more than anything). So I chose to take on things from a different approach and have found it infinitely more rewarding.
It has blindsided more than a few out there and the realities are rarely better than anticipated.

I'd also question the calculus and physics. To my knowledge, many schools stopped requiring those (and they are absolutely useless in the profession, anyway). Take a drawing class, a design class, a drafting class, go talk with architects and current students, that'll help you prepare more effectively.

Now don't get me wrong, the only thing I'd change is adding an MBA or MRED to my degrees. There is nothing more than I enjoy than designing architecture. It is the profession that did not suit me or my goals.

Jul 3, 09 10:21 pm

Hi Trace,


Well - I went to architecture school at age 50, and graduated with an M.arch at 54. I was a 3D environment designer for Rockstar games. I went to work for a mid sized firm in San Diego, after 4 months, my boss, told me I was too old to be changing careers, and I was laid off could not get a job for 8 months. Because I knew a lot about about 3D design, and Revit, I was at long last able to get a job at SOM in San Francisco. This led to my dream job of working on the design of many projects including a 60 story skyscraper. I was laid off in 11/08, and only recently found work in a very progressive design studio with a lot of bright people. - My advice, is go and see "Pursuit of Passion" and "Fountain Head" I never been so broke, and having so much fun at the same time. There is serious age discrimination out there. The best way to deal with it is: Great health lots of exercise, a vegan diet, 1400 calories/day, Gingko - so you don't forget anything. BTW as Mantaray says it's about communication & leadership - I would say almost 98% of it. You had better be committed - learn all the latest software(Revit, Rhino, Grasshopper ...)
The problem is - that the architecture profession does expect certain degrees of experience to correlate to ones chronological age – this is a habit – If a PM is age 45+ and you are the same age with only 2 years of experience. That is weird for them – ya know what I mean, and the 20 to 30 group that is very very proficient with all the latest BIM and 3D software doesn’t want to be teaching someone who is old enough tro be their father the basics. The best cure for this problem is to be very proficient with architecture, the terminology, and the technology- Bottom line, is you must be willing to do what it take to be twice as good – no exception – after a while – it just becomes the new you, and then and only then will you be respected. - besides the quest will keep you alive longer and better. Do what you want to do, and don't be "steered" by general society into a retirement, and a nursing home.

Jul 3, 09 10:40 pm
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

Pipo ... I've encountered people in M.Arch programs (Yale and Princeton) who are your age ... go for it. You're never too old to follow your passions.

Jul 3, 09 10:47 pm

Thanks, everyone for the thoughtful advice. I have found that most schools do, in fact, require math through calculus and at least one semester of physics. In addition I am taking art history (e.g. 20th Century Architecture) and studio classes with the expectation that I will be able to develop a portfolio, which, I understand, is very important. I agree with rverk.ini that pursuing something that enthralls you is the key to feeling relevant in life, thus, I am thrilled to see so many supportive replies. Thanks, again.

Jul 3, 09 10:57 pm

I can't find any film called "Pursuit of Passion." Might there be another name for it?

Jul 3, 09 11:14 pm

Well, if your following your dream than any comments here are irrelevant.

BUT...Here is some practical info to consider:

The job market (or lack of) is absolutely awful right now. Assuming you make it through a professional program you'll be 46 when you graduate and I don't see the outlook perking up much in 2010.

Add 3 years to that and you'll be ready to start taking your licensing exams.
Most folks spend about a year to sit for the ARE series.

Assuming all goes well, you'll be nearly 50 by the time your licensed.

The only practical issue I see here is earning potential. At the age of 50 you'll be competing for salaries with individuals in their early to mid 30's. Working the crazy hours that most of us put in early in our careers is something most 50 year olds don't find appealing.

In my firms, the partners are all in their early-mid fifties and most of them work 35-40 hours per week while the younger staff (myself included) regularly pull 60+ hour weeks.

If your desire is to become an architect and work for yourself, I think my comments won't matter much to you.

Jul 4, 09 12:37 pm
and the 20 to 30 group that is very very proficient with all the latest BIM and 3D software doesn’t want to be teaching someone who is old enough tro be their father the basics.

