Do you want to be an Architect?

A few years ago I started a series of posts that were directed towards people who had an interest in either becoming an architect or now that they had finished school … what happens next? The intent when I started this series was to create a depository of answers to questions that people tended to email me – thinking I could just refer people to the post on the subject rather than having to recreate the answer over and over again. These posts have been created over a two-year period and I discovered that some people who wanted this information still couldn’t find it and I still found myself back where I started. Hopefully now that I have created a single page that will contain all of the posts that fall into the category of “Do you want to be an Architect” I can accomplish my original goal of the blind leading the blind.

What this page will not contain (because it seems to change with remarkable regularity) is anything to do with the act or process of getting licensed, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), Intern Development Program (IDP), or what college you should consider attending. Those things have to many moving parts to consider and (wah-wahhhhh) since I have been licensed for a while now, I don’t keep up with the changes.

If there is a topic you think you would like me to address, please feel free to send your suggestions to me – bob@lifeofanarchitect.com

In the meantime, I hope that this is a resource for those of you looking for some answers.

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Do you want to be an Architect?

It takes a lot of commitment and desire to become an architect. Nobody becomes an architect because they think it sounds cool or they like to draw. There is a lot more to it and I think it needs to be a calling for you to even think you will experience any measurable success. Do you think you have what it takes to be an architect?

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 The College Years 

When I tell people who I knew I wanted to be an architect by the time I was 5 years old, they think how lucky that must have been! But am I really so lucky? There was a time when I thought I had made a terrible decision, and I found myself struggling with the classes and the time and effort required to just to keep pace with my peers. (but I think this story has a happy ending)

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Design Studio: Top 10 Things you should know

Architecture school is all about the studio. Whether you are new to design studio or a seasoned pro, there are a few things that I thought I would share with all you that dispel some commonly accepted ideas of what architecture studio really requires from its attendees. I think you might be surprised to read a few things on this list but I promise that you will be better off for having read this list.

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What makes you a designer Bridge Section CAD Detail

What makes you a designer?

As a practicing architect. not everything I do is big picture design. From the overall time I spend working in the office, very little is – but good architecture isn’t always about the big killer idea. I consider coordinating a project and the details of the construction of that project integral to a successful design.

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Handrail Bracket Sketch Detail

Drawing like an Architect

I am living proof that you don’t have to draw well to be an architect. Having the ability to draw beautiful pictures doesn’t hurt but let’s pull the curtain back and be honest here for a minute … Architects communicate through their drawings – we aren’t making art. As architect Lou Kahn once famously said, “an artist can make a cart with square wheels, but an architect can’t.”

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money

How much money does an architect make?

Architects can make a great living but there is balance between money and happiness that must be found. This post contains a snapshot of some of the best places to work and what areas of the country pay the highest salary for architects. Before anybody starts whining and moaning about how architects are underpaid, let me tell you now that I don’t want to hear it. Teachers are underpaid.

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The ‘Not so Sexy Side to Architecture’

There is a reality check coming for most graduating architecture students. Practicing architecture for 99.9% of the architects out there means something other than designing – at least what you might typically think design really means. The practice of architecture is more than sketching on trace paper, parti diagrams, deciding what pens to draw with, groupies, and last-minute trips to Vegas with the client. It means solving problems – sometimes incredibly mundane and uninspired – yet very important problems to the people who retain your services.

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architectural and engineering scales

An Architect’s Tool Bag

To be an architect you must have specific tools to get the job done. Here is a look at the ones I use most often. Some (but not all) are clearly throw-backs tools that reflect the fact that I graduated from architecture school 20 years ago. Despite the fact that I am pretty good at AutoCAD, I didn’t put it on my list of tools. If I had made my list a little longer it probably would have showed up.

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Architectural Interns

Here are some unique insights into how an architecture student can rise to the top of a pile of resumes and get that coveted architectural intern position. I also share with you the most abrasive and shocking story from my first day on the job at my first intern position. It’s Cuh ra zee! If we ever meet in person, you can buy me a beer and I’ll tell you who Boss #2 is from the story.

