Over the years, I have come across a lot of misconceptions and have heard endless stories from adults who lamented not having pursued their passion for architecture and design because they believed some of these myths. Then there are some myths about the glamour of architecture, which are also untrue. Here, I will try to elucidate aspiring architecture students so that they can make better decisions about the profession.
Myth #1: You have to be really good at math.
People have said to me, "Oh, you're an architect. You must be really good at math." Well, actually, I am. Or, at least I’m decent enough to be a math tutor. But that's more attributed to my engineering background than my architectural training. While it's helpful for quick calculations, it's not actually crucial to be a math wiz to be a good architect. Depending on where you land in the field of architecture, basic arithmetic and knowledge of geometric forms are adequate. You'll have to be good enough to get through some Structures and Environmental Systems calculations in school, but as a working professional, one hardly performs these calculations as you'll likely have consultants and engineers on your team specifically for that purpose.
A lot of manual calculations I used to perform have been eradicated, replaced by software that has gotten smarter over the years. Most software has built-in calculating functions so it’s actually getting more foolproof.
Myth #2: You must be excellent at drawing.
Having the skill to sketch an idea out is by far one of the most effective ways to communicate in architecture. Which is why it was surprising to me when I first started out in the profession to realize that some of my peers were not able to draw nor did they have an interest in developing this skill. In this day and age, there is such a heavy focus on fast computer drawing and visualization that the ability to hand draw is becoming less and less crucial. As long as one can sketch well enough to capture an idea for themselves, they can translate it to a more legible computer rendition for their team and client.
Myth #3: Designing is fast, fun, and easy.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but designing is often intense and grueling. I remember an architecture professor once say to me, “You have to be more manic! You need to sleep, breathe, eat, think architecture 24/7!” Whoops, guess my meditative practices to stay centered didn’t align with his idea of a good architecture student. This was funny to me, but also quite serious as the students in the school of architecture got emails twice a week advising us to use campus counseling services. The competitive pressures, rigor, pin-up humiliations, and sleep deprivation led to near weekly breakdowns in others and honestly, myself. Not having a balanced work-life can really be a lot for anyone to handle.
Nothing in architecture happens instantly. It’s great that HGTV made design so accessible, but it’s also created a problem for the profession by convincing everyone that design is done on the fly, by one or two people, in a 30 minute timeframe. I bet the reality is that there’s actually a huge team of people behind the scenes bringing each design vision to life over the course of weeks.
Myth #4: Architects make a lot of money.
This may be true for some more seasoned architects or those with their own firm, but for entry-level architects, the salary is well below that of an entry-level engineer, programmer, or healthcare worker, for example. It's important to address this because the field is very competitive and also requires a lot of professional training, with a minimum of 5 years undergraduate or the preferred 7 years total with a Masters of Architecture, followed by years of on-the-job training and additional testing before licensure. It's something to consider when you have to invest at least 7 years of education and potentially 7 years of student loans into a career that may take a long time before one can start reaping financial rewards. Architecture is often a creative dream, not a financial one.
Myth #5: You need to figure out your architectural path on your own.
It took me two degrees and years of work experience in these careers before I went back to school for my Masters of Architecture. I started in industrial engineering, then career-changed to interior design, before realizing that I was best suited for architecture. While no experience is lost, sometimes I regret not having a more focused path to architecture. Like many peers who left the profession or classmates who dropped out, I lacked an architecture mentor to nudge me in the right direction. If you want to learn more about architecture and whether or not it is right for you, here's a blog about the mentoring process with me. Or you can book a free 30-minute Discovery Session with me.