I can totally see that.

Jul 4, 09 1:44 pm

then it's ok to discriminate - I'm of that age and know the latest technologies - I don't get discriminated against as long as I keep up - it seems as if age discrimination is allowed in architecture


I would be entering a 3 1/2 year MArch program for those with degrees in fields other than architecture. Wouldn't I be learning that software as I go through the program.

Jul 4, 09 4:10 pm

you have an advantage younger people don't have. you will be closer to main age group who hire architects, because economically they are more certain and already accumulated land, house, business etc..
they will also find your age and life experience something they can relate to.
your past experiences and application of them into architecture won't be necessarly in operational systems of designing but they will be useful in terms of human relationships type of things.
you will be learning all that software like everyone else. i don't know why people seem to think computers and software are exclusive to younger generation?
these are exciting times. a lot of people who see themselves on top of their game now, also run the risk of being very marginal quickly...
the nature of architectural 'experience' is changing...

Jul 4, 09 4:45 pm

if your a teacher already... i would get the arch degree and then teach arch classes or something. there's tooooo many ladders and b.s. to deal with in the office life unless you go the management route. as mentioned above about the long hours and programs, it's hard to keep up.

Jul 4, 09 5:11 pm

paste from the Word Detective:

"Whippersnapper" is a somewhat archaic term, rarely heard today outside of movies, and then usually from the mouth of a character portrayed as chronologically-challenged and hopelessly old-fashioned to boot. A "whippersnapper" is an impertinent young person, usually a young man, whose lack of proper respect for the older generation is matched only by his laziness and lack of motivation to better himself.

One might imagine that the term derives from the understandable temptation among more productive citizens to "snap a whip" at such sullen layabouts, but the whips in question actually belonged to the whippersnappers themselves. Such ne'er-do-wells were originally known as "whip snappers" in the 17th century, after their habit of standing around on street corners all day, idly snapping whips to pass the time. The term was been based on the already-existing phrase, "snipper-snapper," also meaning a worthless young man, but in any case, "whip snapper" became "whippersnapper" fairly rapidly.

Though "whippersnapper" originally referred to a young man with no visible ambition, the term has changed somewhat over the years, and today is more likely to be applied to a youngster with an excess of both ambition and impertinence.

Jul 5, 09 2:34 am
vado retro

My arthritis starts acting up every time I look at this thread.

Jul 5, 09 10:48 am

lol. I guess entering an M.arch program at 28 isn't so bad after all. I thought that was pretty late. "too old" "too young" tomayto tomato. it doesn't exist anywhere out there except our heads.

Jul 5, 09 7:35 pm

don't worry about it.

only real issue is wages, which will i can almost guarantee you, be much lower than whatever you have become accustomed to.

fresh licensed architect in tokyo with a m.arch degree typically earns $15k to $24k, which is insane and beyond.

in London after finishing M.Arch and with about 5 years experience i couldn't get much above $60k (barely enough to live in london), and in canada was about the same. i think architects in general are paid what can only be called a "living" wage, which is to say it is enough to live on, but not much better. at least to start with. later on things get better, although i think it is useful to be prepared for a rather low ceiling unless you make own office.

as for age itself, i think it was peter salter (or some similar fellow from AA school pantheon of the 1980's) who went to AA as mature student after working for years in a window manufacturing company...and then went on to become inspiration to generations of students and to do some pretty cool stuff in the 90's. He could do that because he wanted to be there and was smart as hell and totally engaged.

no reason you can't do the same.

Jul 5, 09 8:27 pm

Good luck pipo, that is quite a battle you will have for the next several years though unless you have deep pockets.

Jul 6, 09 2:58 am

good luck on the career change...

I'm with Orhan - You will have a much easier time relating to and getting clients to take you seriously because you are closer in age. I've been working for over 10 years now, and I'm still just a kid in client's eyes.

Jul 6, 09 10:35 am

Couldn't help thinking of this article from yesterday's Boston Globe which might provide some inspiration:

Starting Slow, Finishing Fast

William Rawn is a good example of someone who went to arch school after at least two other careers. Obviously, he's a talented designer, but what really sticks out for me, from what I've read about him, is how his work as a university adminstrator helped him forge the connections that later helped him to land work, and also helped him to understand how to listen to clients.

