Mid life crisis at 23
May 5, 2006 11:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm sort of in a crisis right now... Basically I am halfway through a bachelor in Film Studies and I realize it's garbage. I want to change my major to something that is useful.

I previously thought that there weren't any useful degrees that I could take, at least ones that were not long and expensive (I have no support and have to work full-time while at school). At this point I realize I have nothing, I'm working full-time for a degree I don't even want.

What I want to be: Architect.

How easy is it to become one? What will I have to do to prepare to take schooling in this? I have barely any maths to speak of and would not have a portfolio that involves architecture, just some general arts.

I live in Montreal Quebec, Canada.
posted by Napierzaza to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Screw easy. Do it BECAUSE it's hard. You totally know you can. What are you waiting for?
posted by Sara Anne at 12:04 AM on May 6, 2006

Don't know about the degree, but I've heard that architecture is a hard field to break in to. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

If you'll always wonder whether you could've made it as an architect, or you'll always regret not getting the architecture degree, or you're just passionate about architecture, do it. The worst you can do is fail and end up being somebody with an architecture degree who's not an architect, and that's not that bad. If you're just looking for something "useful" that pays more than a film studies degree, then maybe think a little bit harder before you jump - there are lots of easier choices that would fit the bill.
posted by hackwolf at 12:17 AM on May 6, 2006

Have you tried the advising office or course bulletin at your school? If they have a program in that at all, they should be able to tell you what it takes. Hopefully, if you're only halfway done, you have taken mostly more general courses that can count for another major. (Your school's curriculum may be different from mine, though.)

If your school doesn't have a program, start looking right this minute for places to transfer that offer it. Find a place you want to be that will also give you decent credits for what you've already done.

Either way, it probably won't be easy -- listen to those above.

For more general info, there's an association of college architecture programs ... You can also see what eHow and About.com have to say, for whatever that's worth.

I've known a number of architects. All seemed to be enjoying their profession and were paid quite well. Make damn sure you want to do it, but if you do, it should be worth it in the long run.
posted by SuperNova at 12:20 AM on May 6, 2006

Not to disparage you having a quarter life crisis, as everyone deserves one, but do you actually know any architects? If not, maybe it would be good to get to know some, and see if you see a lot of commonalities between your personality and theirs. If you did meet and get to know some young architects a bit, you'd have some people with real world experience to ask your questions of, with better insight into the realities of joining a firm, finding commissions, choosing schools, etc. As you probably know, McGill University has an architectural program, and you might start by talking with some faculty there.

But if I were thinking seriously of making this kind of jump, I'd be cultivating a few new friends, working in the field in which I was interested. Ask for referrals, call up firms, try to meet some people with real experience and advice. My expericence is that, if you ask politely for an interview, most professionals will give you an hour or so at a time of their choosing, and be somewhat flattered by your sincere interest. Shmoozing is a skill most architects need, so start practicing right away!
posted by paulsc at 1:04 AM on May 6, 2006

Architecture is definitely a tough gig to break into. It is the kind of job that sounds great, but actually requires a lot of hard work and you probably won't get to actually design anything that is going to be built for a long, long time. First there is school. Very difficult school. Then you have do interships. Then you may or may not be hired, and if you are, you will be at the bottom of totem pole, doing stuff like drafting the plans for the bathrooms. I think you are looking at ~7 years of school, including internships, because I am guessing very little of a film major will transfer into architecture. That doesn't mean don't do it, but it is not something you want to jump into. Becoming an architect is up there with becoming a doctor. Lots and lots of hard work.

That being said I dropped out of school about five years ago because I was in the same situation. I was pursueing a degree in something like philosophy at a very liberal arts college and realized it wasn't what I wanted and wouldn't take me where I wanted to go. I was just accepted at UC Berkeley last week for Cognitive Science, and I couldn't be happier. While there were times I regretted my initial decision, following what you really want to do is really the only way.

Also: What about combining the two into something like designing movie sets? You get to do the architecture thing without a half dozen more years of bull.
posted by sophist at 4:01 AM on May 6, 2006

Well, you could move to Atlanta (for example), live there long enough to establish residency and save money, then enroll in the architecture school at Georgia Tech. For in-state students it's not too expensive; I mostly put myself through, and I wasn't trying very hard (studied computer science, which had a pretty good co-op program, which helped). Check out the costs for in-state students and how long it would take to establish residency.

