Saturday, January 29, 2011

Career Change - Business to Architecture

I recently read your book and I have to say that is a great material for anyone pursuing a career in Architecture.  I'm writing you since i'm thinking of making a career change from bachelor in business administration to Architecture and I have a few questions:

I just turned 25 am I too old for starting a career in Architecture?

Do I need a degree in architecture to get into the March program? If no, is this better than doing an undergraduate program in architecture (barch)?  Do you think that my actual degree helps or has anything to do with architecture or did I waste my time?

At 25, you are certainly not too old.  Philip Johnson, one of the 20th century greatest architects did not become licensed until he was 39 years old.

To pursue the Master of Architecture, you do need an undergraduate degree.  You may either pursue an undergraduate degree in any discipline to pursue the Master of Architecture (3-4 years) or pursue a pre-professional degree in architectural studies and afterwards pursue a Master of Architecture (2 years).  Deciding to switch from business depends on how far along you are with your business degree.

Given that architecture is a business, I truly think a degree in business would be helpful during your professional career.

Dr. Architecture

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Portfolio Questions

I am currently a senior in high school. After my senior year, I was thinking of pursuing a career in architecture and was wondering what I should include in my portfolio.
I have heard from some friends that I could include photography, 3D-sculptures and graphic designs, but not sure what kind of photography or graphic designs to put in. So I was just wondering if you had any advises.
Your best source as to what to include is the architecture program(s) to which you are applying.  Contact each program to learn what they are seeking in the submitted portfolios.  Some programs will outline what they want on their website.

In most cases, programs want to see your creative endeavors and they do not need or expect to architectural related work.  For example, the website listed above states to include -- free-hand drawing, sketching, painting, ceramics, graphic design, photography, and furniture design are some examples of what could be included.

Another source is -- and the book, Portfolio Design by Harold Linton.

Best advice is to contact the programs to which you are applying.  Thanks!
Dr. Architecture

Sunday, January 23, 2011

High School Preparation

I dream of studying architecture, however I do not have a plan to prepare myself for college while I am in high school.  Besides reading the recommended publications and taking a summer school program, how should I prepare for a career in architecture? Is there something that you think is important to take while I am in high school that would give me an advantage when it is time to apply for college?  I am currently a sophomore at St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School in Watsonville, California and am wondering if you know of any programs in the Bay Area with local architects that I could get involved in.

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to your response!

The best resources to answer your question is Chapter Two of Becoming an Architect, 2nd Edition; it highlights academic coursework, exploration, visits, summer and after school programs.  Also, below are some specific programs in San Francisco to research.

Architectural Foundation of SF -
AIA San Francisco -

Finally, check out the handful of architecture programs in the Bay area – UC-Berkeley and California College of the Arts.

Best - feel free to contact me with more questions.

Dr. Architecture

Saturday, January 22, 2011

From Business to Architecture

I have been reading through your blog discussions and was hoping you could offer me some insight – I am 24 years old and I have a B.S. from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. I currently work as a merchandiser for Gap Inc., managing a $250M business but I have recently been thinking about a career change. I have always loved architectural design and building think architecture could be a good fit - I am analytical, I enjoy problem solving and mathematics, and I have a true passion for interior design. With that said, I am incredibly scared to make a career transition of this magnitude so ‘late in the game.’ It sounds like I would need to pursue a master in arch, is that the case and if so, would I get any credit for a B.S.? I have already taken many math courses (calculus, computer science, statistics, etc.) as part of my undergraduate degree, so are there any programs that are less than 3-4 years? Am I crazy for making a switch like this?
First, I assure you that you are neither crazy nor too "late" in the game.  In fact, more and more candidates for architecture are older than 24 and are considered career changers.  However, ultimately, it will be up to you as to whether or not you desire the change as pursuing a Master of Architecture is a commitment.  If you are not sure, visit an architecture program or visit with an architect to learn more.

With your business degree from UC Berkeley, you are eligible to pursue the Master of Architecture (3-4 years).  It is doubtful that you could complete the degree in less than the 3-4 years given your undergraduate degree is in an unrelated discipline.  As you state, you have fulfilled what most programs require as prerequisites, but you may wish to take a drawing course to begin work on a portfolio.

To learn more about degree programs, visit both and

To learn more about the process, obtain Becoming an Architect, 2nd Edition.

I wish you the best and feel free to contact me with additional questions.

Dr. Architecture

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Work - Life Balance

I am currently looking into a career in Architecture, however I do have some questions concerning this career.

1. Work-life Balance: Do careers in Architecture allow one to have a normal social life (having a family)

2.  I currently know some drafters and would like to see what they do, will having some experience in drafting help me understand architecture (I currently have no experience in anything related architecture)?

