Friday, October 7, 2011

51 - Too late in life to become an architect?

Trying how to ask this...but I'll just do it. I'm 51 and I want to pursue it too late in life with the education,experience,exams that are required?. Took me so long to realize I should of majored in architecture instead of business. sigh....frustrated...thanks if you can answer.....

First, no regret.  Live in the here and now.

From my experience of working in architectural education for almost 20 years, I would say that you are NOT too old to become an architect.  If we assume that you practice into your 70s or 80s, you still have a minimum of 20-30 years in the profession. 

Philip Johnson, one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, became an architect at age 39 and practiced architecture until his death in his nineties. Frank Gehry is currently practicing architecture and turned 80 this year. You have plenty of good years to practice architecture.

In a previous position, we had a student that returned to school in his early 50s like you.  He completed the Master of Architecture degree and is now close to being an architect.

The question is your commitment for the field and situation in life. Can you commit to the education of an architect?

You are not too old! Start the process of researching programs through -- or --.

Of course, if the road to becoming an architect is too long, consider entering the profession or the built environment industry through another path.

Dr. Architecture


jerry s. said...

I read the comments "51 -too late in life to become an architect', and 'Alternative careers' about the 45 year old, both who regret not going into the architecture field earlier in life. Well, so do I. I am 55, and am looking to get out of my business and follow my passion. I've been drawing buildings in perspective since I was a child, and recently took a look at my high school transcript from 1974 which showed my expression of desire to be an architect. I also got 'de-railed', and went into the accounting field, and subsequently into business, with succeses and failure. All along feeling very unfulfilled.My problem is that being the breadwinner, is there a way to earn a living while going back to school to achieve the required degrees, in the field? I have an aptitude for perspective drawing and hand-renderring. I had taken up painting as a hobby, and have about 16 pcs that All involve architecture and environments, aside from a lifelong collection of countless drawings of buildings, bridges, roadways, lobbies, homes, etc. I also have an accounting degree and extensive business managerial and entrepreneurial experience (in the graphic arts- printing industry). I actually took 1 year's worth of courses at NY School of interior design back in the mid 80's, loved it but could not stay with it due to business time constraints. I was very encouraged by your reply comments to those 2 people. I look forward to your reply. FYI I live in the NYC area.

Anonymous said...

Architecture firms have laid off much of their workforce during the recession starting in 2008. Unemployment among architects has been estimated to be 20% to 30%. The firm I was with went from 12 to 7. The firm I was with several years ago used to have 30 people, and is now a staff of 5. Google "Hardest hit profession during recession", and see what comes up. The bottom line is, the need for architects fluctuates with the economy. Combine that with age discrimination, and you've got the perfect storm. I know of what I speak. I am a 51 year old architect, and have spent seven of the last seventeen months unemployed. If you do not need the architecture profession to provide you with a job and /or income, I encourage you to follow your dreams; otherwise, you may want to give this some more thought.

Anonymous said...


I am so happy to have come across this conversation. I am a strategic planner at one of the leading advertising agencies in India and I am 31 yrs. I have studied commerce (11th and 12th std), done my B.Com and PGDBA in Communications. From childhood I wanted to become an architect but for some peer pressure i took up commerce. Whenever i ask myself what's missing in life...the only answer I get is I want to study Architecture.

From what I have searched so far I see myself not clearing eligibility criteria for the course...because of my commerce background. I don't mind taking any exams and studying the basics to get back to school and get through the course.

Can you please guide me in my journey. It would be nice to get your email address so that i can get in touch with you.

Thanks a ton.

my-architect said...

Architecture is a young person's game unless you own a successful firm or are employed by a large firm that still believes in tenure and values experience.
Look around the offices you go into to visit. In most you will not see people over 50...they have 'disappeared'. The only reason a firm will hire someone over 50 would be if they can bring clients in. Most of us over that age have ended up working alone in a small independent office. If you don't make it by the time you are 45 you are "done". If you are smart enough to be an architect you are probably smart enough to be anything. I would not take to the field at that age unless I was already financially secure, and able to bring in work/clients on a regular basis...then you'll have a chance to 'live the dream'.

Unknown said...

