Top Ten Reasons to be an Architect

Bob Borson —  February 22, 2010 — 147 Comments

Top 10 Reasons to be an Architect

I have seen a lot of lists recently that have reasons why not to be an architect so I thought I would come up with a list of reasons why you should be an architect. To make things interesting, I am only allowing myself 30 minutes to write this entry so hopefully this limitation will force my own reasons to the surface.

1. It’s a lifestyle, not a job.
Architects typically tend to think about architecture all the time, I know I do. Not just the big ‘A’ type of buildings or projects, but every little thing from every where I go. I go somewhere and start looking at materials, form, massing, lighting, etc. If I take a trip somewhere, I start by planning it around the buildings I want to visit. Probably 90% of all the books I buy (not including children’s titles) are about architecture – I even put them on my Christmas list.

2. People respect architects.
Even if they don’t really understand what we do, there is a perception that architects are ethical and responsible and will endeavor to make the right decision to our own detriment. It’s part of the reason that ‘architect’ is chosen so often as the vocation for title characters in movie and TV roles. Architects aren’t generally viewed as driven by financial rewards like doctors or as scurrilous as lawyers (can be).

3. Job is constantly evolving.
Architects are not artists – we have to address building technology and programming. There are constantly evolving materials and construction methods out there and we are required as a profession to address the demands of the public at large (building performance, energy consumption, incorporating recycled materials, etc.). Architects create new design concepts that push how modern day construction is executed. Architecture is one of the few professions that is never static.

4. Artistic freedom and personal expression.
As an architect, we are given certain project parameters that help guide the direction of our projects. We are then given the freedom to pursue the artistic embodiment of those parameters. 10 architects with the same client and the same project parameters will provide 10 different solutions. Every time.

5. You can be your own boss.
You can be your own firm of one and still be a viable service provider on almost any size project. You can enter contests and win commissions for major projects by yourself – I can’t think of another vocation that can provide similar latitudes. I have also seen a team of 3 people design and prepare construction documents on a mall over 1,000,000 square feet.

6. There are tangible (and sometimes euphoric) results.
Anyone who has ever seen a building that they worked get built knows exactly what I am talking about. I am still excited to watch one of my projects getting built – it’s like having your own laboratory where you can experiment and refine things that you consider to be important and worthwhile. It ties into the artistic freedom listed in #4 but architects generally have a sense of ownership on every project they work.

7. We can positively impact peoples lives.
It is rewarding to develop a personal relationship with your client, particularly when you know that the process will yield a more fruitful end product. By understanding the process, our clients appreciate the product. By appreciating the product, they are acknowledging the role it plays.

8. Experimentation is expected.
Despite architecture having to contain building sciences and technology, the final esoteric product does not have a definitively right or wrong answer. Because no two architects will ever come up with the exact same solution given an identical set of parameters, there is a liberating sense that you are here for the purpose of imparting your own personality on the project. We are expected to try new things, explore different materials, and incorporate emerging technologies into every project.

9. Longevity of Career.
You can practice the profession of architecture for as long as you want – you’ll always be an architect even when it isn’t your job anymore. Most architects don’t really start to become good until later in life – I’m talking in their 50′s. I imagine that you have to come to some sort of understanding as to who you are as an individual before you can start to be consistent with imparting your imprint onto a building.

10. Incredible variety of options within the profession.
Unlike other professions, you graduate with a degree in architecture without having to know what type of architecture you are going to focus on. This is really great because when you graduate, you don’t know enough about the possibilities to know what you want to do. You can float between big and little firms, the role of project architect, designer, or management. You can work on building types from different market sectors like hospitality, residential, civic, retail, etc. and will still be an architect. Your degree will have a marketable value beyond the time of your immediate graduation.

Bonus. We can wear ridiculous eye wear and get away with it.
People expect architects to be a little bit nerd mixed with creative artist. This conflict of known social paradigms allows generous liberties to be taken with your personal billboard (but you have to earn it).