Some school systems don't let you enroll as an undergraduate if you already have an undergraduate degree, so think about that if you're considering getting your first degree anyway.

In the meantime, Ga. Tech also has an architecture library you could look at, and you can practice your drawing, do reading ahead, etc. so that when you do enroll the "killer weed-out" courses would be (more of) a breeze for you.

And there's also MIT's OpenCourseWare in architecture.

You could also get a job in/related to the field of architecture; even construction might be a good idea -- I hear it pays well, and real working knowledge of construction techniques could set you apart as an architect later (not an architect myself, just guessing). Of course, if you could get a job in an architecture firm, that's good too, and maybe less exhausting.

Then you do have to make sure you can get accepted, too; not sure how you feel about that. I would get more info before just applying; it may be that if you apply while out-of-state, you're stuck as out-of-state.

Of course, there may be other schools in other states that are better for you. I suspect that the Atlanta heat is not for everyone; I happen to have been born there.

I believe that the road to becoming a licensed architect is not a 4-year one, though. I think there are internships (could be fun, probably paid, I'm not sure) and a big old test.

You might also consider other types of design, though. Ga. Tech (and probably other schools) has an industrial design major, and I know that there are house designers who aren't fully-licensed architects; not sure what they study.

-- I just looked up the residency requirement for Georgia. From this document:

"If a person is 18 years of age or older, he or she may register as an in-state student only upon showing that he or she has been a legal resident of Georgia for a period of at least 12 months immediately preceding the date of registration"

It might take you longer than a year to save enough money; it doesn't look like architecture students are elegible for co-op, and that makes sense since the program is pretty intense.
posted by amtho at 4:03 AM on May 6, 2006

McGill's program in architecture is, "structured as a four-and-a-half-year, or nine-semester, course of study, divided into two parts: B.Sc. (Arch.) (six semesters) and M.Arch. I (three semesters).

It's pretty much the same thing in the UdeMontreal program: "L'École d'architecture de l'Université de Montréal offre deux programmes qui, lorsque acquis successivement, donne accès à l'Ordre des architectes du Québec"
posted by mikel at 4:50 AM on May 6, 2006

Landscape architects are in fairly high demand these days.
posted by ryanissuper at 6:15 AM on May 6, 2006

I wish you well with your change of direction. Though I don't have any specific advice for you, I do think it's a bold and good decision, and that the sooner you act on it, the better.

However, I'd just like to put in a vote for Film Studies degrees not being garbage. I got one, then went on to get my Ph.D. in Film Studies, and am currently employed as a professor in that field. So it is possible to do something useful with it. But if you're not passionate about it, you should git while the gittin's good.

I still think you should become an architect. But the field of Film Studies is a mess right now, and I wanted to put in a good word for it - it's not all bad.
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:37 AM on May 6, 2006

Accountants are always in demand, and are generally well-paid.
posted by jtron at 8:46 AM on May 6, 2006

You might want to read this thread about the perils of being an architect. The main link is down but the jist of it was that some guy was trying to sell his architecture degree for thousands of dollars (what it cost him) and included a long rant about how miserable he was since his high school guidance counseller never told him how hard the job market was for architects (the guy basically picked the career on a whim while watching The Brady Bunch).
posted by bobo123 at 8:53 AM on May 6, 2006

You might also want to read this book: Architect? A Candid Guide to the Profession. It does a good job of debunking a lot of the myths about the glamour of architecture (e.g., in the U.S., the average public school teacher with 1 year experience makes more than an average architect with 1 year of experience).

If you do want to go into architecture, finish your bachelor's in film studies, then get a master's in architecture (usually a 3-year program for people without a B.Arch.). Same total number of years in school, but you get a much more well-rounded education.
posted by misterbrandt at 2:11 PM on May 6, 2006

If you're still interested in film, but just convinced that film school is crap, why not study (small) business management so you'll know something about the money side when you go pursue your film career?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:38 PM on May 6, 2006

I could do anything is great at helping people find previously unknown vocations that scratch the itch created by one's original, unattainable choice.
posted by craniac at 11:52 AM on May 7, 2006

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