Very interesting. I have been an architect for more than 25 years and although I believe that it is probably one of the most interesting and diverse field, I agree that If you font make it by 40 years old, it is a struggle for ever. Bouncing from small firm to small firm on less than glamouros projects is not fun. The money is not ther, the prestige is small if at all existent in the US. The need for low cost construction really does not promote good architecture. And if you don't have the connections to the right clients you end up being nothing and struggling. This is my case, I am 52 and worked in Paris, Africa and the US on all kind of projects, width various bosses with more or less talents but very often not very nice people. Egocentrics are the majority and i am currently depending on small jobs and a successful wife realtor! Not the best situation to make you feel good.
On the other hand if this is a passion you had forever, you probably would very well, passion moves mountains! Go for it, you live only once but beware of the frustrations
Best of luck

Azalia said...

Hi Christian,

Thanks for your words. I'm 52 yrs old, graduated as an architect in 2007 and today I decided to give it a try applying to FAU in Florida. After been always discourage by all I mentioned about my dream to go back to my field. Least anybody can do is give it a try....Thanks again

g said...

Hi Azalia,

Ironically, the day you wrote your comment about applying to architecture school, I turned
55. I too am in the beginning stages of going back to architecture school.

I read all of the comments about age and the instability of the profession, and I've done plenty of homework before my decision. But I realized that my entire childhood was destined for me to become an architect. I too got derailed in other areas, that weren't for me.

But rather than think I'm going to design skyscrapers and all that sort of thing, I'd probably be better off in a services capacity, illustration, modelmaking, you know, the fun stuff. A lot of people in their 40's and 50's are returning to school for career changes; it appears to be the norm, not so much the exception anymore.

Besides, I don't want to regret not having tried and succeeded, so I'm going for it!

Good luck to all who want to succeed in their career endeavors.


Unknown said...

This may not help, but I am 49 years old. I graduated my Diploma in Architecture RIBA part 2 in july 2012 after 6 years of full time university study. I have lost count of how many jobs I have applied for, it is many hundreds if not a thousand and have not had a single interview.

I had another rejection letter today for an architectural technician job, I cant even get an interview for jobs way below my qualification level.

In my opinion, yes there are many architects practacing well into old age, but and this is a big but, unless you can get enough experience to take the final exams and qualify, you will neber be ab architect.

I have wasted most of my 40's following pipe dream of becoming an architect, and now cant even get a job that pays less than I paid my secretary 20 years ago.

Age is not a barrier to practice, but it is a barrier to entry to the profession.

If you can fund yourself while you get experience as an unpaid intern fine, if you need to make a living. Find another profession. Architecture is one off the longest hardest routes to the lowest paid profession.

A very disheartened graduate.

I was 42, when I started my course.

I wish someone had been honest and said forget it, then I could have actually made a living.

Unknown said...

Thanks for each of you that has contributed to this thread. I am a 37 year-old Irish Canadian based in San Francisco, that gave up art and dreams of architecture for a career in finance.

I love the sentiments shared by the different posts here. It is interesting that those counselling caution offer the same arguments I listened to from peers and parents. I realise that there is a good probability of being a pauper from such a late start, perhaps talent depending.

The "hankering" to be in architecture has never left me, I just keep ignoring it, and though about to take a new job (which is tangential through green building investment), I feel I MUST put in place the first steps to make an architecture move in the next 2-3 years.

I am thinking of doing the Central St. Martins Online Architectural Drawing course this summer. Do any of you have experience of this, or could offer similar such first steps?

I have not drawn engaged practically in drawing or architecture since at school, so I will have to put in place first steps to get there..

Thanks you guys for making me not feel so alone with this dream. I am San Francisco based and on if anyone would like to make more permanent contact.

Unknown said...

P.S. Any of you that are older and have already made the move, and would be willing to "mentor" me in getting there, let's be in touch, I'd be really grateful.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the central st martins tip Kevin! Am in a similar position, age 39 in London and still hankering after architecture. Course looks amazing, might make me feel like an architect if nothing else! Good luck with everything.

Unknown said...

I am 50 and have wanted to become an Architect for many years. My financial situation makes it impossible for now. As a suggestions to others wanting get a start, MIT offers many of their courses online for free (not for real credit). Here is a link to the Architecture school:

lagecko said...

Thanks everyone for posting this. I have read many disheartening comments, articles, even the "candid guide" book about this field. I am about to finish a degree in Psychology and still feel the burn to find out what I am made of in Architecture. I'm a "go-getter" kind of person and feel like if I don't try this, I'll never know what it could have been. That being said, I've also hit bottom post-military before too.

