Architecture is challenging, and it’s not the right profession for you – some reasons may be valid, but others aren’t.
As somebody at a crossroads trying to decide if you should study architecture, you must be brutally honest with yourself.
You need to focus on the qualities that make successful architects excel and not let negativity sway you.
Choose architecture for the right reasons, and the rest are merely secondary concerns.
If you are still looking for a profession with less to no competition and yet make lots of money quickly, you won’t get started in anything.
This post still aims to address why aspiring architects should not study architecture – valid reasons because they are the reality – but at the same time, point out excuses when one decided to jump into architecture for the wrong reasons.
The 5 Excuses
Firstly, the excuses, and why they are not real reasons to not choose a career in architecture.
1. Architecture Is Too Competitive
It is not uncommon to find yourself on the waiting list of applicants for architectural programs in top colleges and universities.
Many undergraduate studies often have a long queue of students wanting in, and your grades in preceding school exams become the deciding factor.
But is that reason enough to shun the profession because you feel you have little chance of success?
How about after you graduate as an architect?
The property sector is equally, if not more, competitive; it has always been.
In the globalized world we live in today, you cannot run away from the competition. The only fields that you do not find competition in are those with very little chance of profitability.
Competition fuels creativity and excellence if you do architecture for the right reasons.
Further, architecture is traditionally male-dominated, but it is changing and male architects are seeing ever-increasing competition from their female counterparts.
2. You Don’t Get to Design
Do you pride yourself as a skilled designer?
Or, see yourself specializing in architectural design rather than project management?
Architecture is both art and science at the same time.
More so than in other design fields, architecture is an all-rounded design endeavor where the decisions you make and the lines you put on paper have real-world consequences – time, costs, and safety.
Architecture is not just about pretty pictures you frame on the wall for others to marvel at.
Good architectural design is one that withstands the test of the physical world. To be a good design architect, you need to put in the time and effort to gain the necessary experiences to inform the design you produce.
You may have a knack for design, but design flair without practical considerations is pretty drawings without substance.
It takes practice to become good at design for an architect.
For fresh graduates entering the workforce, instead of waiting on the side waiting for your boss to give you opportunities in design work, ask for it; literally, ask.
Be persistent. When you get the chance, give it your best shot.
Your first design for an architecture firm will not be your best work. Continue to work hard and let the firm see the effort you put in to improve, and your reward is the opportunity to continue developing your skills.
Good design requires a lot of research – contrary to popular belief.
The awful fact is that most fresh graduate architects start from the bottom, which means they are usually assigned drafting tasks on the computer – or anything else besides design work.
If you do not fight your corner, do not expect someone else to.
3. Your Architecture Ideals Aren’t Center-Stage
It is oft-repeated that one of academia’s challenges is to bridge the gap between what the school teaches and what the industry requires.
The early stages are the critical formative years in which the school nurtures architecture students to become dreamers instead of being burdened by practical considerations.
What would the world be without dreamers!
That is precisely the role that architecture plays in our society in shaping lives and the built environment.
While architecture involves engineering considerations, architects are not and should not purely think like engineers.
It is no coincidence that architecture students only learn building law and architectural practice subjects in the later years of an undergraduate architectural study.
When an architect enters the working world, they carry those architectural ideals with them but with both feet firmly on the ground. It takes time to reach a stage where you get to have a say in how much your ideals inform the firm’s designs.
For a practicing architect, licensed or otherwise, doing the 80% of donkey work is the necessary evil if you want to achieve the 20% dream – seeing your dream design become a built form reality.
It is undoubtedly challenging, but for the few that persevere, the results justify the pain.
4. You Are Bad at Math
One of the aspiring architects’ worries is whether their prowess in mathematics – or the lack of it – plays a significant role in excelling as architects.
Is mathematics required for architecture?
Yes, it is.
Do you need to be a maths whizz to be an architect?
No, you don’t.
In comparison, engineers have to apply a great deal more mathematics in their course of work than architects do.
High school math subjects may be a prerequisite to enter architecture schools. But once you are in one, don’t be surprised that many students are relatively poor in math; however, they would usually turn out just fine, if not great.
You’d be glad to know the subjects you study in an architecture degree program are not math-heavy.
5. You Don’t Live in a Dream Architect’s House
Industry outsiders’ common misconception is that the architects design and live in their own dream house.
For many, this is not true. But it is not an entirely false dream either.
Short of printing your own money (pun intended), architecture is as regular as other professional fields are in terms of the time and effort it takes to reach the summit.
Architecture is truly the opposite of a get-rich scheme.
But for those who chose architecture for the right reasons and have the grit and patience to put in the necessary work consistently, the reward would be the financial capacity to design and live in their dream home.
The 10 Reasons You Should Not Be an Architect
Before diving into each reason, it helps to know that the primary reason you should be an architect is your desire to create, plus other qualities that contribute to an architect’s long and successful career.
It is the #1 thing that you have to have, above all else. Without this, it will come a time when everything feels like a drag.
That said, let’s get into the details of why you should think twice about becoming an architect.
1. You Are Only Doing It for the Glamor
Some value happiness, doing what they love, and reaching a reasonable (or potentially great) earning power as a by-product of doing what they love doing.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have those who desire social status and the perceived glamor that an architect’s job title brings.
If you are in the latter camp, architecture is not for you.