.

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  • Eunice

    Hey Bob,
    I am going to be a senior in high school, and for the past years I have wanted to become an architect. I still do….but not sure anymore. I know I have a lot of time to think, but..
    I read your 10 reasons to NOT become one, and now I’m second-guessing.
    In your opinion do architects have great job satisfaction? Do you ever regret choosing to be an architect?

  • Mariah Howes

    Hi Bob,

    Thank you so muck for writing this. My degree is in Art History, but Architecture has always been a passion of mine (I remember driving though Philly as a kid and being totally in awe). I have recently made the decision to do everything in my power to get back to school and get a masters in Architecture/Historic Preservation. Currently, I am looking for a firm to work for doing anything… admin work, etc. just to get my foot in the door while I save up to go back to school.

    This article was so great because I have been reading a lot of articles saying how terrible it is.

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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

      You’re welcome! You’re welcome! You’re welcome!

  • Ian

    dear bob,

    thanks for this column,

    I’m at the beginning of my forth year in atchitecture school, and I absolutely HATE it. I will finish my degree though, as I hope Ill change my mind in the future, and for the mere reason i went so far in ny degree. Plus, I have no good idea of something else ill better do.

    Have any advice?
    Thanks!

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

      Sorry to hear that you hate it but hopefully you will take some comfort in knowing that the real world of architecture is nothing like the one you are experiencing in school. (Hopefully that’s a good thing for you).

      What I do now, what I have been doing, is rewarding in a completely different way than what I imagined life as an architect would be like. There are many roles you can fill so finding a place for you and your interests is not as difficult as you might think. It might take some time and some experimenting to find it so congrats to you for following it through. Just remember that in the grand scheme of things, you are still very young and course corrections after university are not impossible.

      Good luck!

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  • Esman

    Hello,
    I need some advice.Two years ago, when I finished high school, I really wanted study architecture but unfortunately could’nt get into an architecture college. Plus mmy parents were not in its favous as they were worried about it job oppturnities etc. So then I ended up doing my Bachelors in Maths and its my second year going on.
    I still regret and feel really bad about not doing architecture. Tell what should I pursue in future to continue with architecture and other than that what should I do now to do anything that involves architecture?. Because its the one thing which never goes off my mind that all my life I was not able to study architecture at my Bachelor level.

    Thankyou.

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

      sounds to me like you should consider architectural graduate school. My wife has her undergrad and graduate degree in math and she has done well. She doesn’t think anything like I do so I question whether you are truly capable of doing either.

      • Tomas

        Hi,
        It’s interesting you mention your wife’s degrees in math and how it’s different to your thinking. How would you explain the difference, if that isn’t too personal?
        I’m curious because I’m actually an undergrad in civil engineering and I plan on going forward to a masters program in architecture. And even though I’m no math genius I do like thinking through tough calculus problems and statistics problems. But i’ve also taken arch studio classes before in HS and other summer college programs and I’ve come to love architecture as well. I just don’t see how the two thinkings are different. In the end both goals are to achieve some kind of harmony, right? Either in the numbers and logic or processions through space etc.

        Thanks.

  • gumdrop

    DaveZ, Every individual”s ideas DO matter to everyone and most importantly to themselves.Its important to have fun with your job doing what you love, not what everyone prefers.I’m in 8th grade and everyone LOVES to match their clothes to look “stylish” and “cute”. I wear what i want to make me feel comfortable and ready for learning even though people make fun of me.You should love what you do in your job not just for money

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  • DaveZ

    Hey Bob, I found your Top 10 Reasons on a Google search for Passion Finding. Thanks for your time and effort to communicate some very important career factors from the heart.

    Ironically, the #4′s on both the Top 10 Reasons “To Be” and “Not To Be” an Architect, speak to the artistic freedom of the “Designer Dream.” This may be a typical George Bailey-like frustration in everyone. “I wanna do what I wanna do”, says George to Mary in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Often, you can’t have it both ways.

