should I be an architect?

john doe

I was recently accepted into Cal Polly's architecture program. The visual arts have always fascinated me, however degrees in fine arts or graphic design don't lead to a very good earning potential. I switched focus in the application process towards architecture in the hopes that I would be able to combine my interest in the arts with science and engineering. My goal is to earn a decent wage and to make the world a little bit more environmentally friendly and a little more aesthetically pleasing.

However I have a nagging feeling that perhaps I am making the wrong decision. I have been doing a little bit of research and discovered that while architects earn a comfortable salary, the unemployment rate in architecture is considerably higher than most other professions.

I also worry that working as an architect might involve less drawing up plans and more attending meetings or doing paperwork. If that is the case I am still willing to pursue architecture as long as there is space for me to be creative.


If anybody has any thoughts or questions regarding my situation I would love to read them,

thank you.

Jan 11, 14 11:07 am

Reason #697 to require new members to make ten posts before being able to start a new topic: They are too stupid to use the search feature and read the dozens of existing threads on the very same topic.

Jan 11, 14 11:27 am
Jan 11, 14 11:40 am
Non Sequitur



And another "I want to cure cancer using my incredible architecturing skills while ranking in mad dollar bills". What the fuck are they telling high-school kids about architecture these days? I feel really bad about the talent pool quality in 10 years' time.

Jan 11, 14 2:51 pm

And I thought this was a thread from a 16 year old who was still deciding what to do.  Ok, so you're admitted at Cal Poly, right?  (You spelled Poly incorrectly, btw).  I'm thinking SLO and not Pomona, right?  If so, you're are at good school.

When you're an architect, about 8 to 10 years out of school, you generally earn a workable middle-class salary and, yes, your work does make the environment a little better and even more aesthetically pleasing.  Short of vanilla business and industrial parks, most newer stuff out there makes the built environment look a little nicer.

The question you need to ask yourself is what the heck do you see yourself doing for 8+ hours a day.  That is the first question any prospective shopper for a career should ask.  If you can see yourself doing construction drawings, checking shop drawings, attending construction meetings, and writing correspondence to consultants and contractors for 8+ hours a day, then be an architect.  If you would find that dreadful, that don't be an architect.  If you think you could handle teaching little kids or monitoring the vitals of admitted patients on your assigned hospital floor for 8+ hours a day, then you should do that.  People should just stop and VISUALIZE what they can do day in and day out.

Jan 11, 14 4:55 pm

If you graduate from Cal Poly, who will A. have no trouble getting a job. B. become a successful - I know because I worked for many Cal Poly grads. - Go for it

Jan 12, 14 6:12 pm

If you have to ask the answer is NO, most definitely not.

Jan 12, 14 6:34 pm



Except my office banned tobacco on company property, fascists. 

Jan 12, 14 9:57 pm



Jan 12, 14 10:09 pm
john doe

I concede, that was a really obnoxious post. I apologize to everyone who had to read that.


point taken.

Jan 13, 14 1:40 am
john doe

Heh heh heh



Jan 13, 14 1:58 am

I switched focus in the application process towards architecture in the hopes that I would be able to combine my interest in the arts with science and engineering

Here we go again!  Architecture is perfect for you.  It combines the poverty and irrelevance of the arts with the stress and liability of engineering.  As a plus, you get to work in a violently cyclical industry with regular bouts of unemployment.  Unemployment is always a joy at any age, but it is particularly invigorating as you approach 50+ years of age and increasing levels of age discrimination.  But, look on the bright side.  You'll get to be on a first name basis with the clerks at the unemployment office.


Jan 13, 14 11:17 am


Jan 13, 14 2:24 pm

Don't study architecture, please.


In my school, there are a couple of people who wanted to study the arts and be artists like you. However they decided to study architecture because their parents made them because they thought it would be close enough and get them a real job.


In school they did not have the same passion for architecture like the rest of us had. They treated each project as being a sculpture rather than an actual, build-able proposals. They forgot that the design is only a small fraction of architecture. They were more about presentation than substance.


In the technical/scientific and history courses, which made up the other 80% of the curriculum, they failed miserably because they did not care and all they did was have the mentality that they should be in studio all the time.


Architecture is clearly a second choice for you. You will never be able to compete and succeed with the people that really want to study and have a passion for architecture. Follow your passion and go into the arts or find a different major.  

Jan 13, 14 2:54 pm


Well, it's definitely not an accurate depiction of architecture and architects.  That guy is not an architect.  He is someone who probably models menswear for department store chains.  Not only that.  He can't design his way out of a paper bag.  No seasoned architect would have a sophomoric, arcaded piece of shit like that model on his desk.  He would have stepped on it soon after he got kicked out of architecture school.

