Second thoughts - Current M.Arch student


I've been having second thoughts after having gone through 2 years (out of 3.5) of Architecture grad school and coming from an unrelated Bachelors...great timing.

I'm not particularly arrogant or boastful (which might be my downfall in the end) but I do think I have a talent and natural instinct for Architecture (also been told by others the same) and enjoy exploring and pushing the edges of the profession.  However, doubts still loom large and work ethic dwindling as years in Arch school go on. 

My lack of ability to hustle, promote and network is scary for me with regards to my future in the field.  Lack of structure/security I guess also scares me.  That act of constantly having to look for work, whether for clients or as a recent graduate/unemployed, the competition, the precariousness of the profession is something I’m not sure I have the stomach for. 

On the other hand, if I were asked the infamous career question "what would you do if you won the lottery" I would probably say Architecture, although I must admit, it's not an undying need, nor a passion I think.  As years go, I don't think I really have a "passion" per se, just interests/aptitudes.  And I don't think careers necessarily is the holy grail of finding happiness.  In all honesty, I no longer operate under the illusion that anything "out there" will bring happiness, but that's another topic.

Which leads me to thinking that I’d probably be satisfied enough with other careers.  Unlike others who warns students that they’ll be disappointed to find, upon graduating, that they’ll have little opportunity to actually design, this prospect is not that negative to me.  I don’t really care if I’m creative, even though I have the facility for it, which I guess contributes to my confusion – as if I should probably utilize this trait to its fullest and use it in the arena I’m suited for (skills and thinking wise anyways).  I think the stress of architecture has turned me off to creativity.  But something in me thinks that if I just put my head down and work and yes hustle, my originality (again I don’t think I’m being overly delusional about this) in thinking about architecture has the potential to bear some fruit and “success” in this field

Those loans though, some cosigned.  It’s going to sound crazy.  I’ve been looking into Air Traffic Control.  Even passed their personality test, and going to do their cognitive one soon. Not an idyllic job I know, nor an easy one to get into or through training by any means, but the training is fairly short (canada), amazing pay 80,000 after your on the job training (which is attractive for those loans), job security, structured program where you learn what you need for the job and get hired right after, skills based instead of hustle, get to leave work at work after your shift leaving time to explore my many interests (architecture/art/philosophy/furniture making etc.. without pressure of relying on my next meal for it).  Shift work actually is an attractive part of the job for me, having off days that are out of sync with the majority. 

I guess I'm looking more into lifestyle consequences of careers these days rather than looking at the actual work being done, since I apparently have such a middle of the road response to any and every activity I partake in (no highs or lows of extreme dislike/like).  Except of course my extreme dislike of hustling, but I guess that's common.

So what's the point with writing this?  Waste time, waste your time (apologies by the way if you’ve read this far). I guess I'm seeking your opinions fellow strangers and architects with experience in the field.  Stick it out or leave (though I’ve probably answered this question in the midst of writing this).  I think it’ll l be interesting, perhaps enlightening to hear your thoughts - if any - on the topic. Thanks!

Mar 24, 14 7:41 pm

i, unlike you, dont have that instinct or knack for architecture even though I have been in it for....lets see...2 years at city college, 2 years at university, then 2 years of working, and now i am on my 2nd semester of my first year at grad school (at a 3 year university). I  will probably accrue a lot of debt from this big name university.

I spend days and night  agonizing why i cant design like other people, why i cant hustle as good as others, why i cant eloquently argue for my project, but through this torture, i still go through it. why?


have you ever ran a half marathon before? 

i never ran it before until a couple years ago. I trained months and months for it. kept pushing myself to run farther each time so that I can get to that 13 mile mark so that when the marathon comes it'll just be a breeze.

when the marathon came, i never reached 13 during my training. i only hit 10. so when i hit that 10 mile mark, i was slowing down, i was tired, and spent, but i kept telling myself i gotta keep going.i didn't want to stop. i didn't want to walk either. i didnt want to coast to the finish line. so i kept jogging despite my body telling me to stop.

and with that, i crossed the finish line. that was such a great feeling. i felt so accomplished. first i never thought i would finish it and second i thought I would have to walk the rest of the way. 

thats the same feeling i get every time i finish an architecture project.  


hard work pays off all the time. i dont trust anything too easy. 