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So there you go – the first collection of articles geared towards architecture students, architectural interns, and people interested in the process of what it takes to become an architect.  I will be setting this post up as a permanent page at the top of my site and will be adding posts to it as I see fit (which means when I actually write them). LIke I said in the beginning, this is supposed to be a resource for people so if you see a topic missing that you would like to see my thoughts on the subject are, just send me an email – bob@lifeofanarchitect.com

Cheers.

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  • catherine

    Hi! My name is Catherine and I’m currently studying, I’m a senior high school student and I’m taking the STEM course which is Science Technology Engineering Mathematics. Well, I’m planning to take an architecture course in college but I’m worried because I don’t know if I’m really fit on it? I don’t know if I should go for it? Can someone give me an advice. Thanks! 🙂

  • Vanesa

    Hi, I just want to know what subjects you did in secondary school (high school) before you went to college and were those subjects a benefit to you in college and architecture and would DCG (Design Communication Graphics) help me if I want to be an architect.

  • YordleJay

    Hello 🙂
    Simply came here to say thanks for the blog. I’m in high school right now and I’m still bouncing between a few ideas for what I should do as a career, and architect has been floating in the back (faaar back sadly. like the great wall of china ends sooner) of my head for the longest time, and I’ve recently decided to do some research. Your blog has been very helpful :).

  • Anna

    Hi Bob,
    My name is Anna, I am an Architectural graduate from Poland working in a practice in UK. So far I think my biggest struggle with this profession was … being very lonely. I love the job, love solving problems and I think it’s fair to say I’m really getting there. The problem is that so far I have only worked in a very young and small practice in a group of 3 and we’re not really getting on very well. As it was only my first job I was thinking about looking for another practice but I’ve been told “it’s just the way it is, everywhere is like that”. My question would be: From your experience is it really a very lonely type of job?

  • evankim

    Bob,

    I am a college freshman without any drawing experience and I have no skills at drawing. Do you think I should still study architecture as my major?

    Thank you!

  • Joseph Zilinski

    Hello Bob!

    I’m in some need of advice from someone who has been through the ringer with this degree. Almost 2 years ago I tried a Architecture program at my local college. It was probably the most stressful thing that I’ve ever tried, but I craved the Architecture portion. So much to the point all my other classes didn’t matter. It was the pre-requisites that killed me. It stressed me to point that I questioned if I had chose the wrong profession. I wanted something with the satisfaction of working with my hands. I dropped out of the program unfortunately and started a trade school. Fast forward, I’m in the last few months of my trade school and something keeps bringing me back to architecture. I’m so confused with these choices of going back to school to a profession that was really rough for me or using the qualifications that I have completed already to find a job.

    • Hi Joseph – I’m sorry you had a rough go of things. I think to really give you some direction, but I would first need to know what particular classes you struggled with completing. There are some classes within any curriculum that seem to exist to simply weed people out of the program but once you get past them, they don’t really have an impact on your ability to function at high level within the profession.

  • joy

    hi bob,
    im a sophomore in high school and confused about my major so i’m trying to find one that could suit me. And architecture is one of the options. But what I wanted to ask was if I don’t think I’m passionate about this major should I even be considering it? I mean I just like the math and physics part of this major but I don’t really enjoy the drawing and designing part. Im just really confused if this major is right for me. I personally don’t think so but another point of view would help. thanks

    • If it’s the math and physics you like, and not the drawing and designing part, maybe you should consider being an architectural engineer. You still get to work on buildings but there is less of what you don’t like, and more of what you do like.

  • Shubhangi

    Hi Bob,
    This is shubhangi, i have done my diploma in civil engineering (4yrs).. then I started doing job on construction site as a Project Engineer so I have 5 yrs work experience but I left my job for doing painting… I was not satisfied with my job… I always wanted to do with my passion… I made paintings and sold it … I sold one of my painting to US..but it’s hardly sold paintings in India.. so I decided that I have to do that in which my passion skill used.. i gave NATA exam and luckily i got admission in Mumbai’s top college for B.Arch. Only 2days gone i attend college. All students are younger than me. I am so poor in English language… And there is all talking in English.. i can’t explain my feeling to others .. my confidence is going so low. I cried a lot. ..now I am thinking that am i doing wrong? Am i taking a wrong decision about doing B.Arch at this age?… I have done courses like AutoCAD, Revit Architecture. I am in tension that can I do B.Arch? I don’t want to be a fail. because I take admission against my family. I am now 28 yr old .. i am so confused… Please help me

