Architect vs. Doctor: 8 Distinctions to Consider (Explained)

Architecture and medicine are radically different fields.

If you are debating architecture vs. medicine as a degree subject based on pros and cons, you compare apples and oranges.

Architecture is not better than medicine. It is different.

If you pick high school subjects intending to choose architecture or medicine, select plenty of sciences for medicine and keep your options open.

What are the difference and similarities between architecture and medicine as a field of study?

architecture vs medicine which to choose

Area of Specialization

The fields of architecture and medicine both contain too many options to list comprehensively.

As a Doctor, you can work in private practice or a hospital.

You can be a surgeon, a dispenser of medicines, a specialist in cancer, fertility, childhood diseases, and so on.

Unless you choose to work in research, you follow protocol and rules applicable to your specialization.

As an architect, you create your niche and area of expertise – you innovate and create.

Architecture vs. medicine is not a straightforward comparison.

Both architects and doctors work to benefit people, but doctors, depending on their specialization, must deal with the harsher realities of pain and loss at a human level.

Professional Degree Entry Requirement

All high school students need to study the core subjects of:

  • English
  • Science
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies

When it comes to elective studies, you concentrate on the visual arts, math, and physics if you want to go for architecture.

This post on the high school subjects needed to study architecture should give you a clearer picture.

Obtaining a medical degree is more time-consuming. You have more hoops to jump through.

In the US, medicine is a postgraduate course you enter after completing another science-based degree.

In the UK and most of Europe, you can study medicine as your first degree.

Different medical schools have different entry requirements, so before you start your first degree, you need to know what they expect to get the necessary first level of experience.

Your minimum requirements for studying medicine are:

  • High school diploma – heavy on science.
  • Science degree in an approved subject with GPA>3
  • Minimum MCAT scores.

Plus, it would be best to have English (TOEFL certificate), evidence of extracurricular activities (sports, interests), and recommendation letters.

If you want to go into medicine, you need to start early and build your science skills, and you need to plan where you are going to study to meet all the requirements.

By comparison, architecture is more straightforward to access.

After high school, you either go for a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture or a pre-professional degree majoring in architecture plus a Master of Architecture.

Professional Study Duration

After leaving high school, an architect’s professional route involves a degree (five or six years), gaining work experience, and passing the exams to register as a licensed architect.

The time scale from high school graduation to architecture License can take 8 to 12 years – depending on how focused you are on getting the license quickly.

Becoming a licensed doctor in the States involves four years getting your first degree, four years getting your medical degree, and three to seven years in a residency program getting specialist experience.

Then you can take the exam and get your License.

You can expect to spend 11 to 14 years getting your medical License.

In the UK and most of Europe, becoming a registered, licensed Doctor is quicker – seven years, five years as an undergraduate, and two years in a foundation program.

However, you register as a professional in a shorter time frame. You are a general doctor and not a specialist.

If you decide between architecture or medicine on the length of professional degree study alone, note that both are some of the longest degree programs.

Study Program Difficulty

Is architecture or medicine more difficult to study?

The answer depends on your aptitudes and abilities.

Medicine requires a heavy dose of science – chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and increasingly digital skills. Then there is manual dexterity and the capacity to work in stressful conditions.

Architecture requires long hours, craft skills, creativity, problem-solving, and design skills.

Perhaps the distinguishing feature between architecture or medicine is:

  • Architecture creates building solutions from the imagination using learned skills.
  • Medicine is the application of knowledge to make humans better.

A doctor has a tool kit of knowledge. If a patient comes in with a cough, you do x and y.

When a client asks an architect to design a house, the architect starts with a blank page.

If you are the type of person who finds science topics easy to master, has an excellent memory, and can apply your knowledge to a set problem, studying medicine is less difficult for you than for someone who finds chemistry a chore and confusing.

Trying to decide on architecture or medicine in terms of how difficult it is to study is pointless.

They are both challenging and very demanding in different ways.

Why are you trying to decide between architecture and medicine?

What would make you happy at work – creating buildings or healing bodies?

If you have a passion or vocation for your subject, you can overcome your problems in school through hard work and perseverance.

Career Progression

The typical career route for an architect follows distinct stages from high school.

