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Leslie Gilmour

What it Takes to Become an Architect

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Edited by Leslie Gilmour, Tuesday, 5 Jun 2018, 13:46

Becoming an architect takes a whole lot of commitment, dedication and desire. Being an architect is a serious professional career; nobody pursues it just because they like to draw or because they think it sounds fun. There is so much more to being an architect than many think and it is no easy process.

Architecture is regarded by many as a multi-discipline career. That is because being an architect is not just about being a good designer, but being a good mathematician and having a scientific way of thinking too.

You cannot simply design a building and hire a construction company to throw it up, either. Planning permissions, building codes and engineering costs all feature heavily in an architect’s career and you need to know all about them.

How do I become an Architect?

This is, of course, the question which you have come here to find the answer for. In Ireland, the title ‘architect’ is protected by legislation and only those with their names on the Register of Architects can use it.

With everything you need to learn, becoming an architect takes a number of years in education and undergoing specialist training. The requirements vary around the world, but in Ireland, the requirements stipulate that –

  • You must graduate with a prescribed degree in architecture
  • Undergo two years’ postgraduate professional training
  • Complete a professional practice examination mandated by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI).

To put things into perspective, a prescribed degree in architecture lasts for five years of full-time studies which can easily turn into six years if you elect to take a year out for industrial work placement.

It is a huge commitment, so you need to be absolutely sure that being an architect is the right career for you. If you are up for it academically and know that it is what you want to do, it is a very rewarding and challenging career where no one day is the same.

Three Reasons to Become an Architect

Looking around online, there is a lot of talk about the negative sides of being an architect such as the huge amount of study, the competition for industrial placements and jobs and the long hours that you will work. Instead, let’s look at some of the reasons to pursue a career in architecture.

Simply put, architecture is amazing

Whilst studying at university, you are taught to be a problem solver and use design, construction and history to solve them. It changes the way you think, the way you look at the world and the way you interact with others. Studying at architecture school fine-tunes your brain and makes you think like an architect.

Architecture is a huge industry

And it is constantly growing. The internet, technology and computers have completely transformed the way in which the architecture industry operates and how the profession itself is practiced. It has grown beyond just being a career to an artform in its own right, with thousands of online blogs, vlogs and resources. You can even choose to explore internships or jobs in industry-related companies, such as Corell Timber – or even just talk to different employees to gain a vaster knowledge of the industry as a whole.

The best part of the architecture industry is that it is so vast and dynamic; there is plenty of work available for everybody and no one project is the same. In an architecture career, you can thrive based off of your own unique skills and strengths, rather than having to change yourself to suit the idea of a ‘perfect architect’ because there is no such thing.

Architecture lets you do what you love for the rest of your life

As the saying goes, if you choose a job which you love then you’ll never have to work a day in your life. If architecture is your one true passion, then there is no reason why you cannot do it for the rest of your life.

The architectural career is held in high esteem, it is universally recognised as a professional career with high standards which attracts some of the world’s brightest young minds. As an architect, you will probably meet clients who are truly influential and well-known figures themselves, which reflects just how high-brow an architectural career can be.

Many of today’s most innovative housing and other construction products will have far-reaching positive effects on people for decades to come; it is a profession which truly does its best to help people and that is truly satisfying.

Is it All Fun and Games?

No, but no career is. There are plenty of downsides to becoming an architect, just like there are with any professional career.

Architecture is a career known for having very long hours; the design process can often be lengthy and drawn out. In architectural school and the professional working environment, pulling all-nighters working on projects is the norm. Of course, this type of working environment does not attract everybody – architects included – so there are plenty of firms who adopt a fairly normal Monday to Friday 9 to 5 pattern of working. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to work more hours than normal.

As you have already seen, there is a lot of school involved. If you compare becoming an architect to becoming a doctor or lawyer, you will see that there is just as much – if not more in some cases – school involved. Lawyers typically qualify after six years, doctors after seven whereas some architects can be in education and internships for as many as eight years.