    On the NOT side; Your ideals don’t really matter. So “You should be equipped to design projects that aren’t in the style of architecture that you would like to do for yourself”. As any employee knows, you have to do what you are told by the Boss, like it or not.

    On the TO BE side, you have the freedom to “pursue the artistic embodiment of those parameters”….but still while on the “design projects that aren’t in the style of architecture that you would like to do for yourself”.

    The only Escape Clause and Faint Hope to Design What You Love is in #5: Be Your Own Boss. Then you can “enter contests and win commissions for major projects for yourself”…in the style of architecture you WOULD like to do for yourself. AND for clients that want that design style and have the budget to pay for it.

    In the long lean years working toward that goal, aspiring designers can find hope in applying their creative skills to their own living environment, take pictures of the things designed, that they would like to do for others. Stitched together, create some realistic renderings of the future designs – like a Portfolio of “To Be” Concepts. Rather than add “Not To Be” projects onto a Resume of Shame.

    This will create the bait to attract the ideal clients that Want What you Offer. I suggest it is only by doing what you want over and over, that allows you to develop the motivation and the expert skills needed to be a Architect, Interior Designer or Building Technologist.

    Building Success,
    DaveZ

  • Viola

    I love architecture, I am very artistic and I love designing! I am currently in grade 12 and I have the required courses to get into post secondary. I like everything about architecture but everyone discourages me. They tell me there is no job for architects and that it is very hard and I will fail due to lots of physics involved. I don’t listen to them saying that I will fail, because there are going to be ups and downs in life, but the only thing I am scared of is unemployment. I can’t control that and I want to know is it really hard to get a job? And where is the best place for architects. I live in Vancouver B.C.

  • Viola

    Viola

  • ds

    This really inspiring to me.

  • Jessica Ruiz

    hi! im 17 about to get out of highschool and i want to become and architect. i live in california, do you have any advice on where i should go after HS to pursue this? should i go to college or an architect school? is there any good schools you recommend? any advice please?

  • Lisa Hyp-Shippy

    My appreciation for architecture is like my appreciation for air and music. At 50, does it make any sense at all to go back to school for 5 years? I don’t plan to retire any time soon. Am I nuts to consider investing so much time to study to work 10 – 15 years? Actually, that sounds pretty good.

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

      I worked with a woman who went back to school later and she received her architectural license on her 60th birthday. I don’t think she regretted it … but she also didn’t do it to pay the bills. Starting that late has it’s challenges but if you truly are passionate about it, you could always enroll and take some preliminary courses to see if you thought it was a good fit for you.

      • Lisa Hyp-Shippy

        Thanks, Bob. That’s my line of thinking too. I don’t relish the thought of spending the money for 5 years of school, but making a lot of money isn’t a priority. After raising a bunch of great kids, I would like to start on my next awesome accomplishment. I need to find out if any of my college courses are transferrable and how much the lack of innate mathematical skills effect this course of study. I appreciate your feedback.

  • Verona Kibe

    Hey, ur article is really motivating. Am glad I came across it. Am 19 and am just about to join university to pursue my BA in architecture . I would really appreciate some of ur advice. Verona

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

      this entire website is full of my advice :)

  • Sierra Cratic-Smith

    I’m 17 now, I really wanna be an architect but I’m scared a little bit of the work. I’m ambitious, I’ve never given up in my life. But some people have told me to prepare for a lot of work and MATH. But your reasons kind of encourage me. Is it true? Is there a lot of unreasonable math? Do you have to be an artist?(I can draw but I’ve never tried houses). I’ve been in architect clubs and construction courses but they haven’t shown me how to hone my skills to become an architect. Any advice on how? Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/raheel.sadi Raheel Yousaf Sadi

      Yes prepare for a lot of work, but there isn’t any super complicated math involved. You need basic math skills with some knowledge of geometry. Most of the “math” you’re talking about are calculations which are done by engineers who work with the architect. However an architect is expected to have at least a basic understanding of the kind of work that those engineers have to do. Also an architect should have at least a good knowledge of how construction works. How are you going to design a building if you don’t even know how to actually build it? If you know how to do the basic math calculations required in these fields the better off you’ll be. Anyway they’ll teach you most of this stuff in college, including how to draw. The rest you’ll have to learn during your actual job.

