Is Being An Architect Worth It?

Sara Mandeed
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My answer to, Is Being An Architect Worth It?

The short answer is yes.

It is worth it.

Return On Investment

Few career decisions you make will have as great an impact on your life as your career choice. While the work you do inside the office is important, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Your surroundings determine almost everything about you and your life. Where you live, the food you eat, the air you breathe, your social circle, the view from your window, the weather ….they all impact your life in more ways than you can imagine. They also determine the choices you make – to go out with friends, to work hard or to chill out, to have a healthy family.

So imagine you do make a career choice that leads you to a big city, perhaps a really big city like New York or London or Tokyo. That means many years of commuting.

The question is: Do you want to stand at a crowded subway platform or at a deserted bus stop, or would you rather walk through a fragrant forest in the summer or a ski resort in winter?

Help Wanted

The idea of being an architecture is very seductive. Throughout the history of the world, there are many famous architects who have gotten their names etched in history.

Getting started in the field of architecture is not as simple as breaking into other careers. You will need to invest time and energy and hope that you are able to make enough money eventually to pay off the loans you accrued during your years of study.

The first step towards pursuing your architectural studies is to jump through all the hoops you have to to register with the local and state governments so that you can be recognized legally as an architect. You will also need to undertake a rigorous education where you will learn the basics in drawing, building and what different materials to use.

However, even with all of these, you may find that your earnings from being an architect may be not enough to cover your expenses. Yet, most people still take this line of work even if the pay is bad. Why? Because they really believe that doing this work will have a very long term value even if they might not see these rewards in their lifetime.

For some, architecture is their passion. Others want to pursue this field because of the thrill of making big decisions. Still, there are those for whom being an architect is a true way of living even if they may not be making as much money as they anticipated.

Experience and Becoming Licensed

To get a license in most jurisdictions, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in architecture, along with a professional internship and passing the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). This is called experience-based licensing because it requires you to accrue a certain number of hours of “experience” … typically upwards of four thousand hours.

In Florida, you have to pass the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) exams and that is only after three years of college and four years of professional experience. The exams are administered through an organization called NAREB.

Yes. Each state’s licensing board maintain their own requirements. Basically though, to become a licensed architect, you need to pass the ARE and you will need to have at least 4,000 hours of relevant experience.

The "Cool Factor"

For some people, being an architect is all about the "cool factor". They do it because they want to be known as the guy or gal who designed some fancy building.

I can't blame them. When anyone thinks of architecture, their minds usually conjure up those high-profile buildings that have been featured in movies or on TV. Recognizable landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe or the Empire State Building. Or the elegant curve of a stadium.

Babies are given replicas of these buildings as toys to learn shapes. People put up posters of them in their bedrooms. Heck, they're even the subject of some really great movies.

No body can blame the people who go into architecture because of these factors. It's just that, they shouldn't be surprised if they don't make a lot of money. The reality is that most of them don't.

Here's why:

The "cool factor" is nice but it's highly subjective. Some people might love a building that was designed to look like a circular waffle maker. Others may hate the design. The problem is, when you look at the dollar figures, you realize that it might have been a better investment to invest in a waffle maker instead of designing a building to look like a waffle maker.

The Work Environment

An architect’s working environment is usually an open area with an abundance of natural light. Architects need an area with access to tools and software that help them in their creative processes and that enables team members to work with each other to share concept and design information.

The furniture should have storage space and be adjustable so that it can accommodate varying positions and positions. The desks should be wide enough for the use of drawing materials, computers, and other equipment.

You should have at least two screens for each personal computer, and the desks should be positioned for privacy and noise reduction.

As your company grows, you’ll need to address the office space in some way. For more substantial growth, you’ll need to consider a move.

Here are some ways that you can make the most of your office space as an architect.

Other Architects

Being a self-employed architect isn't just about drawing the blueprints. It is about the relationships you build with clients and other architects. Like any other small business, you build those relationships by helping others succeed in whatever they are trying to achieve.

When doing this, it's important to understand that most people are not trying to be architects. They are just trying to solve a problem. You need to understand and respect what they want out of that solution.

You will find that there are architects who have an uneasy relationship with architecture and architects who love it. You need to figure out which category you're in, and communicate that to your clients.

If you are in the "it's okay, but I'm not sure if about it" category then avoid things like architectural competitions and speaking at events for architects, but still handle the design side of the building's construction. Just subcontract that part to an engineer.

Don't try to be a jack of all trades. They are all masters of none. Be an architect and focus on the solution that people need.

If you are in the love architecture category, then that could mean your business might be more difficult to grow than it would be otherwise. You will have to compete with the larger firms and will be unlikely to be able to grow and scale your business. However, it will help you to build relationships with people who love the same thing that you do.