Is architecture one of the hardest degrees?
You certainly spend more years studying to get an architecture degree than in other majors – is that the most challenging part of architecture studies?
Most universities will tell you that studying for an architecture degree is harder and more intensive than studying for other degrees. The story is more complicated than the program length.
1. Extra Hours per Week
Anyone studying at school, college, or university knows that you must put in hours over and above classroom time.
Is architecture tougher than engineering for this?
According to an Indiana University survey, the answer is an emphatic yes.
Architecture students work an average of 22.2 hours extra per week, and that puts them on the top of the leader board for extra hours ahead of all the engineers and dentistry.
Architecture students work more hours than all the other students (source).
After they leave school, the long-hours culture continues, and these major contributing factors do not make it any easier for the architects.
Another reason why architecture is the hardest major lies in the range of disciplines an architect student needs to study. Engineers, bless their cotton socks, are specialists.
No one goes to university to study engineering – they opt for chemical, electrical, civil, or mechanical; they narrow their focus and study field.
Architects have been around for longer than mathematics and have 10,000 years of accumulated wisdom to digest.
Architects specialize after their degrees, and an architecture student covers everything from history, aesthetics, social science, art, complex calculations, and zoning laws.
When you think about it, architects must be like a renaissance noble – knowing enough about everything from art to science.
The weight of these studies gives a long course (five years) and a long apprenticeship (gaining experience) before you can register as a licensed architect. No wonder high school kids ask, is architecture worth it?
A potential architect knows going into their studies that they are committing to a lifetime of effort and learning.
3. No Right Answers
Architecture is a subjective discipline – unlike mathematics or engineering, you can’t come up with a definitive answer.
This lack of a definite end position to any problem or task means that an architecture student does not stop – there is always more they can do, and more they can add, right up to the deadline.
Then they lose sleep over all the things they could have included and that innovative idea that pops into their heads after they hand in the assignment.
4. Creative on Demand
A component of architecture studies that is hard to grasp for other students is the expectation of creating designs and, in many cases, building them as models and real structures.
Not only do they have to dream up ideas, but they must also be capable of translating that creative idea into a functional object.
Most artistic studies allow flights of fancy and bizarre creations, but architects build their dreams in stone, steel, and concrete.
5. Skills Building
Architecture students don’t get to acquire only theoretical skills. Their studies gear towards practical applications.
They need to become proficient in CAD, 3D rendering, sketching, building architecture models, and presenting projects, and going on to achieve that project as part of a team.
Architecture is a hands-on degree.
Architects compete for projects, job placements, and to create safe and beautiful buildings. Architects compete against other architects and themselves, and they are passionate about what they do and create.
This element of competition drives architecture students to spend more time on designing and building models.
They need to create an impressive resume and demonstrate their abilities to progress.
Five years of study may seem like plenty of time to make up your mind about what you want to do after university, but the possibilities for architecture students are broad and lead in many directions.
When you see so many options – landscape, urban planning, interiors, exteriors, houses, industrial buildings, and so many more, it is hard to choose your path.
Despite the length of time studying for a degree, the architecture student is under pressure to work out what they want to be as an architect – what interests and challenges them because it all takes hard work.
How hard is studying architecture when you get all that travel?
Well, it is not a holiday.
Architecture students need to find the funding to go abroad and learn in a strange land as part of their degree.
No one organizes their placement for them, they get help, yes, but they have to fund it and work out what they will achieve as part of their travel commitment.
There are some severe financing issues for architecture students:
- Five years of study to finance.
- Potential overseas placement as part of the study program.
- Working long hours, so it is hard to get part-time work.
- Additional costs for model making supplies.
- Expensive textbooks and plenty of them.
- Specialist software.
Studying for an architecture degree is intellectually demanding and puts a strain on family finances.
For most students, the university is where you go, meet people in the same position as yourself, work hard, play hard, and graduate with your friends.
Part of the degree experience is making friends across a broad range of disciplines, friendships that last a lifetime.
For architectural students, many friends outside of architecture will typically move into the world of work after three years. That changes the dynamics of your friendship.
There is a good reason why architecture students tend to mix with other architecture students rather than the other disciplines – shared experience and in it for the long haul.
11. Looking Forward
Is architecture a good career for the future when you spend so many years getting there? Most architects will earn an above-average salary, but only a few will make rock star style earnings.
If you are interested in making serious money a couple of years after graduating, it is unlikely that an architecture degree will meet that ambition.
Most architects are drawn to architecture because it meets their desire to create and shape the world – one of the vital signs of being an architect.
These people can’t imagine doing anything else with their lives, so architecture is the only career for them.
The world needs architects, so it is a career with longevity. Plus, you don’t have to go into architecture after studying for an architecture degree.
You come out with an impressive array of practical skills and a broad wealth of knowledge that opens a world of career possibilities outside architecture for you.
An architecture major may be more challenging than engineering, media studies, or dentistry, but it gives you a unique window on the world and an impressive future career.