    Thank you

    • I can’t speak to whether or not you will find success, but I can offer you some words of encouragement:

      1. Everything worth doing is hard.
      2. Everything you put your efforts towards will improve.

      With these two pieces of information, you should have hope. Clearly you are a bright individual and it’s not a matter of whether or not you are capable of doing this work, it’s when will you develop the skill sets to compete when comparing yourself to others. I struggled a lot when I started architecture school, and I doubted if it was a place where I could find success and happiness. It eventually came to me in my third year of school – all I had to do was keeping focused on my goals and put in the work. I am very glad that I did not give up – so give yourself a chance and stick with it long enough to know that you can either do it, or that you can’t, but it wasn’t or a lack of trying.

      Best of luck.

  • Venisse Ann Jaranilla

    Hi Bob! I’m an incoming college sophomore and working on my generals and pre reqs to transfer to architecture school. The thing that really scares me the most is I’m not good at drawing. And also, they require me to have a portfolio so they can evaluate me. I’ve read some blogposts of students that got in to architecture school and they mentioned that the portfolio doesn’t have to be all architecture drawings etc. They said you can choose a medium that you’re good at (ex. acrylic) and focus on that, and just involve some other things related to art. What should I do on my portfolio??? Do I have to know how to draw “technical stuff” to get in?

  • disqus_Q0uKiwoGOO

    Hi Bob,

    Do you know of any architects who qualified in the UK practicing in the US?

    I’m a US citizen qualifying in Scotland and have never been certain whether there is any scope to move back to the US to practice in the future. I was never sure if the biggest barrier to entry was the qualification, or the difficulty in obtaining a visa.

    Many thanks for any advice.

    • Sorry – I don’t know of any (or rather, maybe I do, but I am not aware of them in that capacity).

  • Samuel Fairbrass

    Hey Bob, I have a quick question! I am 16, and considering architecture.

    I am quite analytical, thorough and a bit of a perfectionist — would these skills be good or a hinder me?
    Many thanks
    Sam

    • I think those skills would benefit you in any profession you probably wanted to pursue.

  • Ella Mcilroy

    Hello bob!

    I have a question, Im 13 years old, What classes do you think would be good if i dream of becoming an architect?

    • any classes that will help you develop your visual skills – things like art and drawing would be particularly beneficial at your age.

  • Thalles Oliveira

    Hi, Bob!

    I have a big decision to make and would like your opinion on it. I left architecture when starting my second year of it because I hated the math, physics, topography and all technical side of it (also because I was really bad at it), but I liked the art and the social studies one. I got into architecture because I love to draw and I love design and art in all forms, so I thought architecture could be the thing. When I left, I was decided to go for Industrial Design (which I’m really crazy about), but now, a friend of mine, who is an architecture student, kind of convinced me to give it another try at the university where she studies. So should I really give up because of the math and all that and because of the feeling that “this is not artistic enough for me”, or another chance is valid? How much of that math and physics do architects really use after graduation?

  • Arista Dalekos

    hi. I am going into grade 10 and was wondering what classes would be smart to take to become an architect..

    • learn how to draw – learn how to communicate what is in your mind to others. This could be drawing classes as well and communication classes.

  • What should be the approach to become a self taught architect? I can’t figure out from where to stsrt. thanks for share

    • Since I did not follow that route, I don’t know where to point you. Maybe someone else will reply to your comment with some advice.

    • Sanjay Narang

      First join an architect’s office to get a hang of the work done there. Simultaneously read a lot of architectural books magazines to become well versed

  • Eliezer Bracetti

    Bob, reading and navigating through your page is honestly fun for me to do simply because I see a lot of honesty coming from you and you don’t seem to provide “sugar-coated” information like some other professionals in the field try to do. However, I have a question/concern that I’d like to see if you could shed some light on. I’m currently finishing up my prerequisite courses at a College in Orlando, FL, Valencia, to then apply for acceptance into the Articulated Architecture program at the University of Central Florida. I really hate not being prepared for what’s to come, or better said, I like to get ahead on things to make sure I’m doing everything correctly and no last minute surprises occur. What would you recommend in terms of getting started on an internship even as a student with just an associates degree in Architecture? I’m not expecting to jump into the field and work. However, I want to be able to build on experience through interning at a local firm so that once I graduate, I can have a good background when it comes to relative experience. What would you recommend I do? Does this sound like a good plan? Is it even a possibility since I’m still working on my associates? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • you should find some part-time work in construction (something that I think all architects would benefit from).

