Monday, July 22, 2013

Chemical Engineering to Architecture

Dear Dr. Architecture,

I am a student from Saudi Arabia, I have just finished my bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering with first honors (3.8/4 CGPA).

I have always wanted to study architecture and become an architect, and so I've been looking and reading about the professional masters in architecture programs available in the US.

I have a couple of questions that I would greatly appreciate your help with.
  • Q1) Regarding the Portfolio, I'm wondering what to include in it. Is it okay if it is a mix of drawings and photographs for example? I'm asking this since I'm coming from an engineering background. I would greatly appreciate if you would mention some examples of portfolios that you found to be well done.
  • Q2) While I see myself as a very creative person, I admit that I have no background in drawing buildings. Will the professional masters program provide me with some education (i.e drawing techniques/courses) on this matter? or is it taken that anyone going into architecture should have such background.
  • Q3) I'm a young graduate, turning 23 years old this August. What is the average age of people admitted in such programs, based on your experience.
  • Q4) Since this is a major career change, I would like to know, based on your experience, the main things that would change with this move from chemical engineering to architecture. (For example, I know that architects usually get paid less than engineers, and I accept that fact with the thought that I will be making a name for my self in the architecture business, thus working on mega projects and getting paid more.)
I have a lot of other questions, but I won't like to swarm you with all of them.  I will be reading your book soon enough, as it looks as a valuable resource in this matter.

Lastly, I thank you in advance for helping people interested in architecture, and apologize about the length of this email.

Best regards,


Answers to your questions --

1) First and foremost, always inquire with the programs to which you are applying as what to include.  Typically, they wish to see creativity through drawing, art, etc.  You may certainly including photography, but do not let that be the only medium.  I would suggest the website -- -- for ideas on your portfolio.  Also, you can see examples at

2) As your background is not in architecture, a graduate program will certainly provide instruction in drawing and the basics of architecture, but I would encourage you to take an additional course prior to beginning.  Also, consider drawing everyday (30 minutes) in a sketchbook.  Start with drawing what you see (household objects).  Eventually, draw what you cannot see from your imagination.  It is all about connecting your brain, your eye and hand.

3) I have no idea on the average age, but I would guess that you are younger than it at age 23.  Many graduate students are older (mid to late 20s) and some are even older (30s and 40s).

4) For your last question, I am not sure how to answer because I no very little of chemical engineering.  Aside from less financial compensation, you will be involved with creativity where there are no right or wrong answers to the problems.  I would suggest shadowing an architect if possible and keep asking lots of questions.

Feel free to ask additional questions after reading Becoming an Architect, 2nd Edition.


Cassie2 said...

Dear Dr.Architecture,

I am currently a chemical engineering undergraduate. I wanted to study architecture but was forced to choose engineering instead. I've been doing my academics well up to this point but the more I stay in engineering, the more I realise it is not what I want to do. I'm planning to change my path from engineering to architecture as soon as I graduate.
I'm good at drawing and I would like to know what skills I should be developing so that it would make easier to get a scholarship for masters in architecture?

Thank you.

Dr. Architecture said...

I no longer actively maintain this blog any longer; instead, I created a new one --

Please send your question on becoming an architect to the following email.

Dr. Architecture said...

Thanks for your question; I no longer maintain this blog -- I created a new one --

Please email your question to --