Mar 24, 14 8:17 pm

If I might chime in, I'm not a masters student, but I am having second thoughts about my orientation towards architecture and am thinking about instead pursuing a career in economics or international development.

I completed an undergrad in Environmental Design, and I feel like I was quite proficient in design.  One architect who visited our critique told me that I "got" architecture. 

However, like yourself I found my motivation gradually decreased over my time in the program, until the point where I didn't really see the point of my final project - I felt like I was going through the motions. At first I chalked this up to burn-out, but in the following two years I found that I've never regained the 'spark' I once had for architecture.

The truth is, that there are some people for whom devoting themselves to architecture is easy and natural,. My one classmate consistently made knock-out designs, never seemed stressed, and was completely in his element. I'm not like that, and I'm not sure I could keep up with such people without seriously sacrificing my quality of life.

To top it off, I just got rejected from 5 schools for the M.Arch, and I'm somehow not very surprised or upset about it. Working on my portfolio these past two years has become a chore, and I'm starting to think it is a sign it might be time to move on.

Anyways, I'm basically talking only about myself here, but I wanted to share that I am in the same boat as you: questioning my previous decision to make a life of architecture. The truth is, that architecture is a very competitive profession, and you do indeed have to "hustle" as you said to make a great salary or even to be in a position to work on awesome projects. If you don't find it spectacularly more interesting than the other options you are exploring, and those other options offer perhaps a better work-life balance, a better wage, or both, then I do think that you should seriously consider moving in a different direction.

To be honest, I actually would have to respectfully disagree with batman's comment above, in that you shouldn't stick in the path you've chosen out of pride or stubbornness. Sometimes the smartest and bravest thing you can do is swallow your pride and move on. Your career needn't be a test of endurance, so there is no need to be too masochistic about the whole thing. Although it can be frustrating to feel like you've "wasted" your years pursuing a specific career, it's important to think of the opportunity cost of staying in a challenging profession like architecture if it's not the best fit for you. Changing your profession may take a handful of years, but it's nothing compared to the length of the  rest of your career.

TL:DR; If you are seriously questioning your fit with architecture, it might not be a bad idea to seriously consider changing directions.

Mar 24, 14 8:55 pm

i dont know what else i could be doing

Mar 24, 14 10:06 pm

Aww, did someone had a bad critic today in school =/. Do whatever makes you happy man, but convincing us to help convince you, is no good.  Architecture is not for everyone and who needs that damn paper + student loan debt anyways.  If things get tough just take the easy way out.  Why would anyone be an architect/designer when he/she can be a pilot.  up up and awayyy...

Mar 24, 14 10:25 pm

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you should change directions. I just felt that your reasoning for the OP staying in the field was perhaps not perfectly sound. It sounds like you yourself really get a high when you are successful in architecture, so it might be a great fit for you, even if it is challenging.

However, I personally don't get as much out of designing as I used to, so in my case justifying staying in the struggle doesn't make too much sense. I wanted to warn against a problem I have struggled with - refusing to give up out of pride, even when the passion has gone. 

Mar 24, 14 10:26 pm

Quan Nyen Tran, quite the opposite actually (about the crit)

And I thought that's what archinectors like to do best, convince people not to become architects. haha. peace

Mar 24, 14 10:48 pm

I decided to post anonymously so that I could make rude comments without people knowing that I'm as much of a jerk as I am. I applaud Quan for being such a tool under his real name ( who knows, maybe Quan really isn't Quan, but just some random jackass trying to malign a rival- there's an idea, eh?)

Papre, you are in a tough situation. You've spent the money to get this far, and most people- pretty much everyone except for those in AEC fields- still think that a master's in arch. is a pretty fancy degree. What about just sticking it out (second year was the toughest for me), and if you don't find a job in or near the profession working with people who don't suck as bad as the typical architect, you can use the degree to bluff your way into something that you might like better? Or go into air traffic control, sounds like a good job. Save up and design/build yourself a house if you still have an itch for architecture.

Mar 24, 14 11:14 pm

It is not a character flaw to stop ("quit" has such negative connotations) doing something that doesn't look likely to work for you.  Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn't stick it out in school and they are still managing the rent every month.