  • Parminder Singh

    What should be the approach to become a self taught architect? I can’t figure out from where to stsrt.

    • Hi Parminder – Since I did not follow that route, I don’t know where to point you. Maybe someone else will reply to your comment with some advice.

  • Josafat Mateo Lopez

    Hello Bob. I love reading your site and learning many new things from it. Anyways, I was wondering if you could give me your opinion about my future career plans? But first, let me explain the things that defined my career of choice, so here it is: Thanks to my parents for providing me with a computer and a drafting table at a young age of eight, I began to developed drawing skills and my curiosity on how computers worked grew much stronger throughout the years. That said, I am in a dilemma about my next step in life, that is because I am currently doing both trades and I cannot choose between the two, for example, I am a certified computer technician for my local store (which I love troubleshooting computers) and I also work in construction with my father (which I love the math and solving problems). Now, the tricky part. Since I graduated from college with an A.S. in Architecture, I don’t know if I should pursue my B.S. in Industrial Technology (which I will specialize in networks) or my B.A. in Architecture and become an Architect? My original plan was to combined my drafting skills and my computer skills to draw the network cabling-technological side blue prints, like the electrical plan but for computers. In essence, I would be the Network Architect. However, I don’t need to get my B.S. in Industrial technology to become a network expert, as certifications is all you need. So, it leaves me with pursing my B.A. in Architecture and just getting my network certs on the side. As far as I know, pursuing a B.A. in Architecture would be much more worthwhile, still do both trades, and be more marketable. What do you think? thanks in advance.

    • this is one of those times that there isn’t a person on earth who can properly advise you. Only you can determine for yourself which activity you find more rewarding – any input I have will be jaded by my own personal predilections. Drawing network cabling/technological blue prints sounds incredibly monotonous to me so how could I point you impartially towards one or the other?

      I can’t – no one can.

      I’m not sure that you would be more marketable with the BS Arch degree and your network certifications – those platforms don’t really cross over to one another. If you had a degree in architecture and had computer skills, you would probably become the computer guy in an architecture firm … but not doing architecture.

      • Josafat Mateo Lopez

        You are right. I would probably be the tech guy at an architectural firm, no doubt. It is just hard to let go of a dream that I had as a kid to draw for a living to pursue something realistic that I am actually good at, like computers. However, I can still draw network plans, so I guess it is still my dream job in someway. Thanks for hearing me out.

  • Sidharth Gaba

    Hi Bob
    I have pursued Bachelor of Architecture. While doing Job I feel many times that I am very weak in the basics of architecture. Earlier I had not much interest but now while doing job I feel very much interested and practical. I want to make me stronger in the basics firstly and then professionally (upgraded level). Please suggest from where I should start to learn and revise the architecture basics step by step. Also suggest source of study. Thank You

    • you should look at the resource books I have in the sidebar on this site – there are tons of books that you can reference and learn from.

  • Noor

    Hi Bob,
    I’m really interested in architecture and design. I go to an art school and I’ve been creating a portfolio for college. I’ve always been fascinated by art and I love crafting things. I’m only in the 9th grade but I would like to know how else you should prepare to go into architecture and what experience is good to have. Thank you!

    • sounds to me like you are already on a good path. The one skill that I think people who want to be architects should practice is looking at the world around them and practicing the skill of understanding why you do, or do not, like something. One of the things that separates a professional from a hobbyist is their ability to understand why they did something so that they can extrapolate the process and recreate the results without recreating the solution. Practice understanding why you like something.

  • Hala

    hey, Bob
    next year is my last year in high school, and i am planning to be an architect for university i want to gain experience during my summer holiday. “i am really good at math”, not that good at sketching but i am working on it. what other activity do you recommend i should try so i can be a better architect cause i dont want to waste my summer holiday knowing i can use it in learning for my future. i would love to meet someone who is an architect and stick to them so i can learn, but unfortunately i cant and i dont know any architects in my family. what do u recommend i should do? i feel like i am wasting time during summer.
    Thank you 🙂

  • The advice immediately below from Jayvone is pretty solid. I didn’t know anything when I was 13 and math was a subject that was my weakest. A lot changed from the time I was 13 and the time I graduated from college. The quality of the teacher can make a huge difference so don’t let a bad experience negatively impact a goal you’ve had in place for yourself for so long.