Although not 51, I'm 36, and feel the desire to both live sensibly and make a living but also to push my boundaries and challenge myself which seems to be my goal in life, to always feel alive, the 'creative and artist, writer' in me. If I don't feel inspired, I move on, move away, and have been known to just take off. I cannot live in a world that doesn't inspire me. I now live in CA and seeing the architecture here inspires me. But I'd admit that focusing on Psychology has left me less in the design mode. I ran into an architect at Veggie Grill one day in Santa Monica who told me that if it wasn't my biggest dream in life to let it go, that it's never been harder. It was tough to hear that.

I often hear the world say that it needs more passionate people, that it needs people that get behind what they do and love, but then what that person comes along, they have to struggle and often die trying to make their dreams come true. Finding this, and reading articles in DWELL and other magazines about architects who design their own home…I am excited and also profoundly interested in the human experience and shelter. I am dissuaded by the lack of homeless housing, and love the Tiny House Revolution. I'd love to contribute and design the future of more ecological and sustainable housing, not another shopping mall. I don't know where to begin, and though I'm not old, I'm not young either, and the reality of life is that my passion is shooting me somewhere, and for some reason (beyond Ted Mosby who just torments me on Netflix) I keep feeling this idea in my head that says…architect.

It's the dream in my life that doesn't die. I played with legos, designed homes at age 15 in multiple levels, elevations, and with notebook paper. I took CAD in high school. Then I went into the military. Seems like I just got out but went around, traveled and headed to CA to study at UCLA. I got in and now am 6 weeks from graduation. I have debt, and I have a life to build…all the while my lego kid ideal is sitting on the floor looking up at me and smiling…

I've always been good at following my dreams, and loving life, and the challenge…my heart. Am I shooting too high? I'd like to believe that if you have true passion for something, the love and money follow…at least to some degree.

Good luck to all of us…
I have a feeling we'll make it.

Tina Funkhouser said...

Thank you all for your comments. I'm comforted to know I'm in good company. You're personal stories, from whatever perspective, encourage me to continue my own search. I can't help but think there is a way to utilize our extensive first career experiences, intense work ethic, fresh-mature look at the industry and multiple locations to build a virtual firm for individuals on their second, third and, sometimes, fourth career concentration.
Most of your posts are a few years old. If it moves you, would you share your progress?

Unknown said...

Hello i am 44 years old and studied visual art more than 15 years ago in San Diego California for personal reasons stop studying and dedicated myself to working as a designer and photographer have today more than 15 years of experience and I'm directing my own design studio. but I would like to complete my dream of becoming an architect. Could you tell me where I can study in the United States? I mean the school. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Hello, I am 48 years old. I graduated from the university in 1993 after 6 years of stydying physics. Although I had been into fine arts since my childhood, my parents never considered arts to be my profession so advised to get a degree in some "solid" field. Unfortunately the economical changes after the end of Soviet Union pushed science aside. I decided to give it a try in the field of interior design, studied it for 2 years in a design school and then started working for interior/furniture design companies. For now I have had over 18 years of experience in interior planning and furnishing from which about 8 years I have been holding a position of a design director for a luxury furniture brand dealership. But my childhood dream is still here and I would like to do something more than just furnishing and decorating. That is why I seriously consider to start Architectural school. Some of the comments sound discouraging but some other make me feel it is not too late.

Unknown said...

Hello, I am 48 years old. I graduated from the university in 1993 after 6 years of stydying physics. Although I had been into fine arts since my childhood, my parents never considered arts to be my profession so advised to get a degree in some "solid" field. Unfortunately the economical changes after the end of Soviet Union pushed science aside. I decided to give it a try in the field of interior design, studied it for 2 years in a design school and then started working for interior/furniture design companies. For now I have had over 18 years of experience in interior planning and furnishing from which about 8 years I have been holding a position of a design director for a luxury furniture brand dealership. But my childhood dream is still here and I would like to do something more than just furnishing and decorating. That is why I seriously consider to start Architectural school. Some of the comments sound discouraging but some other make me feel it is not too late.

Unknown said...

