Michael LaValley is an N.Y. State-registered architect, career strategist and blogging entrepreneur. His blog, Evolving Architect, helps creative professionals to channel their passions for architecture and design into successful careers.
Each year, colleges and universities around the country release a new generation of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed architecture graduates into society. A new group of young, aspiring architects dream of how they’ll make a difference in the world. This gets me thinking about my own education.
Did you ever consider all of the opportunities you have with a degree in architecture? Did you ever think about what you could do with one besides just becoming an architect? Sometimes I do think about what would have happened to my life if I had, say, gone into filmmaking. I’m a die-hard film nerd and remember a few distinct moments in college when I could have made very different decisions for my career.
And why not?
When you’re taught how to be an architect in school and in studio, what are you really being taught? Are you learning directly applicable skills that are required for your job in the workforce?
Quite simply, no.
Instead, we’re taught fundamental ways of thinking, modes of being and frameworks for perception. And really, that’s perfectly fine.
Architecture is a profession in which it literally takes decades to develop your own way and adequately function as an architect. Because college is only four to five years, academia can only do so much to prime you for the real world. As such, programs at the collegiate level tend to be much more about creating environments for you to stretch your legs and experiment rather than teach you every skill you’ll ever need to be an architect.
Architecture isn’t a trade, it’s a profession. You leave school with a mentality rather than a full set of tools.
Don’t get me wrong, you do learn skills, but the skills can be applied to almost anything. So, back to my career that almost was, filmmaking. As a creative person, rather than just an architect, I find my interests lie in the manifestation of ideas. I gravitated toward film because of my fascination with motion pictures. If there is one thing I respect film for over architecture, it’s dynamism.
I can take the skills I’ve learned in architecture school — space, scale, hierarchy, rhythm — and apply them directly to the creation of film. Now granted, I don’t have the direct skills to know everything about how to construct an actual film. But I do have the vision for how to create spatial ideas that resonate conceptually with others.
Not into film? Why not go back to academia and teach the next generation of architects at your Alma Mater? Or perhaps you could design the next wave of high-end fashion in New York? What if you pursued a law degree and advocated for clients against a critical jury of your peers?
See where I’m going?
The opportunities you have because you were trained as an architect don’t stop at architecture. They begin there.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you up and leave the profession right now. Instead, I recommend that you take a look at what you’ve been given to date and consider that just maybe, there is another version of you waiting to be revealed. One that embraces being an architect and chooses to use that skill set to help others beyond the built environment.
Consider a new way of working with the skills you have. Could you apply your skills as an architect in another way? Could you spend some time in a related field? Think about the options you have at your disposal. Don’t think you’re better off somewhere else. Just know that you likely have all the tools you need to shape the future however and wherever you want.
Thanks for being awesome!
Inspired to explore different career paths this year? Check out our guide to 6 alternative careers for architecture students.
This post first appeared on Evolving Architect.