Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I want to build houses

I am a sophomore at Western Washington University. When I enrolled at WWU, I was undecided on what major I would like to pursue. During my Freshman year I took mostly math and physics classes because I those are my strongest subjects and I was fairly confident that I would end up deciding to pursue a major relating to one of those two fields. Recently I have been considering pursuing a career in home construction and architecture. I have a vision of owning a small construction company specializing in custom home design and construction.

I am emailing you to ask what would it take to make this happen. What kind of degree would be most valuable if I was looking to start a small business designing and building houses? I was thinking that I could get a bachelor's degree in business while at Western, and then go on to get a M.Arch degree after graduating from Western. Let me know what you think.

Given your vision of owning a small construction company, I would say that you obtaining a MArch degree after your business degree may not be the best route.

Remember, architects design buildings; they do not build them. Granted, you indicate that you company will specialize in both home design and construction, but when do you learn about the construction side of the business. I would suggest you consider a degree in construction or gaining direct experience in construction in conjunction with your degree in architecture. You may wish to consider the starting a design-build company that provides both design and construction services (

Websites to consider to research construction and architecture programs. Research architecture programs at to search for architecture programs that also have construction programs. A handful of institutions provide degrees in both architecture and construction.

Finally, recognize that a small percentage of architects design custom homes. I highly suggest you begin the process of contacting individuals or companies that do what you want to do to learn from them, do an internship, etc.

Dr. Architecture

Guidance Requested.

I ran across your blog today. I have been thinking about becoming an architect for years. My delay and ambivalence has had to do with raising/financing three kids, the growth in my own business, and the reality of life as an architect (my brother in law is one). Now, however, my youngest is in college, my design business is exceedingly slow, and I am definitely moving toward a change.

I have been thinking more and more seriously about getting a march I in architecture. There's part of me that's terrified of not being up to the mark, of being too old to tackle this. But I'm not sure that's my greatest impediment. (I took two courses at UCLA last fall and did well.) I'm old enough not to want to waste money and time in a formal 3 yr program unless I have a better idea of how I could fit into the world of architecture.

Wow - I will be honest. Most individuals that contact me are at the start of their career - i.e., students in school, recent graduates. Sometimes, I hear from a early to mid-career who wishes to pursue architecture, but your background is a first.

I will do my best, but it may be best to talk on the phone to brainstorm together.

First, given your design-related background and that you have between 25-40 years of productive work life, I would suggest you go for it - become an architect. Philip Johnson did not become licensed until he was 39 and practiced the craft into his 90s until he passed away.

Clearly, you have many developed skills to offer the marketplace; perhaps the question is whether or not you do it on your own or part of another firm. Of course, as you admit - where do you go with this. One source you may wish to access is the book - What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles (Ten Speed Press). Next to the Bible, this is the best selling book; Bolles helps readers determine the next step for their career.

Other than reading, I would suggest you begin to truly network with other design professionals as you may already be doing. Be willing to share your story of who you are and ask for ideas on what to do. You are LEED and I am sure you could serve as a consultant.

Granted becoming an architect will take some years (5-6), but will it be worthwhile. I have been in education for almost 20 years and did have a student entering our MArch program in his mid-50s with a Ph.D. in Mech Eng. He brought a great deal to the program despite he was older than some of the faculty. He is gainfully employed in the profession soon to be licensed.

Bottom line - discover what you love and find the opportunites that allow you to pursue your passion -- i.e, find your passion and find someone to pay you to do it. I have had the fortunate to do that for almost 20 years.

Best -- If you wish to discuss via phone, let me know as I can serve as a consultant. Do look at my book, Becoming an Architect, 2nd Edition.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Architecture Career Questions

Thank you for creating such a helpful and aesthetic website. ARCHcareers has helped me navigate the architecture industry through the plethora of resources. However, I have quite a dilemma that I felt you may be able to provide some insight on. Currently I am working as an intern at a major investment bank in Manhattan. I always thought I wanted to pursue finance, and to be fair, it is interesting. However, I feel as if architecture must be an integral part of my life at some point. I cannot stop looking up out here or researching every skyscraper I come across.