  • Aakash Karnavat

    Hey,
    I just googled and googled to which laptop should i get for a arch grad school, found you, please can you tell me which one should i get? I was thinking of a MAC. Is mac worth the money for an arch grad 1st year student? REVIT & all will it suffice or better spend on a windows?

    • There are too many moving parts to give you the end all be all answer to this question. Generically speaking, you should get a computer that has the biggest hard drive and the most computing power (including a powerful video card) that you can afford. Also, if you know what school you are going to attend, they can probably give you more specific advice on this matter.

    • I literally couldn’t tell you – maybe someone else in this forum could help you out. I know a lot of students have Mac’s and the general consensus is that you should get the strongest computer, with as much computing power as humanly possible(including a huge hard drive and a powerful graphics card). If nothing else, this system would remain viable a bit longer.

    • edgy envy

      Mac is for simplicity, all programs that modern day architects use are on both platforms except for one famous program. A Mac is easy to use , but if you like to customize and stuff like that; get a Windows based laptop/computer. Find what’s best for you.

  • Shivani

    Hello Mr.Bob!
    Your post has been a great help for me! 🙂 **HEADS UP THIS MAY BE TIME CONSUMING**
    I’m a CBSE student, in year 12 ( central board of secondary education, India) currently living in Dubai. Growing up i’ve always been a creative person and wanted to pursue a career which would keep me in touch with the world of art whilst I’m connected to the science side or as my parents state the more practical field which will earn me enough bread and butter till i’m old. (Indian parents). However they’re every supportive and I’ve decided to go to UK for undergrad in architecture or architectural engineering (still deciding) because of the sandwich program. I study chemistry, maths, physics and computers and have scored average as compared to my past few years performance and I’ve been receiving a scholar badge since 7 consecutive years ( I scored 83% in year 11).
    I plan to take up a few art classes when i go for a summer break in July. ( yes, the summer break takes place after a quarter of academic year is over).
    I’m scared that the universities will not accept me as we don’t have art as a subject in CBSE, hence i’m at a disadvantage when compared to the other students doing IB, A level, O level, etc.
    I’ve been looking up for interships but because of labour laws and a student visa, there are no companies which hire highschool students.
    So i thought maybe I could pick up a course or so related to the field. Would you advice so? I looked up for courses in AUTOCAD, which are quite expensive and go up to 2,220 DHS so I really wanted to make sure my parents are putting money in the right place.
    Also, if you could let me know, which would be a better career in terms of opportunity? Architecture or architectural engineering?
    Thank you!

    • Shivani

      Or would you suggest i enroll for a sculpture class?

    • I can’t really speak to which career would be better (architecture or architectural engineering – they are both subject to the same market fluctuations) BUT I would say to try and figure out which on will motivate you to excel because ultimately your success will stem from from your ability to achieve results.

      I also don’t think that universities will see autocad as a resume building experience – I would recommend that you put your efforts into some sort of creative activity, something that will allow you to showcase your creativity.

    • Rhoda

      Hi Mr. Bob, how long did it take you to become an Architect? Does it matter if I am a Girl? Will I be underestimated?

      • I was 32 years old when I became a licensed architect. I could have done it sooner, just didn’t make it a priority (something that I regret years later). It does not matter if you are a girl – and you probably will be underestimated if you are in the wrong sort of environment. My office is almost a 50/50 split between men and women, and 33% of our partnership is female. I’d like to think that we’ve figured out equality in our office but there is always room for improvement.

        • Rhoda

          Thank you Mr.Borson for your respond and time!

          • Rhoda

            Mr. Borson, quick questions. My sister says that architect is a dying career is that true? Also is the job hard and stressful? Will you ever have time for yourself? However I am still planning to make it as my priority.

