If I’m Not Sure About Becoming an Architect, What I Can Do to Try Out the Waters?

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The Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree is one of the highest paying master’s degrees – but is it the right path for you? Many people aren’t sure what they want to do with their careers at a young age, but there’s tremendous pressure to choose a degree path. If you think you may want to be an architect but are not positive, there are several ways you could “test the waters” to determine if you’re truly interested in this profession. Learning more about existing architecture, spending time building your art and design skills, entering design challenges and talking to or observing established architects can all give you more insights into what your future as an architect could look like.

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Learn About the History and Design of Real Buildings – Near and Far

You can learn a lot about your suitability for this career path by how you feel about studying the history and design elements of existing architecture. Do the details of when, how, and by whom a building was designed and built captivate you or bore you? Do you enjoy learning about the different design elements that make a building unique? If so, there’s a good chance that you will enjoy coursework in the history and theory of architecture as well as studio courses in developing your design skills. Otherwise, you may do better in a different field, like graphic design or fine art.

Traveling to distant destinations to explore different styles of architecture is an invaluable experience for aspiring architects. If finances, your work schedule, family obligations or other obstacles keep you from globe-trotting, though, you can always visit local landmarks and historic buildings, instead. Many attractions also offer virtual tours and educational materials that allow you to learn more about the architecture of these buildings.

If you’re not able to travel before college, you may have the opportunity to see more of the world during your studies. Many architecture programs encourage students to study abroad, not only to explore architecture in other lands and cultures but also for the personal growth of the experience.   

Focus on Art and Computer-Aided Design

A lot of an architect’s work – first in college and then in their career – takes place in the design studio. So, if you are contemplating a career in architecture, you should explore your interests and develop your skills in art and design. Taking formal or informal classes in any kind of art that fuels your creativity can be valuable, but developing technical skills in sketching is particularly useful if you think you may want to be an architect.

Given the increase in the prevalence of computer technology in the field, prospective architects may also want to explore the basics of using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Whether you take a formal class in CAD in high school or college or experiment with this type of software in an informal capacity, learning how to use it can give you some insights into what it’s like to work as an architect.

If you’re diving into art and computer-aided design to test the waters of the architecture occupation, don’t stop at completing your classwork. Take the time outside of class to practice your sketching and computer design skills for your own enjoyment. Not only will this effort shed more light on what you specifically enjoy designing, but it can also help you start building out a portfolio that can help you get into an architecture program or another program related to art or design.

You need more than design skills to succeed in architecture. Although there’s an important math component to this field, you don’t need the highest-level mathematical knowledge to be an architect. Instead, focus on mastering the basics and learning to apply math principles to real-world situations.

Enter Design Challenges

Another way to test your skills and your level of interest in architecture is to start entering design challenges. National and international organizations, like the American Institute of Architecture Students and Young Architects Competitions based in Italy, offer challenges and competitions for new or budding architects. You may also find competitions offered at a local or regional level, such as challenges posed by the Chicago Architecture Center.

Architecture design competitions often award prizes to top performers, which can range from trophies to college scholarships and cash prizes. Winning even an honorable mention from one of these competitions can look good on a college application or a resumé. However, the real value of entering a competition isn’t in whether you win or lose, but instead whether you enjoy the experience. If you find yourself getting bored with the challenge – the problems that need solving or the architectural and design approaches that are used to do so – then it’s a good indication that you might not be happy as an architect. On the other hand, if you find that you enjoy the questions posed by the prompt and the process of figuring out a way to answer them through design methods, you can feel more confident about your decision to study architecture.

Some design competitions require you to pay for registration or participation, and you may need to work as part of a team. Before jumping into a design competition, do some research about what participation entails.

Shadowing and Mentoring Opportunities

Perhaps the best way to really understand what life as an architect is like is to ask an architect. You may be able to arrange to speak to an established architect through a school career or networking program offered at your high school, community college, or a four-year college to which you’re applying. You can also reach out to architecture firms or individual architects online, by phone, by mail or through in-person networking events.

Even a brief informational interview with an architect can give you valuable insight you didn’t have before. The opportunity to “shadow,” or observe an architect on the job, can offer you an even better idea of what it’s like to work in this field. If you’re able to forge a long-lasting relationship that turns into a mentorship, you will have someone to turn to for career advice beyond simply whether or not to study architecture, including preparing for licensure and going to graduate school.

Colleges and universities often offer high school programs for aspiring architects that give prospective teens a taste of what the profession entails. The American Institute of Architects and other organizations also offer educational programs for aspiring architects, like the Design in Action program.

Related Resources: 

Do I Need to Have a Background in Architecture to Get a Master’s?

What Is the Difference Between an Interior Designer and an Architect?

What Is the Difference Between Studying Architectural Engineering and Studying to Be an Architect?

What Is the Difference Between a Degree in Interior Design and Interior Architecture?

Do I Need a Degree to Be an Interior Decorator?

Where Are the Best Paying Jobs With a Degree in Interior Design?

For Further Reading: 

What Degree Do I Need to Become a Lighting Designer?