      • Sierra Cratic-Smith

        Thanks, I really appreciate your answer! I’ll work hard!

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/jomanjo My Name Is‘‘ Jehan ‘‘

    I’m an architecture student! these reasons are like mine ! <3

    • Steve

      You’re so pretty. :)

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

      wow – 4 up votes on the “you’re so pretty” comment. Congratulations and good luck in architecture school :)

  • Tely

    Have fun reading this article. I am currently a architecture student and by reading this i have happy thoughts and excited to practice being an Architect. :)

  • Cheyanne Cherise Jacobs

    I love this site and I just came across it. I want to be an architect because I want to have some sort of impact on someone’s life. I also love designing. It all began at the age of 13-14 (I’m 17 now) when I went away to build a house for a family without one. And I took a course in construction. Being an architect is something I want to do and I’m up for the hard work that comes along with getting through university to reach that goal ^-^

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

      good luck!

  • Building Designer

    Architects are weird and the word or title Architect doesn’t mean greatness or talented to me it mean manager.

  • Mimi

    Hi Bob! It was great reading this post as well as couple of others from your blog. Being a fresh graduate architect who is en-route to start my career, it reinforced my feelings towards our eccentric profession :) My friends from other industries perceive architects as ones who simply draw lines, raise buildings and use fancy words to describe the profession. Well they’ll never understand something which goes far beyond what meets their eyes ;)
    Keep writing! Great going!

  • Steve (UK)

    Hi Everyone,

    I will be posting this comment on both the 10 reasons for and 10 reasons against becoming an architect so hopefully I get a great response.

    I will give you some background and then hopefully you can all give your views on whether I should pursue a career change!

    My background is varied asI trained as a Transport Designer and graduated back in 2007, at the age of 23 with a high BA Degree. My final year project was widely recognised by the Royal College of Art for enhancing nature within the city landscape but I couldn’t afford the RCA’s mental prices to study and live in London so didn’t go any further. Thankfully after hard work I found a short placement at a yacht design company but since the placement I’ve been part of the internal and external communications industry as a Graphic/Project Manager. I’ve recently lost my job and in a way I’m glad as I turned more in to a salesman than a designer as the company and industry struggled to gather work.

    I’m still hungry to achieve more and use my current skill sets in an architectural setting and I would relish the opportunity to become an architect. I do appreciate that I would be looking at new qualifications but I’m keen to pursue a life long
    dream of designing buildings.

    I have read comments on both pages and other websites regarding architecture and see that a massive amount of employed/unemployed architects are very unhappy and say don’t bother wasting your time. This is the same way I feel about vehicle design. It was 4 years wasted as I’ve not found a job and have been forced to move around a variety of industries to get money in)!

    I’d like to know as I’m 29 and need to gather a degree in architecture, which is 3 years and complete the rest along the way, which will be another 5 at least, Part 1,2 and 3). Am I too old to start this process?

    I do have knowledge of AutoCAD, Rhino etc from my yacht design days but all these comments have started to make me question whether I’ll end up jobless again in 3 years!

    The economy is coming back slowly and architect firms in my area are taking people on at trainee level with part 1 complete.

    I would be grateful for people’s thoughts and any advice.

    Steve
    UK

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  • apps

    i wanna do architecture bt i need some tips n plz tell me the best colleges for architecture in world n how to get admission their plz

    • Cheyanne Cherise Jacobs

      This all depends on where you want to study. But America and England have the best schools. I wanted to go to Japan or Amsterdam to study. But America has good schools. Just look it up online. They have top universities for what you want to study. The UK schools are pretty good. There is one school I want to go to Bath University, and it has the number 1 architecture programme in England and it has 100% student and teacher satisfaction. Just do your research and find what best suits you.