Unemployment is always a joy at any age, but it is particularly invigorating as you approach 50+ years of age and increasing levels of age discrimination.  But, look on the bright side.  You'll get to be on a first name basis with the clerks at the unemployment office.

Yikes.  This is relevant to current times and, hopefully, only current times.  All of the kids I grew up with who had dads who were architects worked steadily in architecture until traditional retirement age, and then did stuff on a part-time basis or went on cruises with their spouses.  We have a pent-up situation at best.  America's population is growing because all the wrong people are having babies, and doing it quite well.  This will mean that design services will be needed for schools, recreation centers, Planned Parenthood offices, police stations, juvenile detention centers, tattoo parlors, and surreptitious places in which to make and sell meth.

Jan 13, 14 10:48 pm
Non Sequitur

Observant, I want to see someone take on meth-lab urban design challenges in a master's thesis.

Jan 14, 14 7:45 am

Dear John,

In my opinion, out of all architects, Project Architects are the only ones who actually earn a decent wage. Also in my opinion, PA's jobs, and perhaps architects jobs in general, have as much in common with visual arts as kabuki theatre does with peeling potatoes in a truck stop restaurant.

Regarding salaries. According to official statistics. the median pay of an architect is approx. 1.65 times higher that the median pay of a fine artist. The difference, while significant on paper, is offset by a little perk specific to architecture. As geezertect pointed out, unlike visual arts, architecture comes with a huge liability; to me, that definitely makes that 1.65 x bigger income worthless. 

Therefore, if you have a keen interest in visual arts, and especially if you are talented in arts, then you ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT pursue architecture. 

references: (architecture is ranked #7 among the 10 most stressful jobs; presumably white-collar jobs)

(CRIMINAL LIABILITY for faulty design performed by an architect)

Feb 1, 14 11:46 pm

DAMN! Don't be discourage man.

First, congratulations on getting into the school of architecture at Cal Poly.  Next, why not try out architecture school for a semester or two and talk to teachers for advice rather than pessimistic archinecters who love to troll and make others miserable.  =)

Life is all about taking risks.  Jump into architecture, soak in as much info as you can and get your hands dirty.  Having a background and interest in the visual arts will be of help.

Who says you have to be an "ARCHITECT" after completing your m.arch? Even though you may not earn much in the field, but most of us do it for the passion. Remember, love what you do vs do what you love.

Feb 2, 14 11:12 am

the first year of architecture school is far different than the third year, and that is even more different from practice.  you're not going to get even a remote idea of what's involved in becoming an architect by taking the first 2 semesters of an architecture program.

try out the first semester, and while you're in the building try to corner a few of the older students and talk to them.  ask them about what they're doing and their plans for working in the field.  that might be more useful.  see if an older student or professor can introduce you to a local architect that might have time to give you an informational interview so they can give you their perspective on the profession.

there is a reason archinectors are pessimistic.  it might be because of the anonymity of the internets, or it might be because the recession changed us, or it could be the profession that binds us as a group really is that bad.

Feb 2, 14 11:52 am

Become a civil engineer instead. Not being able to support your family, or always being terrified of not being able to, is no way to live. You can become an architect after you retire. Or you may be perfectly happy designing houses and small landscaping projects on the strength of your PE background at retirement.

Feb 2, 14 1:35 pm

^  Good advice.  Have you ever noticed those ads in New Yorker magazine for the Harvard School of Design, which are obviously aimed at upper middle/upper class folks who've made their pile on Wall Street and are now ready to do something "creative".  That should tell you almost everything you need to know.

Great hobby, lousy profession.  Don't say you weren't warned.

Feb 2, 14 2:25 pm


Feb 3, 14 9:14 pm

Alot of people regret doing architecture is all I can say.

Feb 4, 14 12:49 pm

if you're already doubting - then quit now….its not worth it…baristas make more money and are happier

Feb 4, 14 11:12 pm


As an additional opinion. I would carefully avoid asking architecture students, or even teachers, for advice about the practice of architecture.

Try talking to architects with many years of industry/work experience instead. Chances are they will give you a far more accurate picture of the profession. 

Chances also are you might find out that "working as an architect might involve less drawing up plans and more attending meetings or doing paperwork" is an extremely well-founded fear.

Incidentally, by getting the aforementioned "picture", you will probably experience the limit of the interaction between architecture and fine arts, which is always something.

Feb 4, 14 11:31 pm

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