Desperately seeking professional advice on the field of Architecture and Civil Engineering


I'm currently a fresh graduate from an arts school in Singapore in interior design and I wish to further my studies at either one of the mentioned courses. But my question is wouldn't studying a major in Civil engineering make more sense as i'm actually lacking the knowledge of constructing such structures. I have a strong sense of space and i have strong background in visualizing and conceptualizing architectural forms

Jan 9, 14 12:31 am

Yes, do civil engineering. There are far too may architects and want-to-be architects on this planet for the jobs available.... enough to last through the apocalypse.

Jan 9, 14 12:57 am

Civil Engineering is very, very, very different from architecture.  

In school architecture is very art-centric.  You're judged hard on the ideas in your design, your ability to execute drawings and models, etc.  When you graduate, depending on where you go, might be doing design work for buildings, you might be picking carpets and material finishes, you might be doing a lot of things related to architecture.  If you work at the right firm you might find yourself being the guy who combines the work from the design portion and all the various consultants to make sure it all meshes together (the ducts don't hit the beams and you still have room for the pot lights, etc).

When you study civil engineering you will spend most of your time calculating.  You will learn how to determine loads on a building, select structural members in steel, metal, wood, etc.  You will spend a lot of time studying the behaviour of soils in foundation design, the behaviour of water, the design of water management systems, highway design, structural analysis of complicated frames/trusses, etc.  You will be doing a lot of math (calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, etc).  There is very little creativity and many times there is a right answer, even if its complicated to arrive at.

While both work on structures, the work of the two is very different and that is why its not one person doing both jobs.

Jan 13, 14 5:00 pm

Free advice is worth every penny you pay for it, especially on an anonymous internet forum. Enjoy.

Jan 13, 14 7:19 pm

I’m not sure if this applies to you given your art school background & being in Singapore. For an undergraduate degree, I’d generally recommend civil engineering. Three reasons come to mind:

  1. Career prospects: Civil engineers serve both the building and heavy construction industries meaning vastly more job opportunities. Architects only serve building construction, one of the most notoriously boom-and-bust industries. If you want financial security out of a college degree, this is a big deal.
  2. Degree cost (in the US): Civil engineering is a 4 year degree that has a number of general classes you can test out of. Architecture is at least a 5 year degree with a mandatory design course sequence. If motivated, you could graduate from a civil program in 3-1/2 years (or less meaning) that much less debt and another 1-1/2 years of career time to pay it off (relative to architecture). If you want financial security out of a college degree, this is also a big deal.
  3. Flexibility: As a civil engineer, you can specialize in structures or roadways or tunneling or any number of other things as your interests develop. If you graduate, work for a couple years and find it too tedious, you can get a professional master’s degree in architecture in two years. It might seem like you have similar flexibility to specialize in aspects of architecture, but because the job market is both smaller and more competitive, it is likely you will take what you can get rather than make an informed decision. If you are looking for creative fulfillment, I’d suggest you consider taking up painting or sculpture in your free time (which you are more likely to have as an engineer) rather than choose architecture because it seems like an attractive compromise between a profession and creativity.

Hope that helps a little.

Jan 15, 14 10:43 am

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