Mar 25, 14 2:01 pm

The Original Post mentioned a fear or concern for networking and job security,

On the Job security front we have to realize we are in a new era of career trajectory et all. Gone are the single company climb the ladder careers now you have a portfolio of work and work experience. having 12-20 jobs in the first two decades of your career is the new norm, job security is all in how well you hustle and bounce back from a lay off.

Social skills are as important as software and design sensibilities.

Start taking to people, make it a habit to talk to folks on the bus or in line when getting your daily caffeine fix, Dating is good practice as dating and job hunting are very similar. I recommend getting involved in an organization a charity or church group that has little to do with architecture so you get good at explaining in real world terms what you do. Half of the people you interact with each day should be outside of your architecture program. You will get a job and if you launch your own firm commissions by talking to everyone you can except other architects looking for work.


So The next thing to think about is your academic situation, it sounds like folks are not getting what they need in school and studio is an exercise in sadistic torcher rather than creative exploration. If you can find it a book by Anthony "Design Juries On Trial" should be helpful if not liberating.  Without going to far into the book I just have to say i read it in the break between my first two semesters in graduate school and it helped me realize that I have to take control of my education to get what I want. Often in design studio you are set up to defend your work which emotionally is an extension of yourself when what you need to do is detach your personal ego from the wok and see the design reviews not as a rejection but a tool.


hope this helps


Over and OUT

Peter N

Mar 25, 14 3:16 pm

Thanks Pete for the suggestions.  Although taking criticism has never really been a problem for me.  I sometimes crave criticism since that means I've learned something new and it keeps my attention.  I tend to drone out sometimes, if the crit is all praises.  I think my stress comes more from trying to control the unpredictable mistress that is  creativity with the concrete realities of deadlines.  That's probably common in any design industry though.

But speaking/talking has never been my strong suit and I do struggle with that everyday.  If I had that skill I think I would stay....Remains to be seen if I can get over it enough to push through.

Mar 25, 14 4:44 pm

"The unpredictable mistress that is creativity"...Really?

Mar 25, 14 6:02 pm

haha! for realsies.

Mar 25, 14 6:27 pm

Architecture programs are intently rigorous. When you're so tired, you need to rejuvenate to rediscover who you really are. Architecture is also very subjective. I'm glad that you are learning through criticism. Learn from your own voice as well. In The second year studio of M. Arch program I attended, I should have done what I set out to do but changed practically everything to appease a critic. Disaster.

You mentioned a lot about what you are NOT. What ARE you? That is one of the most important aspects to understanding yourself. You will need to answer that before answering the question of what you want to do. Maybe" air traffic controller' isn't a career title in your future.  Before the world got so demanding and costly, what activities did you love to do and what places did you love to go? These are good indicators your passion(s).

Whether you enter architecture or another profession, there will be the hustlers, promoters, and arrogant networkers. There will also be the arguers and slackers who make you work harder and more. That's human nature.  You can be a savvy employee in your own right.

There's a host of career advice, networking, and resources websites (start with LinkedIn).  Here's one link for career advice, coaching and free webinars. Taking the Career Path Self-Assessment is worth the time and effort.

Mar 25, 14 7:00 pm

 "I think the stress of architecture has turned me off to creativity."

i can totally relate to this. 

I am in the last weeks of my Masters program and cannot get myself to finish my thesis project. I feel burnt out. I started off so excited about it and slowly I've lost the will to continue. I feel like it would be wise just to finish in your case, but rather than continue to torture yourself at the same intensity perhaps go part time and finish it at your own pace. This way it won't kill your creativity and your soul. I wish I had done this, my thesis is suffering because of it.

Like you mentioned, happiness is most important. If you are not happy something has to change. Things don't have to be done the way everyone else does them. 

do what feels right to you, not what everyone thinks you should do.

life is too short to kill yourself over it ;)

May 26, 17 1:39 am

Working in the field is not like school, once you get out- get over yourself (only applies to some) and work at a reputable firm it is a pretty nice life.

Additionally, you do not have to be an architect after school- many of my former classmates are construction managers or developers (more $ well over 100k) or things completely unrelated to architecture such as software engineer or UX designer or almost unlimited options.

You have an unrelated undergraduate- which could be a plus for you depending on what it is in. Always remember you have a diverse skill set it is up to you where you take it, no one will give it to you.

May 26, 17 10:47 am

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