Careers in Architecture: Making the Grade

Architects employ a combination of math and physics to design buildings and other structures. But such a simple definition hardly encompasses the range of careers available to students who have completed a Master of Architecture (MArch) program at any one of 84 accredited U.S. programs. Architects are also responsible for selecting construction sites, determining the feasibility of a structure, conducting environmental impact studies, choosing building materials, and creating landscape plans.

What it takes

Because careers in architecture are so desirable, most colleges and universities have stringent admissions requirements. Successful architects typically complete a four- to five-year bachelor’s education, followed by a master’s program which usually takes one to two years and involves courses in design, architectural technology, or architecture history.

Those wishing to undertake a master’s program in architecture must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the standardized graduate education test used to measure a test taker’s understanding of various subjects. The GRE-using writing, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning challenges-tests skills that a student has acquired over a period of time.

The major difference between undergraduate and graduate architecture studies-as well as almost any discipline, for that matter-is the fact that graduate professors tend to view their students also as colleagues, therefore the expectations are considerably higher and personal autonomy is a must. Projects are much more involved at the graduate level, so the study habits and sensibilities you have developed over the course of your undergraduate education will play a significant role in your success.

Learning through work

In an industry guided largely by art, the influence of an individual student’s personality on their career choice is sometimes overlooked. Those students who choose to work while completing graduate studies are encouraged to serve in a teaching assistance position which offers the opportunity to learn more about specialized fields of architecture such as:

  • Mathematics
  • Civil, mechanical, and architectural engineering
  • Computer programming
  • Surveying
  • Industrial design
  • Physics
  • Urban planning
  • Labor and industrial relations
  • Housing studies
  • Building management

A mobile education

Another appealing aspect of earning a graduate degree in architecture is that it is a field of expertise with global relevance. Graduate architecture students travel to some of the world’s foremost destinations-Paris, Sao Paulo, Copenhagen-and often return with an understanding of global business that is invaluable to top U.S. firms.

And after graduation, no matter where you relocate there is work to be found. Such job security makes architecture a perfect career choice for those who wish to see the world and maximize their ability to interact successfully with the construction leaders of other nationalities and cultures.

By Hannah Roberts, staff writer