I'm 35, just completing my first year of an architecture degree - having been an art graduate at masters level, I am already starting to worry if the dream of finding work will pave through. Reading this thread makes me wonder, what if mature students get together and form a mature graduate architecture practice? Just a thought.

Unknown said...

Oh this has made me so depressed. I'm wondering what to do myself at 45 years old. Would really like to study Architecture or similar but worried about the age thing too. Struggling for advice from the universities as no one comes back to me. Sigh. Qualifications are from ages ago so that goes against me as well as the companies I have worked for not letting me continue past a HND in Mech & Production Engineering.
Don't really want to work for a big firm but start up on my own but can't do that as a proper architect. Help!

Cat_Juggler said...

Disclaimer - not strictly an architectural post but somewhat related field.

I'm currently half way through a degree in commercial Interior Design at the ripe old age of 42. Before that, I was an accountant.

Obviously I cannot comment on what the future holds for me in terms of employment but if I cannot find someone to hire me when I graduate, then I will work for myself. I know I can make it.

I still have a couple of years to go before then but I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever done and I have no regrets other than wishing I had taken the leap sooner.

You can do whatever you set your mind to.
Naive? Perhaps.
But I'd still rather struggle and do what I love than live a life feeling unfulfilled and wondering 'what if'.

You get one chance at life. Live it.

Inigo said...

I am very saddened but unsurprised at finding the comments on this blog.
I am an architect, over 55, I had worked at my last office for 23 years. Last year, after some financial problems, largely of their own making, they initiated a process of redundancies. The trickle became a flood and of my level those made redundant were the ones who had worked there longest. There was no acknowledgement of loyalty, integrity or dedication. As someone above noted, look at architects practice profiles and you will see very few people, other than partners who are 50+ age.
I have spent a year seeking a job with no success, the best option if I am lucky will be some sort of non-architectural admin job. It seems such a waste of an education and especially when reaching a stage where you are more than ever confident at your job.
My old office consists now of the young and easily employed and presumably cheaper, including a large contingent from the EU who are likely more accepting of lower salaries.
It is very disheartening, we need to work for longer but we are edged aside once we get to 50.
If you haven't made it to a partnership by 40-45, there is little prospect of work or job security after 50.
I do wish I could be proved wrong on this.

Declan Conway said...

Thank you for sharing all your posts.. I'm 34 and have spent 12 years in the software industry.. Like many of you I've often wondered what might have been if I choose to study architecture but at 17 yrs I went down the ever popular path of Computer Science. This was a good choice as I've worked on many interesting projects that kept me challenged and I have enjoyed it. The industry was more or less unaffected by the economic downturn, however, it has brought high stress and I know many ppl who seek an exit from it. It's been reasonably good to me although I can't say I'm rolling in riches whatsoever.

Well here I am again listening to the technical drawing student I thought I had left behind and I have attended an college open day for Architecture school. I am fully behind the idea of starting down the road to becoming an architect. I know there are many reasons against this but i don't think anybody here should go through life regretting they didn't go for it. If I do eventually become as architect, I will do what I takes to even setup a small business from my home.. I guess the country your living in will have a big impact on whether or not you can make a success out of it.

Stay positive!

Unknown said...

I have been in construction my whole life and have found that I could draw blueprints better than some architects so I am deciding to persue a path towards becoming a licensed architect so I can a design build company but I don't know where to start please help

Dr. Architecture said...

Siigaay K. - In the United States, many institutions offer an accredited Master of Architecture for individuals who already have an undergraduate degree in another discipline. If one does not have an undergraduate degree, start with pursuing a degree in architecture. A great source is the following:

Unknown said...

Hi all, 41 y/o female from RI..
I was fortunate enough in just 5th grade to have classes for 2 years in architectural design,passing every class in the highest.
Unfortunately things happened in my home life and my dream had went into sleep mode, for 2 decades ide constantly feel the lost and regret of not believeing i could further my education to become an architect.
I constantly feel the pull to spend 5 years if not more to fullfill this dream, these comments are true and very disappointing,is there another route to go???? I cant afford to waste more time thinking what ifs..and a bit devastated due to my age..

Dr. Architecture said...

Renee -- May I suggest you connect via email - To become an architect, there is no other way except for the education, experience and examination. Perhaps, there is a related discipline that connects you to the discipline of architecture.

I will share that there are individuals at your age or older that have pursued the profession.


