Do you stare at city skyscrapers and think, “I could come up with an awesome design for that”? Dream of conceptualizing public spaces that deliver on both form and function, as well as inspire the people who enjoy them? Dive into an architecture major and you could be on your way to becoming the Frank Lloyd Wright of the 21st century. Architects are commissioned to work on anything from an office space to a community complex, using their artistic, math, technical, and creative skills to research, design, plan, and consult on construction of homes, workplaces, city buildings, and other structures and spaces. It’s a career that seamlessly merges art and science—and the perfect major to pursue if you love both and can’t decide between them.
What do architecture majors study?
Most architecture undergrad majors take five-year programs, and the majority of states require that the school you attend be accredited. Some start and finish their architecture classes online. Your classes will consist of those in math and the physical sciences, architectural theory and history, engineering, design, construction methods, and CADD (computer-assisted design and drafting), among others.
Once you receive your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to do a paid internship or residency that can last up to three years. From there, you’ll take the Architect Registration Examination. You may also choose to go for a master’s degree, which can take between one and five years, depending on your previous experience and schooling. Licensing requirements vary by state, and you’ll often need to take continuing-ed courses to keep your license current.
So why would you want to pursue an architecture major?
Your daily duties as an architect will allow you to tap into all of your skills.
If you’re the type who likes to be involved in a project from initial conception through to the final ribbon-cutting, becoming an architect will satisfy your need to wear many different hats. You’ll brainstorm with clients on what they’re looking to build, come up with budgets and timelines, draft plans (often using specialized computer software made specifically for architects), ensure aspects like heating, plumbing, and disabled access is up to code, take care of construction site logistics, and even design exterior landscaping.
If you’re not sure you want to become an architect once you finish your studies, you can still apply the education you’ve received and the skills you’ve honed and apply it to related career paths, such as becoming a civil engineer, interior designer, historic buildings inspector, construction manager, commercial or residential surveyor, urban planner, or design/architecture educator (additional training or education may be required for these jobs).
You can be paid big bucks to channel Gehry or Gaudi.
While demand in the field is currently in a slowdown, if you do find an in, you’ll likely command an impressive salary. The 2016 median annual salary for architects in the architectural or engineering industries was just a hair over $75,000, while architects working in the construction arena pulled in about $78,000. Architects for government groups or agencies, meanwhile, earned a median of $88,000 or so.
Architects are often able to start their own businesses.
If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, once you have ample experience, a solid reputation in the field, and a potential client list, you may choose to “go rogue” and either start your own business or serve as a consultant. You may still put in long hours during deadline periods, but you’ll also likely have more control over planning your schedule, and you’ll be able to work from the comfort of your own home office when you’re not required to be meeting with clients or on-site at a job. No one will ever know you’re in your PJs as you’re mulling over the aesthetics for a fireplace surround.
You’ll be living out your passion for art, science, and community enhancement every day.
There’s immense satisfaction to be had when you can apply your creative skills to design a final, tangible product that people will see and use every day. Not only will your days be stimulating, but you’ll have bragging rights every time you pass a building with your mark on it and can say, “I created that!” It also forms a bond between yourself and the community you’re building in, as you’ll be setting down roots of sorts and enhanced local quality of life through the structures and spaces you’ve built. Plus, you’ll likely be working with others who also share these passions, making your workday feel less like a job and more like a labor of love.