  • priya

    the bonus sounds really intresting :P

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  • Nicolas-Patience B.

    There’s power in the ability to create something from nothing. An idea is the most power force that can be, able to bring to life ANYTHING.

    I arrived in Architecture from the back door of product & graphic design coupled with other creative training backed with a diploma in Marketing & Advertising.

    Now doing a certificate in “Construction technology” to complete what I believe to be my missing luggage :)

    Quite frankly, I confess I’m loving the new path. It’s never too late to go back to where you should have gone first, even if sometimes life throws you to all sorts of directions.

    Thank you for this post Bob. In my mid 30′s and back on my path. You just confirmed one extra thing with these 10 points. Oh and the bonus too. Hahaha

  • Minimus01

    There are too many Architectural graduates compared to the positions available. This is partly because one of the biggest parts of the “Profession” is the teaching of architecture. In a downturn there are fewer opportunities for self expression, and fewer clients willing to experiment. A Darwinian approach to this imbalance means that some prosper, and many fall by the wayside or find an alternative career path. With the cyclical nature of activity in construction you will have to be very careful or lucky to have continuity of income and employment. You may be a practitioner who avoids risks and speculative developers. Though, what must be remembered whether you thought you had signed up for it or not, you are taking on the same risks as other construction professionals. Architecture does not stand alone and apart from the other construction professions, and many professional boundaries are arbitrary. The fact is, many well off Architects have become or are dependent on speculative developers. It is great to get professional fulfilment, I would certainly not agree that architects are respected by other construction professionals, or the public. The path is long and windy, and their may be many obstacles, you are unlikely to have the same destination in mind that you may have had when you graduated as an Architect, after 10, 15, 20 years. Ones perspective broadens, and the goal posts change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vero.Gutierrez Veronica Gutierrez

    Thank you for taking the time to point out some of the great aspects of being an architect or working on the field of architecture. I am personally sick and tired of reading Yahoo news or other websites posts gearing kids into Not becoming architects and comparing the profession to other fields which have never been practical. People have traditionally gone into these other fields out of vocation, artistic desire, etc and knowing they wouldn’t be able to make a living, e.g. Philosophy, Liberal Arts, etc. These ‘journalists’ need to learn more history and understand that architecture has and will always be a ‘human necessity’ compared with other important and traditional fields such as medicine, law, accounting, engineering, etc. No matter to when you look back in history, society has always been in need and demand of shelter, from caves to skyscrapers architecture has been part of the solution. As society has evolved architecture has evolved with it, as new necessities develop, new building types arise, e.g.from the first home designed with a garage, designed as a response to personal automobiles becoming popular, to huge airport terminals all over the world.

  • deepika

    I <3 my carrier as an Architect…

  • Kevin

    I studied architecture and had a great time learning, traveling and meeting fantastic people. Though a tremendous amount of knowledge is out there, it is up to you to experience them. School is only so much and only develop you to a certain level. I truly believe this article only points out the positives of the job, but not the reality.

    Here are some truths:
    1. Architects are not respected within the profession of A/E/C. Outsiders may compare you to a Calatrava and Mies, but ~90% of all licensed architects will do small projects of 5mm and less.
    2. Jobs are competitive with all the out-sourcing.
    3. Pay is not comparable to E/C (I know this as I work in Construction).
    4. How can you be your own boss? 1-2 person firms are out there, but this does not speak on the majority.
    5. Career lengths vary, but it is current trend to hire young, fire old.
    6. Your wrists will hurt from hours of CAD.

    This is not to discourage people from pursuing architecture, but this one-sided view is a horrible depiction of what it is to be an architect.

