10 Tips for Budding Architect Professors & Teachers
Through the sizeable growth of knowledge and experience granted by an enlightening architectural career, you may feel compelled to recommend others to follow a similar path.
There are few better ways to do this than to become an architecture professor.
Through this occupation, you will have been in an incomparable position to inspire and inform future architects to be the best that they can be.
But with this power – as the cliché goes – comes great responsibility.
A great architecture professor will encourage students to stick with the program, while a bad one might make students jump ship altogether into the waters of a different major.
Before informing yourself on how to be a good architecture teacher, you might wish to explore the more technical details of becoming an architecture professor, such as requirements and salary.
Your decision also rests on whether you are dedicated to earning a Ph.D. for the title of “Professor” or if you would rather get to work sooner as a postsecondary architecture teacher.
Be warned that you are up for a great deal of work, but that is part of the territory of a job with a high salary (more than 100,000 US dollars per year on average for an architecture professor – source) and high reported satisfaction.
1. Get Qualified
In many cases, accredited universities require applicants to hold a doctoral degree, or a Ph.D., in their chosen architecture-related field.
If you already have a master’s degree in architecture, getting the necessary training to become a professor will generally require an additional two to three years to complete or four years if you have a bachelor’s degree. So you have to want it.
Note that different universities require different licenses and certifications for their professors, so it is a good idea to follow up with both the school you plan to attend to acquire your doctorate and the school where you plan to teach.
Suppose the prospect of extra years of schooling demotivates you. In that case, the option to become an architecture teacher at a community college is still feasible with a master’s degree.
Should you decide to teach at a community college, you will still get to inspire future architects through sharing your wisdom and providing valuable education – albeit with a slightly compromised (while still compelling) salary.
Alternatively, becoming an architecture tutor can be an option with your bachelor’s degree. Design, software, etc. – most architecture schools would assign you to the subject where your expertise lies.
2. Become a Better Architect
To improve the skills of others, you must first improve your own.
There is no single, condensed tip that will make you better immediately, but the basic principles that enable you to become better with anything you set out to do would apply here.
You might be a phenomenal architect or even the most innovative architect your firm has ever seen – but you aren’t perfect, and that is fine.
While it may not sound like it, imperfection is one of the most useful traits that exists because it drives you to improve in all sorts of directions.
You absolutely can become better by addressing any weaknesses you have.
You might be behind on the latest drafting software, you might have limited experience working with certain building materials, or you might have yet to turn that holy grail of your design career that exists in your head into a working concept.
When you master the art of getting better as an architect for yourself, you can help your students to do the same.
The process of teaching would make you better as well, as long as you keep applying yourself.
3. Hone Your Communication Skills
If you plan to be the best architecture teacher you can be, it is pertinent that you are able to convey your ideas as clearly as possible to students who do not understand the subject like you do.
Practice the pillars of effective communication: volume, clarity, confidence, adaptation, and active listening.
Provide yourself with real-world practice in giving and receiving feedback and learning valuable ways to use effective communication as a reciprocal medium for improvement.
4. Develop Graphic Presentation Skills
When you work for a firm, there is likely a time when the design becomes the most crucial component of a project.
As an architecture teacher, however, you are likely to spend more of your on-the-job hours showing things than creating them. It is why presenting information to your students in ways that effectively capture their attention is incredibly important in being a good architecture teacher.
Think back upon the knowledge you used when you created your resume and portfolio and apply some of those same concepts that worked effectively in getting you employed in getting your students engaged.
5. Learn the Art of Asking (and Answering) Questions
Questions are how people gain knowledge and improve their skills.
As an architecture teacher, you are a more effective source of information than a textbook or published articles because you can answer specific questions that students might have.
You can improve your ability to answer questions through practice and rehearsal, setting up scenarios with peers or friends; everyone is encouraged to ask unique questions to which you are designated to respond.
You want to make sure that you ask questions that actively challenge your students’ minds and encourage creativity – perhaps ambiguous answers rather than straightforward questions that can be satisfied with one-word answers.
6. Improve Your English Language Skills
There is no denying the prevalence of the English language in an increasingly globalized world.
If English is not your mother tongue (or if it is and you struggle), then expanding your vocabulary and honing your knowledge of grammar and syntax with both the written and spoken word is valuable, even outside of English-dominant nations.
7. Familiarize Yourself with the Basics You Often Overlook
When you become practiced enough in something, many of the processes become innate, and you no longer think about them.
Perhaps you seamlessly navigate all of the needed tools in standard drafting software while daydreaming, or maybe you are so intrinsically familiar with the concepts of structural integrity that the trusses place themselves.
Quite obviously, students have to devote substantially more cognitive effort than you do to effectively understand many of the basic architecture components.
It might seem redundant, but taking the time to leaf through some entry-level books on architecture to refamiliarize yourself with the things you forgot you did will better enable you to explain these topics to students.
8. Find Your Niche
Architecture is a broad field. Thus, it would be virtually impossible to teach every detail, style, and subcategories of the subject while adhering to the semester’s time restrictions.
When (or if) you were a practicing architect, what types of designs proved to be your best work?
What types of projects did you find the most motivation?
Many professors and teachers of all fields teach from a certain lens.
You might be teaching architecture, but you can focus on the subject of suburban housing if that is where you think you can contribute to the grooming of budding architects.
Plus, your niche will give you an identity that will let you stand out among your future co-workers.
9. Have an Open Mind
If you do it long enough, you will almost certainly see the world of architecture shift profoundly from when you first enrolled in architecture school.
New technologies appear, and career roles get redefined; societal demands shift, and designs go in and out of style.
With each class you teach, it can’t hurt to have a down-to-earth discussion with your students to determine what they are looking for out of your class and out of architecture (although you would operate it within the curriculum framework the school has given you).
Start each semester with the expectation that students might disagree with your methods. Be prepared to adapt if needed instead of staying entrenched with preconceived notions.
10. Stay Passionate
For the benefit of yourself and your students, continue to cultivate your passion for architecture like a well-maintained lawn.
Because architecture is constantly changing, and perfection is always a distance away, there is still something out there for you to discover.
You have a body of students who see you as an authority figure, so don’t be afraid to use your lectures as an outlet for sharing the things that fascinate you.
A great teacher never stops caring.