I am majoring in Finance at SMU in Dallas, but have realized they do not offer an Architecture program (other than art history). I have absolutely no background in architecture but have a basic knowledge of the field. The only reason I feel so strongly about a career is architecture is because I think I would be good at it. My other career endeavors were driven by needs not entirely fit. I've always had architecture in the back of my mind.

A degree in architecture and certification I think are the very basic qualifications. Following that would probably be an internship and full-time job at a major firm like SMO. Are there other paths to be taken? I have an impressive pedigree otherwise having studied at Oxford University, maintaining a perfect GPA, remaining close with several politicians, and now at one of the most reputable firms on Wall Street. I fear it may be too late to transfer (I am technically a junior in the fall but really I am younger and on the 3 yr plan).

I have infinite ambitions and intense dedication in everything I truly enjoy doing. I think it would be one of the most fulfilling and satisfying careers out there. If I could sum up my thoughts of architecture I would use the following quote by Philip Johnson:

"I like the thought that what we are to do on this earth is embellish it for its greater beauty," he said, "so that oncoming generations can look back to the shapes we leave here and get the same thrill that I get in looking back at theirs -- at the Parthenon, atChartres Cathedral."

Please let me know if you have any suggestions, thoughts, or alternative ideas about breaking into the architecture field and moving up quickly. Thank you for your time.

Kind regards,

I very much appreciate your comments on ARCHCareers; given your interest in becoming an architect, may I also suggest you obtain Becoming an Architect, 2nd edition available from You may also wish to review the blog --

Given your desire is to now become an architect, you will wish to pursue an accredited degree in architecture. You may either complete your studies in finance or any B.A./B.S. degree to than pursue a Master of Architecture (3-4 years) designed for those with an undergraduate in a discipline other than architecture. For a list of programs visit and/or --. During the remainder of your undergraduate studies, you will want to pursue art/drawing courses as you will need to submit a portfolio as part of your MArch application.

As well, I would try to visit architecture programs either in NY during the remainder of your internship or in Texas upon your return to Dallas in the fall. Ask lots of question of faculty and current architecture students.


Dr. Architecture

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Career Question

I just have a couple questions and this seemed like a good website to stumble upon.

About 5 years ago I graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a Certificate in Residentail design adn planning -- I realized that this wasn't what I wanted to do with my life, however, I liked the general feild.

I've had jobs in kitchen design and currently I am working for a granite fabricator processsing drawings and problem solving. I enjoy CAD alot and would love to also venture into REVIT as well.

I am currently attending a local community college and continue a career in Architecture Drafting and Design. I love it so far but am still unsure where this will get me and what the next step will be.

I really think that I would love a career in Commercial Development creating and modeifing drawings if not working as a project manager. I, however, do not know what steps need to be made in order to get where I would like to be.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


My expertise is in the process of becoming an architect; I am not sure what you mean when you refer to a career in Commercial Development. You speak of "creating and modeling drawings." If you desire is to use these skills, you do not need to become an architect, but rather continue to develop those skills and market them to prospective employers. The fact that you know CAD and desire to learn REVIT will help as well.

As for the next step from your community college, you have to decide what you want. You may certainly enter the work force, but you could also choose to pursue additional education to either become an architect or other related disciplines.

I would suggest you be in touch with faculty and the career center of your community college to explore your options. I can only suggest you look long term.

Best. Feel free to contact me with further questions if desired.

Dr. Architecture

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I have completed B.Arch (2004) and Masters in Urban Development and Planning (2007) from India. In total I have 2 years of experience in Architecture, but not in Urban Planning. Due to some personal reasons I have stopped working. Now I am in U.S.A on dependent Visa. I really wish to work again as I am passionate about Architecture. Can you please suggest me some short term courses to brush up my architectural skills . It would be a great help if guide me on some queries-

As I m a foreign Architect so is it mandatory to pass ARE and evaluate my education through EESA?

Can I work with Architectural firms without being registered in U.S.A. As I want to gain the experience in this field not practice by my own?

Do I need to work as an intern with architectural firms? As I don’t have work permit?

Can you suggest me about firms which provide services for both disciplines (Architecture and Urban Planning)? Where I can work as an Architect and Planner?