Something you may not have considered is that your career will be in the hands of how the economy is performing. Although this is something regularly overlooked, it is a key consideration. Who is going to be investing in new construction projects when the economy is weak or going through a financial meltdown? Nobody, that’s the answer. Although this is something you’re not going to have to worry about until you are an actual architect, it is still worth thinking about as it can impact your work and overall job security, especially if you’re an independent and not working for a firm.

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Leslie Gilmour

How Mature Study Can Change Your Life

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I mentioned in my last post about the Camino, that I walked while being a mature student.  Leaving behind my accounting career and studying English Literature and Philosophy was not started with a new career in mind.  It did however, lead to a new career in marketing, by a circuitous route.

I had always loved writing and reading and wanted to be able to express myself better in written form.  That was one of my main reasons for the subjects I choose to study.  I had tried unsuccessfully a few times to write a novel. After tearing up the last one I woke the next morning thinking I should build a website. Where that came from I have no idea, but it was the beginning of a new direction.

I spent some time learning HTML & CSS, there are many free courses online that will help.  I then started writing, and immediately thought - this is what my study prepared me for, research and writing.  I loved it, web writing was short concise articles and that suited me better then than trying to write a novel, (it is still a dream). I built a website that nobody visited and that resulted in me learning marketing.

A Word on Dreams

My dream to write a book eventually came about.  I wrote a guidebook, it is the most difficult single piece of work I have ever completed.

Just because something is a dream does not mean it will be easy.

How the Open University's Free Courses Can Help

A friend studied addiction part time while working in a completely unrelated field.  More than 15 years later she now runs a counselling centre, (after much more study). The cost of a part-time study is not expensive, but your time is, and making large mistakes in direction can be costly in the longer term.  

There are a multitude of free courses available via Open Learn.  For example, if you think becoming a therapist is for you then this free course on diagnosis in counselling and psychotherapy might be a place to explore how strong your desire is. This could lead you to study the degree in counselling.

Marketing - The New Dream Jobs?

Someone else I know decided early on that marketing was her main love and was going to be her career.  But, even once you know what you want to do and become qualified enough it does not mean that learning is not required. She is now the marketing manager of a company that installs SAP Business One for small businesses.

This type of job requires intimate understanding of your product and service.  You are not expected to install SAP Business One, but you are expected to know every way it can help a business and all of the details that are involved in setting up.

Learning really is life long.

Do you think a new career in marketing is for you?  Look at these free options to get you started: Marketing in the 21st Century, Stakeholders in marketing and finance, or Products, services and branding.

I have read in many places that we are all marketers - at least you should be of yourself, especially in this age of social media and openness online.  The above courses give a great introduction to different areas of marketing, and if they spark your interest there is a degree course in business management that specialises in marketing.

Commitment is Required

Just because a course is free does not mean you can just treat it lightly.  This is the road to failure.  I don’t know the statistics for OpenLearn dropout rate but I have seen stats on free course dropout for Massive Open Online Courses and the percentage is staggeringly high.

Start planning.  I have a two-year-old, this makes a huge difference compared to being child free.  My only time for study is 90 minutes between his bedtime and me becoming too tired to study more.  I study four nights per week - Mon to Thur.  Even though I have worked in this job for ten years, and don’t ever imagine doing something else, it changes constantly and study is required to stay relevant at the cutting edge.

Each course in the OU will give indications of time commitments.  Decide when you will have that time available and stick to it, miss it once and it becomes very easy to miss again.  Once you do that it can become hard to catch up, do everything you can to avoid becoming disheartened.

It takes some time to understand a new discipline.  So, stick with it.  You might not understand much for a while, but breaking study down into smaller goals helps.  Talk about your study, explain the class you have just taken to someone else - these all help to gain a better understanding.  Write, write, and write - this is how I learn.  You might be different, but I still remember research from essays I wrote at university.

My last bit of advice.  Turn off the television, this one simple action can free up many hours to create a better life.


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