  • College or university study lasting around five to six years.
  • Working and gaining experience with a licensed architect as an intern (3,740 hours of relevant experience for architectural designers in the US; a similar number of hours for those in other countries) to satisfy the professional requirement.
  • Pass the State license exam.

The delaying factor is getting the right amount of relevant experience across all the professional areas.

The advantage is that you earn while learning.

The typical career route for a licensed or registered doctor in the US follows a similar stepped progression:

  • First science degree – about 4 years.
  • Medical school – about 4 years.
  • Specialist registry program – between 3 and 5 years.
  • Pass all three stages of the USMLE exam (source).

Doctors in many countries outside the US follow a different but similarly long progression to being registered doctors (or Consultants) in their respective specialties.

The route to becoming a doctor is quicker than the architect’s way to License, but most agree that it is more demanding because of the daily need to be careful with people’s lives.

When you think about architecture or medicine, it is worth remembering that an architect remains a generalist – although a specialist building designer – and can tackle any job in their profession, but a doctor must specialize.

The field of medicine is highly regulated for safety reasons.

Licensure/Registration Requirements

As explained above, you have certain hoops to jump through before you get to the point where you can pay to sit the exam that gives you your State approval to practice your profession.


The architectural experience program (AXP – source) needs you to register and document your hours.

Theoretically, you could demonstrate to a State regulator that you have the necessary experience and sit the exams.

In practice, most architects sign up with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) (or the Architects Board in your home country) and follow their program.

It is a structured program that takes you through logging your experience to build a portfolio of 3,740 hours, resources for successfully passing the license examination, and then completing the NCARB certification giving you the capacity to register and practice in your State.

Architecture licensing is typically non-transferable between states or countries.

Under the architecture umbrella, you have a choice of the following specialty – each with a different academic route:

  • Architect (a license is required to practice)
  • Landscape architect (a license is required to practice)
  • Interior design (a license is not required)

For the rest of your professional career, you need to maintain competence levels through Continuing Education or Continuing Professional Development (source).


Both clinical and non-clinical jobs in medicine require a valid state license.

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE – source) is a collaboration between the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).

You get a maximum of six attempts at each stage of the examination.

Although USMLE examinations give you the right to practice medicine, you must have a State license for each State as the state license for medicine is not reciprocal.

Subspecialties require another two or three years of approved residency and another exam for the certification.

You must also recertify every six, eight, or ten years depending on your area of work.

Maintaining your medical License involves more work and effort than an architecture license.

Career Opportunities

Career opportunities after an architecture degree include:

  • Architect (with a license).
  • Architectural technologists/designer – using CAD and other design tools.
  • Interior designer.
  • Town planner.
  • Real estate development.
  • Any management roles within the building industry.
  • Any design roles outside the building industry.

Career opportunities after a medical degree include:

  • Licensed physician.
  • Medical writing.
  • Research.
  • Hospital management.
  • Physician’s assistant.
  • Teaching.
  • Medical technology consultant.
  • Therapist.

You also get to specialize in one of the following as a doctor:

  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Anesthesiology
  • Dermatology
  • Emergency medicine
  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Pathology
  • Pediatrics
  • Preventive medicine
  • Radiology
  • Surgery
  • (and many more).

When it comes to comparing architecture vs. medicine in the range of alternative career paths, medicine offers far more opportunities and quantity of job roles than architecture.

Salary and Earning Potential

Architects vs. Doctor’s salary is no competition.

Doctors earn more than architects in all comparable positions.

Some architects make more than some doctors, but if you are chasing a high salary, a medical degree increases your earnings at all levels.

A first glance at salary statistics shows the median average salary for architects is $80,750 and that for healthcare practitioners is $83,640, implying that architects earn an average (source).

This statistic hides that high-earning surgeons (average salary of $252,040) are merged with lower-paying roles like nursing, opticians, and low-paygrade technologists (source).

Architects can work hard, and the top 10-20% earn six-figure salaries, but the average physician makes $208,000.

The salary is one reason architects are generally and relatively poor.

Medicine routinely pays better than architecture, and doctors typically work fewer hours but with long shifts at odd hours.

The final choice of studying architecture or medicine is for you to make.

Your motivation and skills will indicate your suitability for one field or the other because they are very different choices.