As your questions are very specific, I may not be the best person to address them, but I will do my best and possibly refer you to other resources.

 If your desire is to become a licensed architect in the U.S., I suggest you review the NCARB website -- All jurisdictions require an education, training, and exam requirement ( As a foreign architect, you may wish to learn more about the BEFA program -- -- 

An individual may certainly work for an architecture firm without being licensed in the U.S., but please become knowledgeable on work permits given your visa status. I am not an expert of this and suggest you contact someone who is -- perhaps, the U.S. Government. 

The position you would work within a firm would be more dependent on your experience level than anything. You would NOT be able to be an architect as you are not licensed. Again, check out resources about work permits.

I do not recommend specific firms, but there are many resources that list firms. Most chapters of the American Institute of Architects have websites of firms.

Dr. Architecture

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Too late to become an Architect

I have an undergraduate degree in art history. I went on to a masters in architecture program, where I did well. Unfortunately from a career standpoint, but fortunately from a personal standpoint, I left the program to marry someone whose job required somewhat frequent moves. I worked as a cartographic draftsperson (before computers) for a couple of years. When we relocated again, I worked for Lehman Brothers selling securities......unrelated field, but well-paying and fun in its own way. We ultimately settled down in a small city in upstate New York. Because I had young children and needed a career with lots of flexibility, and because I felt the need to have work that had some meaning, I became a social worker (MSW). I enjoy my work, but I have never lost my interest in architecture or design. I still sketch, have done some remodeling projects and find myself taking photos of buildings for no good reason. (Career-wise, it's quite a chequered past.)

I have no grandiose ideas about becoming an architect at this late date, but I'd like to get back into that world in some way. I have at least 16 more working years. My question to you is: what entry level position or what skill is most needed in an architectural design firm? I'm guessing CAD drawing, but I don't know. Are there other skills that are useful? Any thoughts or suggestions would be ever so appreciated.

Your question is a first for me. I applaud your lasting passion in architecture despite your career journey.

First, why pass on the idea of becoming an architect. You have the accredited MArch; all you need know is to complete IDP ( and pass the ARE. Granted, it may be a tough road, but you have 16 years years.

As for positions or skills, do research on the discipline since your departure by reading blogs, architectural journals or attend lectures are area schools, etc. CAD may be OK, but BIM (Building Information Modeling) is the new CAD. Perhaps becoming a consultant on sustainable (become LEED AP) or another area of the discipline.

I would suggest you pursue skills for which you have a passion - photography, design, graphic design, etc. Do you wish to work for someone or yourself?

One resource to consider is "What Color is Your Parachute" by Richard Bolles.

Dr. Architecture

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Architecture Career

I am interested in the field of architecture, but I have some pretty specific questions and am hoping that you can help me. Currently I am a 28-year-old administrative assistant. I fell into administrative positions out of college, but I have no desire to remain in this field, and I would really like to go back to school to pursue a career, rather than continuing to work jobs that provide no fulfillment for my talents or goals.

I did attend college right out of high school and received a BA in Music. My interests have always been in the arts – music, writing, art, etc. – but unfortunately, it is difficult to obtain a career in these fields, which is how I ended up in administrative positions. My goals used to involve being a songwriter and/or a recording artist, but I have decided to go in a new direction and pursue a lucrative career that involves creativity yet has a more direct career path. I have recently become interested in the field of architecture and have been reading more about it to see if it is something at which I think I could excel. I graduated with a 4.02 GPA in high school and summa cum laude from a private liberal arts university. I took math all through high school, including AP Calculus, and received A’s in all of my classes. I also took Physics in high school and received an A in that as well.

In addition to natural artistic ability, I also have very strong writing, communication, organizational, detail-oriented, and creative skills. From what I’ve read, I believe that my combination of left- and right-brain attributes would lend themselves well to a career in this field. The only problem is that I am not currently in the position to go back to school full-time. My husband and I both work full-time to pay the bills, and we are caught in a circular trap in which we cannot pursue new careers without money, and we will not have the money until we achieve success in our professional endeavors. From what I’ve read, I’ve been discouraged to see that it does not appear that I can start out by studying online, which I do understand, given the nature of architecture, but it is still disappointing and frustrating to not be able to pursue this career in the foreseeable future. My question, then, for you is this: is there any way to begin pursuing this career or to find out if I am well-suited to it without attending college full-time?
I thank you for your time and any advice or guidance that you can provide to me.