1) If you were to ask this question of 100 architects, I am sure that you would receive 100 different replies; let me try to answer you based on my connections to architects, but I will encourage you to continue to ask architects to obtain a variety of replies.

Certainly, architects have lives away from office, but it is also a time-demanding career.  Architects do have families, but most probably do not only work 40 hours per week.  It is not uncommon that when their are project deadlines to work longer hours and weekends.  The trick is to secure employment within a firm that values their employees to the extent that balance is important.  An out-of-balance lifestyle is more prevalent while you are in school; many students do all-nighters, etc.  Of course, there are some that do not realize this balance especially firm owners or principals.  If work-life balance is important to you, you can still choose architecture, but you have to make it a priority.

2) Knowing drafting may be of some help but not as much as you would think especially now because of the computer.  25 years ago, many firms relied on drafters, but now, many firms use BIM - Building Information Modeling that requires the user to know how a building goes together.  Think of secretaries; in the past, a corporate executive may have dictated or handwritten a letter to have a secretary type the letter -- now, the executive can word process the letter quicker or use one previously used within the need of a secretary.

Most importantly is an ability and desire to creatively solve problems -- communicating your ideas from your brain to your hand to your client. 

Dr. Architecture

Friday, January 14, 2011

Paying for an Architectural Education

First I want to say that I own your book and it has been very helpful! I have always known that I want to be an architect but I made the bold choice of majoring in Art History & Visual Culture (Studio Art minor) as an undergrad at an expensive college because it is something I am also passionate about and I didn't think I was ready for architecture school right after high school. I now know that I want to pursue architecture but my question for you concerns money...

I am currently in my third year of undergrad and I already have a tremendous amount of student loan. Do you recommend that I pay this debt off before applying to grad school for architecture? OR do you recommend that I just pursue my dream now, and aim for grad school right after i graduate (and possibly accumulate more debt)? 

I am currently working 30 hours a week (with school full time), but I will still have a lot of debt when I graduate. My undergrad GPA is also kind of low because of personal problems during my first year, which concerns me in terms of getting scholarships. I have read that it isn't really possible to work and attend architecture school. Is this true? Is there a way I can attend and pay for architecture school even though I'm already in a ton of student debt?
With due respect, decisions where finances are involved are best left for experts on money, of which I am not one.  However, I will provide some insights.

First, there is actually more financial aid in the way of merit-based scholarships, research or teaching assistantships, etc available at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level.  When contacting graduate architecture programs be sure to inquire about what they have available and how you apply.  For example, with your Art History degree, you may be a perfect candidate to be a TA for the Architectural History courses that a program offers.  During my graduate studies, I was an out-of-state student, but out-of-state tuition was waived because of my academics and the assistantship I received almost covered my full tuition; all I paid was living expenses and books.  I had almost little debt from my graduate studies.

Also, inquire about continuing scholarships and award programs that a program may have; where I work now, we provide almost 500K to new and continuing students.

As for working and attending school at the same time -- it is possible, but it depends on the program, where it is located and if positions are available; plus, what impact with working have on your academics.  I once had a former student who worked about 30-40 hours as a shift manager at a fast-food restaurant because he could work nights and attend school during he day, but his time towards work meant less time for studies.  Almost needless to say, his academics suffered.

In addition to merit-based financial aid, be sure to be in touch with the Office of Financial Aid at each school about need based aid.  This may increase your debt, but you must decide how much you can take on and whether it is worth it.

Finally, be honest about your academics from your first year.  Many programs only truly look at your last 60 credit hours.  Any aid you receive may be more based on your portfolio and letters along with your transcript that a course during your freshmen year.

Best to you and feel free to contact with more questions if you wish.
Dr. Architecture

RIBA to the US

I am writing to request some information regarding the route to becoming an architect in the USA. I am currently just finishing my RIBA part 1 in London England and considering the option of continuing my education in California with the intention of becoming AIA registered. Is this an option? Thank you for your time.

First, congratulations on your decision to continue your education in California and to pursue licensure in the U.S.

This route is definitely an option for you and completing your education will help immensely, but please note that unlike in the U.K., the AIA has nothing to do with the licensure of architects in the U.S.  The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a professional organization and provides benefits to its membership.

Instead, each state or jurisdiction awards licensure while the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) oversees the process at the national level. 

Basically, the process is three steps - 1) Education, 2) Experience, and 3) Examination.  For most states, you must gain a professional NAAB accredited degree (; you can pursue the Bachelor of Architecture or the Master of Architecture.  Next, you must complete the Intern Development Program which is working for a licensed architect for about three years ( and the final step is taking an passing the seven part Architect Registration Examination (ARE -

If you still have a desire to still return to U.K., you may wish to consider University of Maryland as they had been RIBA validated; I am not sure if they still are (

I wish you the best and feel free to send more questions.