Jul 6, 09 1:02 pm

Sorry, broken link. This one should work:

Starting Slow, Finishing Fast

Jul 6, 09 1:05 pm

Pipo, I graduated from a BArch program last year, and along with people mostly my age was one student in his early 40s with prior degrees in other fields. He's a really talented, and very nice person who fit in fine with everyone else. His work was always very nice, and very thoughtful, and I don't think there's any reason that being older than typical should be a detriment. Good luck!

Jul 6, 09 3:01 pm

Hello OP (PipoNYC). 

It's 2017 and I came across this post in my search for a possible second career in the same. I'm newly 40 and my wife thinks this is just a fleeting mid-life crisis. Maybe. Maybe not. :)

Anyway, keen to hear from you on how you progressed in the last 8 years. You're hopefully now a fully qualified architect and having a fulfilling and busy worklife. 


Nov 28, 17 10:04 pm
Why waste your money and time...just get a sketchbook, travel and read books.
Get a degree in medicine or become a Trader then take your great salary and design your house
Nov 29, 17 3:19 am

I have just started at 37. I am the oldest and as I am part time feel shoehorned into the full time course. But I am enjoying it. Go for it.

EDIT - Just noticed it is an old post. How did you go on?

Nov 29, 17 3:57 am
jon ammer

unless you have a guaranteed comfortable secondary income coming in for the next 10-15 years you are nuts to consider entering Architecture at your age as a means to make a living in the current climate. A flooding of the market with Architects from numerous new Uni courses , huge advances in software and the 24/7 almost free availability of every type of eye catching design solution for any building typology on the Web have diminished the role of the Architect in the Publics eyes. You likely wont become a well rounded designer until about 10 yrs out of Uni.  thats 12- 15 yrs from now. Unless you want to be a project arch / manager type who deals with contractors queries all day 

Nov 29, 17 10:11 am

I am currently studying for Bachelor of Pharmacy in Bangladesh.
But I have a cherish desire to study Architecture at certain point of my life. Is it possible for me to study is course given my situation and time?

Dec 24, 17 12:34 pm


I dislike being negative, but in reality 42 or 47, you will face age discrimination and you will not be able to prove it.

You will be older then most of the office, if you do get hired as an intern.

I recommend you not do it, but find a goal which is more realistic to achieve.

Dec 24, 17 7:45 pm

I also see this as a possibility. As an intern, you're competing against a ton of "whippersnappers" who are, supposedly, much more tech savvy and malleable in their outlook and their principles. Thus, competition will be fierce and you'll probably be looked over in favor of someone much younger. I don't think it's impossible to find success as an older graduate but is it worth the effort? In my opinion, no.


I took a drafting class in HS in 1995 I was accepted to nyit architecture school. I soon reallizzed architecture was now a computer job. I wanted to draw with a pencil. I gave up because I didn't want a computer job. I wanted to draw with a pencil. 

Aug 14, 19 10:11 pm

And now, what do you do that involves drawing with a pencil?


As a young man I always bought into the fallacy that the best work you could do was whilst being young and dumb. 

Architecture is not like this. Graphics yes, as the profession died alongside the birth of the smartphone.

I'd argue after 40 is when you can properly approach a brief. I'm not an architect but I intend to design some structures in the future as I'm sure you will too. In fact these young whipper snappers schooled up at the AA with delusions of grandeur distilled by their (estimated) teachers should or could wait until they can approach a brief with experience.

Or maybe one or two will be the next foster/zaha/ghery/rodgers, possibly but this jury is out.

Aug 16, 19 7:34 pm
GMI Studio

Hello OP (PipoNYC). 

It's 2017 and I came across this post in my search for a possible second career in the same. I'm newly 40 and my wife thinks this is just a fleeting mid-life crisis. Maybe. Maybe not. :)

Anyway, keen to hear from you on how you progressed in the last 8 years. You're hopefully now a fully qualified architect and having a fulfilling and busy worklife. 


Oct 22, 19 10:38 pm

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