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 pay the highest salary for architects. Before anybody start whining and moaning about how architects are underpaid, let me tell you know 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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  • Scott E.A. Davis

    To succeed in this career you have to be smart, live well for long periods of time without money, creative, talented, learn quickly and be your own best friend and moral supporter. You must learn how to deal nicely with really bad people that want to steal your thunder, act like your boss, are actually your boss or you pick as clients. The best part of this career will be the life long friends you will make.

  • Rubi

    Hi I Bob I would like to know if to become an architect you have to be really good at math. I’m currently a junior in HighSchool lets say precalc is kicking my butt.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      You have to be decent at math – but once you get through it in college there isn’t a lot of daily math being used that exceeds addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I only got as far as Algebra 2 in High School and I did what I needed to do in college – so will you.

  • Mrudhulaa

    Hi,
    i would like to know if being very creative is necessary to become an architectural engineer.. I am pretty good at math and physics though.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      it doesn’t hurt but I think you can have a fine career in the architectural industry if you are not particularly creative – there are a lot of jobs in the field that do not require creativity.

  • amanda

    hi bob,
    im 20 and im currently in the 2nd semester of my masters program in architecture. i knew i wanted to be an architect for as long as i can remember which is credited to the fact that my dad is a practicing architect. all through my undergraduate years i had more highs than lows. people always had great opinions of me, everyone thought i was really good at designing, i had a lot of motivation, a lot of dilligence and i was very hardworking and i believed it too. but toward the end, things got really hard and i started loosing motivation to work. my final studio in my undergraduate year, i barely finished it : incomplete floor plans, no elevations, incomplete sections, no model and loads of preliminary sheets. during the summer break, i tried thinking of other careers i could pursue but nothing was coming to mind, all my thoughts and ambitions were geared toward architecture and design so i decided that i would continue with a masters in architecture. im finally here and i feel the way i felt then. i know that im a very creative person and i could really prosper in this field but right now i feel like this isnt where i want to be. i read your post on “should i be an architect?” and there are so many things we have in common so i know that i can and i should be an architect but i need help. i need something more than motivation. what do i do?

  • shradha

    hi bob,
    I am an Architect-Planner,i am currently working in a planning company and also taking up some private residential projects.I am really interested in interior projects but it isnt easy to get projects to work on.I have got an opportunity to teach in a very well reputed architecture institute…I wanted to know that is teaching good for my carrer…?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Do you want to teach? Is it the only thing you are doing or just a part of your overall duties?
      I think teaching can be a wonderful addition to your skill set – it keeps you engaged in emerging thoughts and technology’s AND you have to work to keep up with your students. I don’t see a downside to teaching except if that’s all you are doing and it’s not all you want to do.

  • Ellis Rushford

    Hi Bob,
    Would acquiring an associates degree in architecture technology and getting your foot in the door at a firm be beneficial, or even possible in the US job market??

  • Inna

    Hi Bob,
    I am 16 and I am doing A level program next year. The idea of being an architect has visited me only recently, as my father suggested it. The problem is, I’m not sure what exactly architects are doing, how they work, and their lifestyle in general. I can draw a bit; my drawings sometimes can be really nice, although I am not an artist. To be honest, I am not the most creative person, sometimes I can’t come up with anything creative at all. But I do actually like maths and physics, and I always succeed in these subjects. Could you give me an advice? Also, I’m a girl and I heard some people saying this job is more for males.

  • Anna

    Hi Bob, I’m sixteen and so I’ll have to pick a college/university in a year and a half. I’ve loved art and drawing all my life and admired architecture… But it wasn’t until last year when my mom mentioned it, and I did 2 weeks work experience in an architecture school that I started to seriously consider architecture. I thought it was really cool, but if I lived in,say, a communist country, where everyone was paid the same, I’d pick art over architecture. Do you think it’d be wise to go into architecture when you’d rather be doing something else? I need to be able to support myself when I’m older so I’m unsure about art college.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I’m not going to tell you that you should pick architecture over art – you could become the world’s artist! Follow your heart – you are young enough to go into something and make a course correction if you discover that you’ve made the wrong decision.

  • Zak

    Dear Bob, I’m in my first year of A Levels (17 y.o.) and have been thinking about taking architecture for the last year or two. I’m taking a ‘Design Technology’ course which requires me to do a fair deal of architectural as well as product and graphical design. I did very well for two architecturally related projects last year but have realised that now the time has come for me to start a couple of new projects, I’m running out of ideas. Does this mean I’m lacking the creativity required for architecture? Do you recommend that I continue pursuing architecture even though I have lost a lot of the enjoyment that I used to have when designing things? -I have started to simply copy designs found in books and on the internet. What sort of things could be taught? and what things must come naturally?

    I did a week of work experience in a large architectural firm where I witnessed what it’s like to be an architect (which I already had some exposure to since my parents run a joint architectural firm) but wasn’t given any design tasks. How much of life as an architect is boring, repetitive office work and how much of it is fun and varied from day to day?

    I look forward to your reply,
    Thanks.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Your parents run a joint architectural firm and you’re asking me for advice?

      My life is almost never boring and since there is so much to continuously learn, rarely repetitive. It’s not necessarily like that for everyone and at 17 years old, I think that it might be a little premature to think that you’ve run out of ideas – you sound more unmotivated. Maybe the classes you are taking aren’t challenging you enough, maybe you are distracted with all the other things a normal 17 year old should be doing – there could be a million things. The architect I am today barely resembles the architect I was 15 years ago, not to mention 30 years ago when I was 17.

      • Zak

        Thanks. Have there been any methods you’ve used over the years to boost your motivation towards a certain activity? I know its quite a vague question but maybe there are some tips/tricks you have..? I don’t really think that I need to be given a greater quantity/higher difficulty for the work I’m doing to make me enjoy it more but I agree with your point about lacking motivation. I’m currently having trouble coming up with designs for a project where I chose to design an emergency aid shelter, mainly because whenever I find a design that someone has done, I just think of all the reasons it can’t be done. Because of this I’ve only come up with about a page and a half of barely descent designs over the past 2 weeks and I’m constantly procrastinating the design process.

        • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

          no tips or tricks really – there are things I do every day that I can’t stand but that certainly isn’t unique to the field of architecture. The closest thing I have to a personal motivator is this: Every time I think I’m doing some task I don’t like, I tell myself that this is just part of what it means to be an architect. If you want to be good at something, it means you need to take on all charges associated with that task with the same veracity.

  • Alexis

    hello I’m Dominican and I exercised architecture in USA I have understood that I EESA examine me but my question is when do I prove my title I have the same employment opportunities and privileges that a person who obtained his degree in usa? or I should be the master’s degree in architecture what do I do? something extra: I got my degree in a good university in my country and in Latin America, my grades were good

  • brianna

    I would like to be a architect I am good at math and it looks fun I got inspired by watching shows on TV like fixer uppers

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  • shradha arun

    its not necessary that you should be good in maths to be an architect…..To be an architect means being more creative and flooding with different ideas.