Architecture Career Guide: 6 Alternative Jobs for Trained Architects

Whether recently graduated or mid-career, trained architects possess cross-transferrable skills that allow them to thrive in other professions.

Samantha Frew Samantha Frew

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Pursuing a career as an architect is challenging. It requires time, dedication and, ultimately, a love of the job. Enchanting creatives and mathematicians alike, it is a profession that attracts an array of personalities who equally favor the Right and Left sides of the brain. In architecture, the routes and specialisms available are vast. Meanwhile and the skill-set and expertise required is constantly change, and continual study is essential to stay informed.

Yet, simply having a passion for architecture is not sufficient to make it a lifelong career. The problems faced by those in the field are well documented: low wages, long working hours, limited creative freedom and lack of recognition are some of the top recognized issues that plague the industry today. While many practices are actively trying to improve working environments, there are still many reasons a person may consider an alternative path to architecture. For some, the intensity of the job can be overwhelming; others simply wish to challenge themselves in new ways. Whatever the grounds for moving on may be, each year, thousands of architects choose to hang up their hard hards and pursue new pastures.

Although the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt,” it can also breed confidence. When leaving a career to follow something new, building confidence in a new role or pursuing a new position can be unnerving. Luckily, as an architect, you gather a considerable array of skills — office-based, site-based and technical. Many of the skills learned are cross-transferrable to other professions. The follow list offers six alternative career paths which utilize the expertise gathered as an architect for anyone who might be looking for something new.

Model Z by Zauben, Jury Winner in the 2020 A+Product Awards in the Sustainable Design category

Trade and Supply

By virtue of their practice, architects gather a huge bank of knowledge on many products and suppliers. Designers have favorite brands for certain specifications, or will have suppliers that they prefer thanks to their company values or ethos, most commonly because they align with your own. For these reasons, architects make fantastic sales representatives for suppliers. An excellent understanding of products and brands makes it easy to inform and sell to other customers while knowing you are talking from experience builds trust.

Alternative Jobs for Trained Architects

Aperture Luminous SkyCeiling, Popular Choice Winner in the 2020 A+Product Awards in the Contract Lighting category

Furniture or Lighting Design

Leaving architecture does not mean you have to abandon all creative output. Many architects spend an enormous amount of time designing furniture and lighting schemes. They are able to put a lot of creativity into that aspect of their work, exploring materiality, technique, detailing and construction. The furniture and lighting industry is ginormous. If the world of architecture feels too broad or overwhelming, specializing in one particular component may provide the creative outlet needed but on a smaller scale.

Alternative Jobs for Trained Architects

Origami House by Bernardes Arquitetura, Porto Feliz, SP, Brazil

Real Estate

As an architect and an architecture student, you learn a great deal about the history of architecture. Learning architectural styles, how to recognize architectural eras, features that are specific to areas or times becomes second nature. The bank of historical information gathered as an architect is invaluable in every facet of the Real Estate industry, be it in construction, surveying or sales. Each branch of Real Estate requires an in-depth knowledge of architecture, particularly the architecture that is local to the agency.

Alternative Jobs for Trained Architects

Bound By Time” by Mihhail Jassinover

3D Visualisation or Animation

The development of CAD technologies and 3D modeling in architecture has given most, especially more recent graduates, a thorough understanding of computer modeling software. Modeling and drawing using computer programs is an industry that is growing exponentially and the possibilities of roles of this nature are vast. Some training on new programs and correct practice would likely be required, but understanding how this type of work is conducted is a great start.

Alternative Jobs for Trained Architects

GoodRx Headquarters by RIOS, Santa Monica, CA. Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Office Interiors (>25,000 sq ft.) 

PR & Marketing

A huge part of being an architect is selling ideas, illustrating, demonstrating and communicating a thought in your mind and convincing a client, owner or financier to trust in your idea. Another side of architecture is understanding a brand or vision and translating that into a building or space. These skills are both instrumental in the world of PR and Marketing. Explaining concepts, strategies, ideas and processes is a huge part of the job and as an architect, you are already fully equipped with the skills to do that.

Neutral Bay House by Downie North Architects, Neutral Bay, Australia

Writing

Finally, writing. The past, present and future of architecture are immeasurable and the avenues for discussion are endless. Whether it’s fact, theory, history or prediction the want and need to read and write about architecture is likely to never end. The jobs of blogger, journalist, novelist and copywriter are all are open to architects, who have “insider” expertise about the industry.

As you can see, whichever path you choose, the skills accumulated as an architect or studying to be an architect will continue to be useful across many industries and thankfully, if it’s time for a change, there is a whole world of opportunities to utilize them.

Now it’s time to get hired! Check out Architizer’s architecture jobs board and apply for jobs at BIGHandel ArchitectsWorkshop/APD and more.

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Samantha Frew Author: Samantha Frew
Sam Frew is an interior designer with ten years of experience in the high-end hospitality industry. She is one-half of Campbell | Frew Design Studio. Over the years Sam has collaborated with some of the world’s biggest hotel brands including Accor, Millennium, Ensana and Radisson.
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