Houses said...

I have been following this stream for years and noticed the volume of questions about becoming an architect later in life. I hope you will begin a conversation with me about the key to becoming an architect late in life as NCARB's acceptance of 18 schools that offer an integrated path to licensure is the answer.

I am 58 years old - with a journalism degree and a 25 year career in communications. I am now in University of Florida's grad school of architecture and have 3 years left. The considerations for attending one of these schools is that classes are scheduled so you can work. In addition, attending an IPAL school in a major market is necessary as work in firms that can provide the hours needed to licensure while you are in school. This is limited in small markets, even though many have relationships with local architects. The most important qualifier for those without a preprofessional degree is whether you can earn hours towards licensure while completing Core requirements. The schools with Core programs are those that offer coursework that you didn't do as an undergrad. A preprofessional degree - meaning a Bachelors in Architecture from an accredited school requires 8 semesters of studio classes and several other courses. A core program combines those 8 semesters into 3 or 4. The best part is that acceptance to their masters programs is automatic and the culture is focused on employment. I didn't have to move to Orlando during the first years of the program either.

I know of only one that meets that criteria after years of research. University of Florida's CityLab in Orlando Florida where I attend. I hope to begin conversations with people like me who are often searching for support about "why we did it".

Constructora Indeco said...

THis is a very old Post. I remember when I read this back at my hometown on 2011. By that time I was feeling very frustrated and empty because I felt I wasn't developing my talents and interests. I wanted to study Architecture but for many reasons, I pursued a degree in Civil Engineering.

Last year, with 35 years old, 2 children and 10 years of experience I started my Master of Architecture at USA. It has been a wonderful time of personal development, following the path I always wanted for my life. It hasnt' been easy though. Covering my family cost of living, paying tuition and things like that require a proper planning that I am able to meet thanks to a scholarship I was awarded.

I really recommend anybody interested on pursuing Architecture at a mature age, to follow his/her dream. This is a wonderful field, full of excellent experiences challenges.

Unknown said...

I'm 30 and would like to go to architecture school. I hope my engineering company would assist in paying for my education. I already have a MA in Technical Writing & Communications. The deal breaker is finding a scholarship or my company's assistance. I'm fascinated by design. Any advice? Please reply.

Dr. Architecture said...

April - Congrats on your decision to pursue architecture school. To secure possible scholarships, you would be best to contact the architecture programs to which you are interested. Below is a list of the programs.


the masculist said...

I'm 35 and have a degree in environmental design (pre-professional degree to some schools) as well as an extensive background in carpentry. I am looking at applying for March which would take 2 to 3 years. I am however a bit hesitant at the job prospects going in as a fresh grad at close to 40. On the other hand, it's so close.
any and all feedback and info is greatly appreciated

Dr. Architecture said...

For specific questions, please contact me directly -

Unknown said...

Hi everyone.Im Harry age 41 from south africa.I want to encourage all elder persons to follow your passion.The yourney of life is about decisions and what makes you happy.I recently also decided to follow the career path of becoming an architect.I have a mechanical engineering diploma and a mechanic trade.I was thinking of getting a full time day job in the qualifications i have and start my architect studies online.There is a college called AIE in south africa that offer courses in architecture.I am thinking of starting with a 12 month multi disciplinary course that covers more than 8 different disciplines and there related software programs and start the architect diploma after the 12 months.I believe you older people should also think of doing a mddop course for starter.That should give you the edge over any young guy in a architect drawing office.We should stay in pace with technology.Thankyou for all the comments coming from the experienced architects.Im learning from you all and hope to become a qualified architect in the near future.If theres anyone with advice on a better route to becoming an architect , please feel free to email me :

Unknown said...

Hello, this looks like an old conversation. However....I graduated master's degree in 1994. Age 33. Moved to o atlanta 1996, good job, design opportunity, good retail and commercial experience. The point of a degree is to set up your life for economic and personal success. The economic side falls drastically short in architecture, and unless you get licensed in 3 to 5 years, you are done. Unless you already have money,then who cares, laugh at the people who get jealous or who conceal their true nature. I would not recommend architecture unless you have zero debt and are a people person. Even then, have a clear plan and stick to it because I think it's true that by 39 or 40 you're either stable professionally and economically, or you're spinning your wheels, no traction, no life.