Dr. Architecture

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dual MArch/MBA Programs

I have taken the GMAT, and at times I've considered going back to school for an MBA. I've tried to find schools w/ MBA/M.Arch degrees, but I've only come up with a handful including ASU, Utah, and Buffalo. Are you aware of any other dual degree programs?

There may be others, but these are the ones I have found.

Dual Master of Architecture and Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Arizona State University -

University of Colorado – Denver -

State University of New York Buffalo -

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -

University of Kansas -

Kent State University -

Lawrence Technological University -

University of Michigan -

Penn -

Texas Tech University -

University of Utah -

Washington University -

Yale University -

I hope this helps.

Dr. Architecture

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Architect: School Project

I'm from Springwood Middle School. We are doing a project on what job we would like to be in, and I chose to become an architect. I wanted to ask you a series of questions. I hope you won't mind; answer them if you want to. What are some benefits that architecture offers? What difficulties do you face with this job? What responsibilities are required to be an architect? how many days or hours do architects work in a week? What skills are needed? What is the average salary for an architect/ you? Sorry if these are to many question. Hope you can write back soon. thank you once again.

Congrats on your selection of becoming an architect; while I am not an architect, but I can certainly direct you to resources that may be of help in your project.

First, some of the answers will be found by truly viewing the full pages of the website. As well, a great resource for any professional career is the Occupational Outlook Handbook. - You will see at the end as an additional resource; this government resource will almost answer all of your questions.

Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design - 2nd Edition - book that includes interviews with architects that provide the insider's view of the profession. You can gain a preview of a portion of the book from the following:

Another website, but from Canada - still valid

Again, let me know if you have any additional questions. Best for your project.

Dr. Architecture
A healthcare design architect from India, working with Asia's No1, healthcare provider-Apollo Hospitals, is how I would introduce myself. I am looking at relocating myself to NewYork city and want to know whether I can find myself an employer?

Whether you are able to secure an employer will be based on factors you can control and many your cannot. As you may be aware, the market for architects is tight right now making your search much more difficult.

Regardless, you are wishing to stay in healthcare? If so, the AIA has a Knowledge Community aimed at Healthcare Architecture that may be of interest.

Academy of Architecture for Health
The Academy of Architecture for Health (AAH) improves the quality of healthcare through design by developing, documenting, and disseminating knowledge; educating healthcare architects and other related constituencies; advancing the practice of healthcare architecture; improving the design of health care environments; affiliating and advocating with others that share our vision and promoting research.

As for other resources, contact the AIA NYC -- -- Your best source of securing leads is networking. Of course, it is more difficult to do so from long distance. Will you be visiting NYC anytime soon. Under AIA New York, there is a firm directory allowing your to search for appropriate firms. This is NOT all firms in NYC, but it is a great start.

Another sources for positions is the National AIA -- -- It is a national database so you must search; when I search under New York, 12 positions returned.

Best in your search!

Dr. Architecture

Research of Architecture Programs

I've done some research on, read some of, and I've contacted a handful of schools. I'm still about a year away from applying for any schools as I need to take several prerequisites and put together a portfolio, but I'd love to get your input on some programs as I approach the school application process.

I'm from the Chicago area, and I moved out Phoenix in 2007. I'd like to stay out west, and I've looked into the programs at University of Washington, University of Oregon, and UC-Denver. Do you have any idea how those programs compare to the upper echelon programs out east such as Yale, Harvard, or Michigan?

Also, congrats on researching programs. Given that you are applying for F2012, you have plenty of time to do the research and select appropriate programs that best fit you.

To start with, I can appreciate that you wish to stay out west, but please consider this as an investment in your future; any time you spend is very short in the grander scheme. For example, I grew up in the midwest (MI) and attended a Big Ten program as an undergraduate. I would have never considered programs out west except for one of my professors changed schools and I graduated with MArch from a Pac-10 program. Since graduating more than 25 years ago, I have been back once.

Morale: Attend the program that best fits for you; I agree that location should be a consideration but research from the full slate of the more than 65 programs or so.

Next, every architecture school with an accredited program is worth considering even if it is not Harvard. Below is from the book --

Qualities that make a school good for one student may not work that way for another. You should consider a variety of factors in making your choice among schools. Although few would argue that certain programs, particularly those at the Ivy League schools, are excellent, the fact is that if a degree program is accredited by NAAB, it is valid for you to consider.

In the west, there are NOT as many programs as the east, but all are worthy of review -- Consider those you mention, but what about these other schools in the west -- Arizona State University, USC, SCI-Arc, UC-Berkeley, even Utah. Remember, you would be applying to degree program for those with an an undergraduate in another discipline and some design work; which program provides advanced standing, which program best integrates these MArch candidates with those with an architecture background?

