Recently I changed my Facebook status to say: “Remind me again why I want to be an architect.” I will be the first to admit that it was slightly over dramatic but after working another 10-hour day and spending another evening at home reading up on contract documents, can you really blame me for expressing my overwhelming feelings of uncertainty? I think not. I received many great responses to my status update; including several references to the idea of erecting something, doing it all night long and Ted Mosby. All jokes about architects and steel erections aside, there were a few of my fellow architecture friends that felt my pain. One comment in particular stood out: “If I knew it was going to take this long to become an architect, I would have been a doctor.” Amen brother.
It’s estimated that it takes the average person 18 years, from start to finish, to become an architect. That’s nearly two decades! This means that the average architect gets their license between the age of 32 and 36.
Here’s how they break it down:
- Education: The average architectural professional degree program takes 5 – 8 years to complete.
- Internship: NCARB claims that you can complete your IDP hours in 3 years. However, a better estimate is 4.5 years. Depending on your work history and experience, IDP could take longer if you’ve been out of work for any given amount of time or if you are just struggling to finish those last construction administration hours.
- Examination: This process could take anywhere from 12 months to 5 years.
Looking back on it now, I’m not sure anyone ever warned me about the processes I would have to go through to become an architect. I think I knew about all the parts and pieces, but I’m not sure I really did the math. 18 years is a long time to work towards a career goal. A very long time. I think it’s important for everyone pursuing a career in architecture to know the truth about our profession. The long hours, low pay, hard work, demanding education curriculum and experience requirements are just the tip of the iceberg we find ourselves standing at the foot of when we begin this journey. To reach the top takes blood, sweat and tears in both the metaphorical and literal sense.
I’ll leave you with a question that I was asked today by an 8th grader who is interested in becoming an architect: If you knew the truth about the profession, would you have picked a different career? My answer is no. I love my job. I love creating spaces; new environments and buildings that help heal people back to health. I love knowing that I’m making a difference in the world. I love knowing that I’m still working towards achieving a goal I set for myself before I knew the hard truth.