Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Architecture and Beyond: Opportunities Abound by Lee W. Waldrep, Ph.D.


Dr. Lee Waldrep


For many students, graduation is just around the corner.  As you approach graduation and ponder your future career path, do you still wish to become an architect?  When your family, friends, faculty, or even prospective employer inquire about your career goals, what do you share?  Do you quickly outline your path as one of pursuing internship, passing the ARE and becoming an architect or do you hesitate and state with less conviction, “I do not know,” as you are worried and not sure of your future.

Regardless of your answer, be confident, as an architectural education is a springboard to a myriad of career pursuits both in architecture and beyond.  But, what are these career fields and how do you approach them. 

 Reflect on your education and the skills that you are still developing and how they will launch your career.

  • Communication – amazingly, communication is the most sought after skill of all employers yet most graduates do not recognize its power in both their job search or career pursuit.  Each semester, you presented your studio work; now, tap that ability to present your “self” to prospective firms and possible new career fields.  Contact professionals in and beyond the field to conduct “informational interviews” and learn firsthand their discipline.
  • Collaboration – perhaps, one weakness of an architectural education is teamwork.  Unlike the “real world,” you do not collaborate in teams or even manage people.  However, do not underestimate the skill set of working with people and its importance when you enter the workforce.
  • Integrating – in studio, you were “integrating” what you learned in previous studios and other courses along with new information and skills.  Upon graduation, strive to continue this integration as you determine your path and profession.
  • Research – One of the most valuable skills learned while in college is research, but graduates soon forget to use when seeking their career path.  Truly research possible firms for hire and aspiring career paths.  Contact a professional association or the Bureau of Labor Statistics to research an occupation to pursue.
  • Creative Problem-Solving – perhaps more than other skills, graduates develop problem-solving skills that can easily be transferred to any career field.  But truly think about what problems you wish to “solve” in your career and pursue it with a passion.

Anecdotal estimates suggest that only 50% of architectural graduates pursue licensure.  If this is true, you should be learning ways to show how your hard-won skills from architecture can contribute to success in a number of fields.  As well, consider networking with other professional and business groups, informing them of the broad skill set you possess. 

Over the years, numerous resources highlight careers that “look beyond architecture,” — landscape architecture; interior design; lighting design; acoustical design; engineering; construction; urban and regional planning; architectural history, theory, and criticism; and environmental and behavioral research.  Once such resource is Archinect with its ongoing series entitled, Working Out of the Box – (search for Working … from homepage) that profiles individuals educated as architects in pursuit of other paths.

So, the next time someone asks of your future, reply confidently that you intend to use what you have learned to improve the quality of life in the built environment and are just pondering the details to fully implement your desired path. 

As Leslie Kanes Weisman, of the New Jersey Institute of Technology has stated, “I am certain that architectural graduates who are in command of the powerful problem defining and problem solving skills of the designer, will be fully capable of designing their own imaginative careers by creating new definitions of meaningful work for architects that are embedded in the social landscape of human activity and life’s events.”

 Below is a list of careers/professions that an individual with an architectural education could pursue.  The careers are organized by the World of Work Map (


Architectural Historian

Architectural Lawyer

Architectural Products and Services

Corporate Architect

Construction Manager


Facilities Architect

Government Architect

Public Interest Design

University Architect



Applied Arts (Visual)


Architectural Renderer


Fashion Designer

Furniture Designer

Graphic Artist (Software)

Industrial Designer

Interior Designer


Set Designer

Video/Film Editor

Social Science


Urban Planner



Engineering & Technologies

Aerospace Engineer



Civil Engineer

Computer Engineer

Electrical/Electronics Engineer

Environmental Engineer

Industrial Engineer

Landscape Architect

Marine Architect

Materials Engineer

Mechanical Engineer

Solar Energy Engineer

Natural Science and Technologies


Forensic Scientist



Construction and Maintenance

Building/Construction Inspector



Applied Arts




Creative and Performing Arts

Movie Director




Community Service


Student Services Specialist



College/University Faculty

College/University Dean

Educator – Architecture in the Classroom



Below are career fields/occupations pursued by architects; for example, the current President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chrysler Group LLC, Saad Chehab, and the founder of Pinterest, Evan Sharp graduated with degrees in architecture.



Book Publishing

Clothing Design

Energy Conservation

Environmental and Codes

Environmental Scientist

Ethics and Sustainability


Fabric Structures

Fashion Design

Festival Architecture

Financial Services

Floral Arrangements

Furniture Design

Gaming Environment Design

Graphic Design

Global Web Technologies

Historic Preservation

Magazine Publishing

Media and E-Commerce

Product Analysis

Production Designer

Sales and Marketing Management

Set Design

Social Media

Space Architecture

User Experience


Lee W. Waldrep, Ph.D., is Assistant Director in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He graduated with a Master of Architecture from Arizona State University and completed his doctorate in counseling and student development from The American University.  Waldrep is the author of Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design.  Also known as Dr. Architecture, he can be contacted at

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