Wanna go into architecture? Don't.
December 2, 2010 10:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm trained as an architect, but with only a little work experience (thanks, economy). What jobs might I be qualified for *outside* of architecture?

As everyone and their dog knows, architecture is a terrible place to be looking for a job. I'm trying to figure out what other fields might need someone like me. There's obviously stuff like graphic design, urban planning, etc. But those fields aren't doing well in this economy either and there's already lots of more-qualified people looking for the few available positions.

I have a graduate degree in architecture and about a years worth of work experience. I'm good with AutoCAD and Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign. I think my most marketable skill is 3D modeling, plus some basic rendering. I've also done a bit of residential construction work, which I enjoy. My main problem is that I don't have enough work experience to run projects myself, so I'm not the super-hire that would come in and turn things around for someone - I would be a very junior employee wherever I went.

Since I'm in Southern CA, I've considered maybe something like building/designing sets for Hollywood-type stuff, but I'm not sure how to break into that - it's pretty insider-y.

Basically, I have some skills, I'd like to use them, and I'm pretty sure there's someone out there who needs them, but I'm not sure what industries outside of architecture would value them. Help?
posted by annie o to Work & Money (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I work in the public art field and we frequently use architects and architecture students to help us plan for large, permanent installations.
posted by jrichards at 10:35 AM on December 2, 2010

Mrs. Fresh is in the same architect-in-a-bad-economy boat with a bit more experience than you. However, she just started working with a public artist (airports, public buildings, etc), and they just got a commission for a city hall project. Having strong design skills as well as architecture/construction knowledge is helping balance their architect/artist team. They've known each other for a few years, so the missus didn't have to go find artists to work with. She might start seeking out other artist-teaming opportunities now that she has a foot in the door.
posted by dr. fresh at 10:37 AM on December 2, 2010

should have previewed, jrichards said it much better.
posted by dr. fresh at 10:37 AM on December 2, 2010

Art museums use some of the skills jrichards mentions as well. Of course, there is currently little money (or jobs) in the arts right now either.
posted by TishSnave at 12:09 PM on December 2, 2010

I'm a bit like you are - arch. degree with little experience. I went to work as a jeweler instead (after a semester more of school) - your 3d modeling skills and spatial skills are very useful to any shop that has a custom work / cad component.

The jewelery industry's busy period is RIGHT NOW through Christmas (We're working 7 days a week at the moment). If you have experience with Rhino, give it a shot. (I found Rhino to be fairly similar to Autocad, but it does have a learning curve) It might be a little late to be hired because the shops are so busy.
posted by WowLookStars at 1:08 PM on December 2, 2010

To clarify - I went back to school because I decided that a job where I was on the computer constantly was a crappy job for me. I learned how to work with metal and set stones when I went back. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten a jewelry-cad job without that, if I had wanted one, which I didnt. :)
posted by WowLookStars at 1:10 PM on December 2, 2010

I've found architecture grads to be the most generally qualified for just about everything. It seems they've learned to learn, have an iron-clad work ethic, and understand teamwork. They also appreciate that they will be a disciple, not a star, at first.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:15 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's "outside of architecture," strictly speaking, but my father-in-law is a structural engineer, and he's usually got a staff of recently-graduated architects handling the CAD work he can't be bothered with.
posted by lekvar at 1:42 PM on December 2, 2010

Have you seen Architect's Working Outside the Box series? It might be useful for some ideas.

I'll (hopefully) be an architecture grad, similarly with some experience, by summer and if my 3d skills were strong I'd be seriously considering 3d modeling/cgi for games or movies.
posted by carbide at 2:37 PM on December 2, 2010

ARCHINECT, not Architect - sorry, typing across a site model (seriously!)
posted by carbide at 2:47 PM on December 2, 2010

I'm in a pretty similar situation, only with a little more work experience. Since you're good at computer modeling and rendering, you might want to see if firms have anything they'd like to contract out to you. Contractors might want someone who can do drawings here and there, though they're also kind of dead. I had some luck applying to places that needed furniture and store fixture drawings, but had been doing that at my last "architecture" job. I'd try anywhere that drafts or models things. Through volunteering with our local pro-bono design group, another friend got a job managing the AIA's bookstore. Another makes fabric stuff for an etsy shop. See if you can find someone who builds event displays/booths (like for conventions). I was thinking of apply for sales jobs at some high-end furniture and fixture places in town.

I totally failed at breaking out of architecture for the last, er, year and half, but have had luck at last getting a response from the city government jobs I applied for. I applied months and months ago, but it was pretty painless. I know CA is broke, but so is Philly, so you never know.
posted by sepviva at 3:16 PM on December 2, 2010

Here in Australia, government departments that build and manage institutional buildings (eg education, health, corrections) often hire architecture grads as civil servants. I don't know exact details, but I'd guess it gives them people on their own staff who can liaise with departments that specialize in infrastructure, check and manage their architectural and building contractors' work, and who know what maintenance needs to be done over time.
posted by Ahab at 4:00 AM on December 3, 2010

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