Before delving into a career in architecture, it’s important to be clear about what architects do. Due to portrayals of architects in movies and other images, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that architects are creative, free spirits who earn a lot of money while designing cool new structures. While there is an aspect of creativeness and free spiritedness in architecture, and while architects tend to earn good livings, the picture that Hollywood paints is far different from reality. Shocking, I know.
Architects use their creative genius for only a small portion of their jobs. Once the creative portion is over, they have to make sure the design of the building adheres to high standards of safety and appropriate functionality. They also have to make sure that structures they design have appropriate spacing for things like air ducts, wires, and plumbing.
There is an article in the US News that goes as far to say that architect careers are overrated, even though the same article admits that architecture made it into the 2007 list of Best Careers. They point out that architecture barely made it onto the list, and since then the industry has taken a hit with the downturn of the economy. In order to tighten budgets, potential customers have sent business overseas, downloaded plans off the internet for a much lower price, or had the contractors design their plans.
Those are, of course, some of the potential negative aspects of architecture careers. Some of the positive things include the fact that there is a very low percentage of the United States population that is architects, and they do earn higher than average incomes. Latest figures show that there are only about 140,000 architects in the United States. This is most likely due to the education, knowledge, and skills required to become an architect. This is good news for prospective architect students. Due to the current low numbers of architects and the high threshold barrier one has to cross to become an architect, architecture jobs should be plentiful as the economy makes a comeback.
Aside from designing new houses, buildings, and other structures, there are other areas of architecture that architects have the option of specializing in. Some of the more common types of architecture careers include:
- Professional Consultants: Those who choose this line of work are usually employed as part of a team who specializes in certain construction projects. Architects who have a lot of experience and have become well-known in their fields might decide to do free lance consulting work or even start up their own consulting firms.
- Project Managers: While there are people with any number of backgrounds who could serve as project managers, those who have a background in architecture are usually the most preferred. This is due to the fact that their knowledge about construction principles and how to solve construction related issues is superior to most.
- Renovation Specialists: In general, architects are thought to design only new buildings and structures, but that is not the case. Big renovation projects (and sometimes smaller ones as well) need the expertise of an architect to make sure that whatever is being renovated remains structurally sound and meets safety codes. Not all architects are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed for this type of architecture, as certain knowledge that is specific to renovation projects is sometimes needed.
- Teachers and Professors: Some architects may choose life in the world of academia by teaching architect classes at a college or university. With more and more colleges and universities developing their own architecture programs, this option is more viable for architects than ever before.