Congrats on your interest in architecture! Given your academic background in music and academic performance, I am confident that you would be well-suited for the discipline. You would be eligible to apply to Master of Architecture degrees (3-4 years) for those with a background in a discipline other than architecture.

To learn more, fully visit - and obtain Becoming an Architect, 2nd Edition, available from

As you state, there are NO online degree programs nor would you want them to be; architecture is NOT a discipline to be learned exclusively online. To research programs, visit -- and/or --. Boston Architectural Center does offer a distance Master of Architecture but you must have the pre-professional BS degree plus you do spend 6-8 days per semester in Boston.

As for pursuing the career without begining an academic program, I would first start with the list of programs available from -- while many of them are targeted for high school students, I am sure some do or would be willing to accept individuals with a college degree. Below are a few that I do know of that do --



Los Angeles Institute Of Architecture And Design (more than a summer program)

As these programs develop materials for your portfolio, attending would improve your chances for admission. As well, you might be able to solicit a letter of recommendation from the faculty of the program. In addition, simply become engaged in the profession - read book, online magazines, attend lectures or view online, participate in a summer program or take a drawing/life drawing course. Find a mentor, talk with current students, etc.

Finally, I suggest you research the Society for Design Administration because of your administrative background. Obviously, you desire to leave administration, but perhaps an administrative position within a design firm is first good step

I wish you the best

Dr. Architecture

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Architecture Later in Life.

I have a question about pursuing architecture later in life.

I am 25 and I have an undergraduate degree in Anthropology. I've never taken any design courses in school and my math background is weak.

I have become interested in architecture since building wooden boats with my father. I found the process of drafting boat plans eminently satisfying and I have found the math less intimidating than I ever thought. So, I want to evaluate my prospects in design fields.

I was hoping you might be able to share with me some advice. I understand many NAAB schools offer three year MArchs to people with non-architectural degrees but I still lack the basic pre-reqs like physics: mechanics or calculus. Do any schools offer a one year 'make up' program or provisional acceptance? Or would I have to start at square one with a five year undergraduate degree? Am I hopelessly behind?

Congrats on your interest in pursuing the career of architect. You are NOT behind!

As you note, you are well-suited to pursue the accredited Master of Architecture at any number of architecture programs given your previous degree in anthropology.

You are correct in that most graduate programs do require calculus, physics and some may require a freehand drawing. If you do not have these, you will need to complete prior to enrollment. The most effective way to fulfill these requirements is to attend an area community college.

To learn more about the entire process, visit; to learn about programs, visit and/or Finally, obtain Becoming an Architect, 2nd edition available from Amazon.

As well, I am available for consulting via phone. Do let me know and I wish you the best.

Dr. Architecture

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Becoming an Architect

I am hoping you can give me some advice, I have worked as a Quantity Surveyor/Cost Manager in the UK for the last 5 years, I also have studied and attained an MA(Hons) in Business and Management and an MSc in Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management.

I am very interested in living in the USA and also I am considering a career change to architecture.

I was hoping you might be able to advise me on the best route to studying and becoming an Architect in USA and likely timescales given my experience and existing qualifications in Construction.

Another point to mention is that I am considering part-time studying as an option to allow me to maintain an income during my studies.

Thanks in advance for your help.

The process of becoming an architect requires three accomplishments - 1) education, 2) experience, and 3) examination. To best learn this process, I refer you to and the book, Becoming an Architect, 2nd Edition.

Because of your previous degrees, you may pursue the Master of Architecture (3-4 years). Upon graduation, you would need to work for an architect for approximately three (3) years through Intern Development Program (IDP). Once you have met the education and experience requirements, you may take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

The time it will take may vary, but should be about 7-9 years.

Finally, you may find it difficult to study part-time as most architecture programs require full-time study. To research programs, visit either -- or --.

Dr. Architecture