          • I hope it’s not dying – in the US it is predicted that there will be a shortage of architects over the next ten years. Is it hard and stressful? Yes, but that’s also what makes it rewarding. If you pick any easy and stress free job (like bagging groceries or cutting grass) I would ask if you would feel challenged or rewarded for your efforts. Those jobs are clearly needed but choosing/avoiding a career path based on the whether it is hard and stressful sounds like something someone who hasn’t worked yet would wonder. Yes, I have plenty of time for myself.

  • tyler costello

    Hello Bob,
    I thought i was just tell you that i’m going to college this year for Architecture. 5 year course. I’m good at AutoCAD and Revit. As well as hand drafting. I been drafting since the 4th grade. And thanks to my high school i do a Co-Op with a 3D modeling company and was able to work with an architect.

    • Aakash Karnavat

      Hi Tyler, which laptop do you use? I’ll be entering 1st year of ARCH, which laptop do you suggest?

      • tyler costello

        Well I don’t have a laptop picked out yet. I’ll be determining that this summer after I find out what types of programs I will need.
        Right now I have a Toshiba Windows 8 laptop that has my CAD programs on it. I upgraded it to 10. But that’s just my personal laptop.
        Sorry I couldn’t help more.

  • Jayvone Severin

    13. You still have a long way to go. I hated Math in middle school, it never got to me. Then in high school it started to click. Either because the teachers were effective or I was finally able to handle a subject that I thought was very complex. Honestly math is the least of your worries. A lot of colleges require up to pre-calculus. And I just finished my first year of college in the program and just checked my grade today and saw that I got a C+. So I’m done with all my math courses. The teacher was very effective and taught as if he was in our shoes. Just wait on it, it may change. School is also a preference. There’s money, distance, accreditation, degrees, prestige…..But if you aren’t strong at math look for a college that has low pre-requisites for math or do two years at your local community college and transfer 🙂

  • Anna Defilippo

    Hi Bob, I’m 42, I’m thinking of changing my career to becoming an architect, I only have GCSE qualification, iv been an magistrate for 14 years, iv run a very successful hair and beauty salon. In you’re opinion, what is the best way to start? Can I train on the job in a firm?
    Anna

  • Richard Chamberlin

    Hi Bob, I look to primarily being a Gym-Floor planner/designer. 2D/3D with animation, visualization. gym equipment. I love Ecdesign for all the gym planning out there; however, that market is most taken by national equipment companies whom have downloadable software for the consumer. I have a degree is business and communications and want to be a the “interior designer” of all gyms around the world. Where should I start in the Western U.S and work up to as my first step? Thanks
    Richard

  • Shang Hong Tan

    Hey mrBob,
    I am wondering if i shud continue on fighting for being an architect or not
    I strive to become one currently but i do not have a solid reason of becoming one
    I jz enjoy being a leader and wanna to make dreams real.
    Is tht enough to be my reason to keep going ?
    I dont have much gifted skills on drawing or ideas on buildings tho
    Creativity jz aint my thing
    But i would love to construct the best thing i could with everything i have does tht count as one of the *talent* ?

  • Sofia Winston

    Hi Bob, I wanted to know how much does architect pay yearly?What city should I live in?Also what is the average cost for living in this city

    • More than most, not as much as some. Salary depends on location and skill set.
      You should live where you want to live if possible.
      I wouldn’t have a clue how expensive it is to live in the unknown city where you want to live.

  • Varshini Balaji

    Hi Bob,
    I come from a country in South Asia where the only jobs that people are expected to join are Doctor or Teacher. From my childhood I have been passionate about architecture and I would love to become one, but there is no scope for it from the country I come so is there a good scope for this profession

  • Ross

    Hey Bob, I’m thinking of being an architecht when I finish high school is there any requirements I need to graduate with?

    • I suppose that depends on the college you plan on attending

  • Thalles Oliveira

    Hi, Bob!

    I have a big decision to make and would like your opinion on it. I left architecture when starting my second year of it because I hated the math, physics, topography and all technical side of it (also because I was really bad at it), but I liked the art and the social studies one. I got into architecture because I love to draw and I love design and art in all forms, so I thought architecture could be the thing. When I left, I was decided to go for Industrial Design (which I’m really crazy about), but now, a friend of mine, who is an architecture student, kind of convinced me to give it another try in the university where she studies. So should I really give up because of the math and all that and because of the feeling that “this is not artistic enough for me”, or another chance is valid?