Architecture School: 10 Interesting Things You Must Know Before Joining

architecture school

The difference in Work Pre and Post Architecture School 

A lot of your school work will include design as a major aspect of everyday work. It requires you to research, or work on designs for a couple of weeks. Office work requires more of a management aspect. Talking to clients, contractors, and consultants, and coordinating with the other members of your team, will be a big part of your job description. 

Professional work might require you to work on construction documents, detailing of a wall, entrance gate, schematic designs, and concept level sketches for a longer period than you expected. You might not get to experience a creative boost of work in your daily work as an architect the way you did back in architecture school, where you had a different design aspect and different changes in every studio. In school, everything is compressed together in one semester, which is why in professional life, everything might seem like I really stretched it out and time-consuming. 

Projects in Architecture School

The scale and complexity of the building designs vary tremendously while working in an office. Since there are always new construction materials and technologies coming up, one has to be updated about the upgrades in the construction industry. Along with that, architects have to coordinate with consultants to ensure that the building is sound in terms of all technical aspects including but not limited to water supply, drainage, electricity, fire safety, mechanical, etc. 

Real-life projects are much more pragmatic and have more constraints. The project brief is prepared by the developer or client and not the architect. Spaces designed are more functional and pragmatic. The return on investment is also considered while designing spaces. For example, open public spaces might not generate any income. In such cases, the focus is on designing a structure that serves people and is functionally sound. Along with that, the design is subjected to changes to fit into the budget for the project. 

Projects in Architecture School
Photo by Architecture Lab

Architecture Mindset

Architecture schools train you to view things from a different perspective. Once that happens, you cannot go back. Irrespective of their simplicity or complexity, the way you look at things after becoming an architect is very different from what you did earlier. An architecture course affects your personality in the long term. It becomes a part of who you are. You start noticing the surrounding things much more than before. You develop an eye for details and become more observational to the things related to architecture and design.

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Pay Scale

If you’re in it for the money, think twice about it. If your inspiration for architecture comes from some movie architects who are living in a high-end villa and designing skyscrapers before they could even turn 30, the reality check is tremendously going to bum you out. As opposed to the misconception, it is unlikely for an architecture job to make you rich. 

A lot of students realize later that the architecture salaries go way below a decent pay scale. One assumes that since the course lasts for 5 years, it’ll all be worth it at the other end of this incredibly long, difficult endeavor. More often than not, there is no big reward waiting at the end of it all. Anyone who is remotely associated with the field of architecture or knows at least one architect is aware of the fact that the work doesn’t pay well enough. 

Most architecture colleges do not have the facility of campus placements, which results in a lot of students struggling to find a good job after graduating. While there are some countries like the US, Dubai, etc. that have a decent pay scale to sustain a living, they certainly won’t make you ‘wealthy’. Even if one does make it, it is after years and years of struggle and establishing yourself as a brand. 

It’s not ‘All Drawings’. Be Prepared to Slog.

Anybody who even remotely knows architecture will tell you that the course is excruciating. There are a lot of people who went into the field thinking that it was something completely different. An ample amount of people are quick to misinterpret an ‘architect’ for an ‘artist’. A larger number of parents assume their kids should be an architect solely because they have a flair for drawing, painting, or sketching. Architecture is much more technical than someone who doesn’t belong to an architecture community would think. It requires multiple levels of understanding, starting from ‘analysis of site context’, construction materials, and technologies used for construction. 

human behaviour
Photo by AIA

Human behavior, psychology, history, surveying of land, humanities, codes, and regulations for the execution of building processes, etc. are all an integral part of architecture education. There is usual debate about how important math skills are for an architect. While architects may not be using a higher level of math for their work, it is always advisable to have a good math score since some universities will require you to have remarkable math scores for admission to architecture school. Being weak in math might hinder your performance in certain courses throughout your architectural education. 

Throughout architectural education or after graduating from architecture school, if you find yourself having the desire to yell ‘Why’d I do this?’ or ‘What was I even thinking?’, just know that you aren’t alone. This is a common situation for countless architects or students. Every architecture student is well aware of the concept of ‘RE-DOs’ as a standard practice for the improvement of a particular design. There is a possibility of you not being able to bury your work under the carpet, thinking it’s done and dusted. One design might take longer to get finalized than expected.

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Photo by SAPP Design Architects

Brain Draining Working Hours

As an outsider, the bigger picture of an architect’s work might be fun to look at, but more often than not, an architect’s job can get pretty tedious. A lot of architects’ work lies in the details which can get time-consuming. Making sure each and every line and measurement is correct is the basic foundation of architectural drawings. 

Whereas, detailing them in terms of furniture, flooring, electricity, HVAC, plumbing, fire safety, etc. is an integral part of the execution process. It takes a tremendous amount of determination and willingness to voluntarily opt for a job that starts before 9 am and ends way after 5 pm. 

The Devastating Five-Year Course Might Not Be Enough to Make It 

The educational aspect pleads to be repeated. Surviving as an architect requires a lifelong commitment to work and learning. It requires the willingness to educate and adapt you to the ever-changing face of the AEC industry. Getting an architecture degree alone might not be enough to sustain a career as an architect. 

Skills Required as an Architect

Architecture is a profession where science meets Art. Creativity is one major skill that architecture demands. This does not mean a person has to be good at paintings or sketches. As an architect, you might have the responsibility of putting out fires at all times on site. Creative problem solving is one skill that will help you go a long way. Designing projects requires architects to identify the problematic areas and come up with creative solutions for them while keeping the aesthetics in mind. 

One should be willing to put in long hours and perpetual efforts. Since design is a matter of subjective opinions, it might lead you to people having different viewpoints than yours. All the tiring hours being put in often result in criticism which one should be open to. Juries can be soul-crushing at times. 

 You Might Have To Fling Your Health Aside

There are ample amount of reasons for the deterioration of health during architectural education. The long working hours are responsible for the majority of the issues faced by people. A lot of people complain about back pain, strained neck, and posture at a very young age due to having to draft sheets for hours at a time. 

The long screen time can cause health issues, including but not limited to strain on the eyes and migraines. Most students get used to a screwed-up sleep schedule and unhealthy or imbalanced diet patterns because of the overwhelming amount of work. The less food and sleep are worn as a badge of honor among students since they treat it as a matter of pride which is just a peek at the toxic work culture of architects. 

You Might Lack Entrepreneurial Knowledge

An architecture course differs from other courses to a great extent. Architecture is one of the professions that are more focused on human needs and comfort in their daily life. Some professions are service-oriented and some professions are businesses. Architecture falls in the former category.

Architecture is more of a community. The curriculum of architecture schools often focuses on artistic architectural designs, construction techniques, building services, humanities, history, etc. This might often lead to architects graduating without appropriately understanding the concept of money and how it moves around, the terminologies used, or how the rest of the world functions concerning finance, economics, law, etc. The architecture curriculum is in dire need of introducing subjects that help students develop entrepreneurial capacity. 

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