The road to becoming a full-fledged architect is not the easiest – that much is true. Should being called an architect matter that much, you will probably give up even before the going gets tough!
Architecture has its natural mechanism to weed out the wannabes.
2. The Money Does Not Justify the Effort
As an architecture student, pulling all-nighters is pretty standard.
A deadline is a deadline. When an assignment is due, you use whatever limited hours available to complete the work.
Working at an architecture firm changes that fact – slightly. Still, the occasional overtime is not uncommon, although it can get less frequent as you gain more experience and learn to complete your tasks more efficiently.
It can be disheartening that the long hours you put in do not translate into higher pay. Many reasons contribute to why some architects remain poor, but there are industry-wide problems that architects need to face.
However, you won’t be surprised that people who love what they do and see the bigger picture of doing what they are doing tend not to be complainers.
What is difficult for one person may not be so for the other who loves the hustle.
3. You Are Not Making as Much as Other Professionals
Before the coming of the digital age, architects, alongside other professionals such as doctors, engineers, and accountants, make fairly respectable income compared to non-professionals.
Since the advent of the internet, new opportunities had emerged, and the job landscape has altered drastically.
Architects do not make as much money now relative to the time and effort put in. But it is also the case in most other professions unless and until you work yourself to the top, which can take a long time.
It depends on how you chart your career path and work your way up. Until then, architects do not make big money – at least not yet.
4. Bad Design Decisions Have Dire Consequences
Beautiful designs lacking practical considerations and careful detailing can have enormous consequences when they get built.
A few innocent-looking extra lines could lead to a wrongly-detailed construction joint and have unintended cost implications.
Practicing architects have horror stories of how they have to deal with clients and contractors over those seemingly minor errors on the drawings.
As explained in the essential traits to be an architect post, careful attention to detail is paramount if you want to go far in the architecture field.
Without it, you find yourself spending more time cleaning up the mess than you do making progress.
5. Managing People Aren’t Fun
As the principal architect, you coordinate the consultants’ work on the drawing board and the contractors on job sites.
On the one hand, you practice people management skills – which is useful even if you decide to change your career path one day – but equally, it can be a tiring and thankless job you cannot avoid.
Unless you have your eyes on the prize, it is easy to get drawn into the negative aspects of handling interpersonal conflicts between stakeholders of a building project.
6. Contract Administration Is Not Your Cup of Tea
As much as you may love staying in the comfort of their air-conditioned office doing design, contract administration is an obligation and a necessary skill to develop.
The standard contract form between the client and the contractor is the central agreement that enables the construction of buildings within the time, cost, and quality specifications.
Part of an architect’s job involves thinking like a lawyer, unfortunately.
7. You Don’t Have Much Time for Anything Else
From the studios in college to the desktop in an architect’s firm, spare time is not a luxury an architect gets to enjoy often.
An architect leads a hectic life. But if you study architecture for all the wrong reasons, and you value leisure and party time more than the hard but necessary graft to see your architectural ideas come to fruition, then architecture is not for you.
There is no right or wrong, but only a choice you have to make.
8. You Are Sleep Deprived
This point follows the previous one.
Do architects sleep?
Yes, they do. But not a whole lot.
Long hours are part and parcel of mastering the architecture trade. You have to be a student of the game before becoming the captain who commands the ship.
Until then, prepare for long hours and the occasional all-nighters. There are health risks for architects who manage their work-life balance poorly.
If you are willing to sacrifice time for the love and opportunity to create, especially in those early years, you will do just fine in this regard.
Otherwise, you’d do better looking elsewhere.
9. Your Friends Are Mostly Architects Talking About Architecture
The funny thing is, the longer you work as an architect, the risk increases that your circle of friends shrinks to mostly architects.
When architects come together, the gene pool becomes a little too homogeneous, and the topics of conversation usually do not stray too far from what the profession has programmed them to think and talk about.
You counter this risk by consciously staying in touch with your high school friends, as much as your time allows.
Nothing against architects, but you want to indulge in other equally stimulating conversations and activities outside of architecture during your time out.
It is a career that requires some skillful work-life balancing act.
10. The Path to Licensure Is Arduous
Architects would logically want to obtain the architect’s license after they graduate.
However, the road to architecture licensure is filled with practical experience requirements and passing the registration exam.
Documentation may be necessary for work experiences you gained abroad in place of those logged locally – depending on the jurisdiction you intend to practice.
It is a critical stage that you should pursue as soon as you graduate should you aim to achieve a six-figure salary as an architect. The eventual married life with kids will add further responsibilities which could derail this pursuit.
All of the reasons mentioned above are real and can defeat you in your quest to be a full-fledged architect.
However, you do not have to jump both feet into a costly architecture program straightaway.
If you have some basic CAD or photoshop skills, offer to work in a small architecture firm for a few months and get a feel for life as an architect. Get involved in as many tasks as the firm needs.
What if you get paid next to nothing? So be it.
You are getting a glimpse into how architecture works, which hopefully helps you make an informed decision when you finally decide to study architecture.
That alone is worth its weight in gold when you are at this crossroads.
It is worth noting that you are not strictly limited to being an architect with a degree in architecture. There are alternative career paths, including some industry-related professions, that architects can and have successfully switched to.
You may also have gotten disillusioned after some years of working as an architect. Hopefully, this post helps to re-focus your thoughts and re-strategize your actions from here on in, whatever that may be.
When the mind decides, the body follows.