Bottom line, I suggest you develop a list of criteria by which you will base your decision to strongly consider and apply. Do not compare each program against each other, but compare each program against each of your criteria.

Dr. Architecture

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Becoming an Architect, 2nd Edition - Book Review

Below is an unsolicited review of Becoming an Architect, 2nd Ed.

Enjoyed the insight offered by Becoming an Architect. The content is concise, easy to follow, and seems to provide a necessarily broad overview of what is needed to pursue an architecture career. I'd recommend the book to any high school or college student interested in pursuing architecture. I love the pictures, diagrams, architectural drawings, and models because they help me make sense of the products created by architects. I find the interviews useful as well, mainly because there is such an array of professionals, students, and interns. It's helpful to get an idea of the architectural world via the opinions and views of those who are involved daily. I also like the organization - the blue shading for the interviews and the white for your writing. While I have not used the list of contact agencies in the back of the book, I have reviewed it and it's sparked several career ideas.

As I read, I wished that there were more interviews with architecture professionals who have backgrounds like me (i.e. did not begin pursuing the field until later in life). Most interviewees started by stating how they've known since childhood that they would pursue architecture, and this makes me question whether I am too late to pursue such a career. It would also be helpful to get an idea of which colleges focus on which aspect of architecture. I've read on several sites online that while architecture as a discipline does not vary, the way it's taught at different universities may vary widely. If possible, I'd love to get an idea of which schools are focused mostly on design, which ones are more technical, which ones place an emphasis on architectural philosophy, etc.

If you wish, you see a substantial online digital preview of the book via Google Books

Dr. Architecture

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

USMC Medical to Architecture

I am looking at a medical retirement from the USMC here in a few months. I have been looking at my options and believe architect would be a good career path for me. I have the ambition, will, and potential, plus I like a challenge, so why not? The part I am confused on is the education part.

I know that the degree has to be NAAB accredited. What I don't understand is this, for example; North Carolina State University offers a degree called "Bachelors of Environmental Design Architecture". Now that program is not NAAB accredited, however after completion of that I can apply for a 1 yr Bachelors of Arch or 2 year Masters of Arch. What I do not understand is what is the difference between the Masters and Bachelors. You only need 1 to be licensed, but do potential clients/employers prefer the masters?

One other thing I am trying to figure out is this. I stay 2 hours away from the college, so I would have to commute daily to the college. Now nearby is a community college that offers a Architectural Technology degree. From your personal point of view do you think I could attend that course and then go for a 1 year or 2 year B Arch or M Arch degree using that pre-education?

For now my plan is to attend NCSU and go through their program since I know for a fact it will work, however if my second situation would work that would be the preferred method. Enclosed on the bottom of the email is the CCCC Arch Tech curriculum.


You are correct in that the process of becoming an architect, especially the "education" part can be confusing. First and foremost, the most important task to complete is to obtain a professional NAAB accredited degree; this can be either the Bachelor of Architecture or the Master of Architecture.

Given your location, NCSU is one of the few programs that offer both which provides you options. In deciding, select the one that is best for you, not which one employers think is best. Granted, the BArch is less time, but the MArch may provide you opportunities for your long term career prospects.

As for attending the community college and first obtaining an Architectural Technology, I would suggest you schedule a meeting with NCSU to determine if and what courses will transfer. It may help you with more general education courses but some may not transfer. It is doubtful that you could get away with attending for the associate's degree and complete the BArch in only 1-2 years. This is another reason why to meet with NCSU staff.

While you may need to do so, I would not recommend commuting two hours to complete an architecture degree because of the time demands of the degree.

Dr. Architecture

Monday, January 3, 2011

Summer Programs - Worth it?

For my portfolio, I will be including my sophomore design work as well as many freehand figure drawings, color field paintings, and hopefully, I will be attending Columbia's Intro to Arch, from which I could use things to place in my portfolio. Which actually leads me to question. Is the Intro to Arch program worth it for students who already have 2+ years experience? I went through all the design fundamentals and learned a good deal, so I was just wondering if it would be worth it to me as far as the range of students go. Are there students who attend the program who hold bachelors in architecture or anything of that nature?

Given that you have 2+ semesters of design studio experience, I do not think it is essential that you seek out an experience such as Columbia's. It is expensive, but it may be helpful in developing materials for your portfolio and a letter of recommendation.

You would need to be in touch with Columbia to know who attends their program but most of them I would imagine are like you in that they have an undergraduate degree in another discipline but with little or no design experience.

I hope this helps!

Dr. Architecture