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

      I’m not sure how one sided it is – since you work in construction now I would say there might be some sour grapes at work here. I would disagree with almost all of your comments – not to say that there isn’t some truth to what you say but the facts would not support your position. There is a sister article to this one, here’s the link:

      http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/top-ten-reasons-not-to-be-an-architect/

  • http://twitter.com/archy_type Cormac Phalen

    Love it Brother

  • JasonWeasley95

    Thank you! This is all I need to pursue my dream.

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  • Lori

    Hello! I wanted to double major in civil engineering and architecture, but since I can’t because of personal problems, I want to do what I like the most which is Architecture. The problem is my parents don’t want me to! They are worried about job opportunities and money. so they all want me to major in civil engineering. I feel lost! any advice?

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

      only you can really know what you should try and make of yourself. Did you tell your parents that the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that architecture will be one of the best fields to enter over the next 15 years? Probably because the economy was so bad and architects so victimized that many have left and few are entering. That is going to create a void…

      • aNas

        Mentioning statistics are really rises your reply to the top

  • belen

    I think … it´s sure ….. read this reasons …… I can feel the new emocion to study .. never is late !!!! … well I´m young … very young !!

  • s.ali

    hi, i was wondering if you could give me some ideas for what i should do for my year 10 work experience if i wanted to be an architect when i’m older?

  • TZ

    A very inspiring and very true article. The only thing that can limit you and your success in this profession is you.

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  • alexia

    Hey,
    Your article is great! I am 25 years old and just decided to pursue my dream of becoming a female Architect. I did not do it before for many, many reasons, but I just cannot go on without following my true passion. I am currently in the process of applying to a University in Europe, but for some reason I could not find a good article that considered some of the many good aspects about the career. Your article really helped me find some inspiration. Thanks again!

  • Jesus

    Hello my name is Jesus,
    I have been out of school for 5 years now, decided to join the military just recently got back from afghanistan and I was wondering what would you all recommend I do in order to succeed as an architech. I have worked in hand with certified architecs doing relief missions and public services and realized that i have a love for architecture. I dont want to do it for fame or money I just love the end project and knowing that someone other than me appreciate it.

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  • valle01

    I am in high school now and looking for the perfect career and was really stressing over it. When I read this, I remembered how I was in kinder garden during career day and wanted to be an architect. Can you believe that?? a five year old me wanted to be an architect. thank you for writing this, and thank god i stumbled across it.

  • A new beginning

    After reading a number of your entries, I’ve decided to seek your advice. I’m 34, fresh out of a divorce and essentially starting life over. My education is in psychology yet it hasn’t been financially or spiritually fruitful. I’ve decided to start pursuing my own personal interests, something I’ve rarely done in the past, and make an educated decision as to where I’d like to go from here. After some searching, I find myself constantly coming back to the idea of going back to school and pursuing some form of Architecture or Engineering. I’ve always done well in mathematics, I’m naturally artistic and no matter where I go, I always find myself looking at everything and quickly visualizing both how I think it was done and how it could be improved. (Yes, everything from why a property owner designed their landscape in a particular way to how a set of decrepit buildings could be repaired and utilized, to how line flow could be improved at a festival.) Is architecture, something I’ve always been fascinated by, a field you would suggest getting into this “late” in life?

  • Ck_21

    All I can say is.”AWESOME” to these article. I am a 21-yr old girl. I graduated a HRM2yr course. But I have skills in drawing and scketching buildings.I am a creative & well-determined person.I always doubted to become to take ARCHITECTURE bcoz of financial aspects.This Year I told my dad that i want to take architecture, and he laugh at me, he said like this, “Are you sure honey?think about it over and over again, he knows I’m good in arts.But I admit i’m not that brilliant in Math. I want to pursue this. Anyone advice?I would really, really appreciate it. #Dreamer

    • cynthia

      reach ur goal and always be positive that’s it….

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  • CesarElias93

    What Experiences led you to consider a career in Architecture?
    and
    What skills or interest did you have that made you become a successful architect?

  • http://nazim90.narod.ru/ Nazim90

    Где бы я не появился, везде я думаю, что бы я здесь сделал, что бы я здесь запроектировал…