Career Story: Residential Architect In A Privare Practice

Residential Architect In A Privare Practice

Job Title: Architect

Type of Company: My practice delivers traditional architectural services, primarily for homeowners. I am shifting to consulting on sustainability and sustainable design for institutions and cities.

Education: BA, History, Harvard College •• MA, Architecture, Harvard University

Previous Experience: I worked as an intern in architecture offices for four years. I also worked briefly for a real estate developer/property manager. After I got my architecture license I worked for a furniture manufacturer and started my own practice. Other than two short part-time stints with firms I have been on my own for about 20 years.

Job Tasks: I design additions and renovations for houses, produce the drawings and specifications and see the construction through. After meeting a client I present my services, sign a contract and begin. We sit down and talk about what they want and need, their budget and what they like. I look at the local zoning requirements, and see what can be built on their site in terms of size and location.

I make several sketches for them showing floor plans and "elevations" -- a kind of photo view of the design -- and give them several options. We pick one, start designing it in more detail and refine it at each step. We also start to talk to contractors about budget and construction costs, and we explore choices of materials. There are many considerations when it comes to materials: aesthetics, climate, "greenness", longevity and cost.

Once the design is set, I make drawings (on the computer) which will show the contractor where all the materials go and how they go together, and the floor plans and elevations. I also make structural framing drawings, though I usually hire a consulting structural engineer to work with me on that.

I write a book calling out all the materials called "specifications." The specs and drawings make the construction documents, which then go to the builder (contractor) who we've selected by interview and bid process.

During construction I meet with the contractor and owners to be sure that the project is being built as designed. I represent the client's interests.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Best parts: There are many different jobs within one project and as a sole-practitioner I get to do all of them. So my day and my job are both varied. I get to look at materials, design things, think about a lot of different aspects of the work. The job is also one long problem-solving exercise, which can be very challenging and fun. And it's in an aesthetic framework.

Worst: Some parts are boring. The drawings get tedious to produce but you can hire someone to help with that. It can be very hard to get clients and interesting projects. Nor does architecture pay well. (see below)

Job Tips:
1.) Make sure you really like architecture well enough for the economic trade-offs.

2.) Get an internship and summer jobs in firms before you attend school.

3.) Talk to a lot of architects before you decide to go to school.

4.) School programs and courses are not like real life practice. They're much more fun!

5.) Work for smaller firms where you get to do more varied tasks.

6.) See if you like architects. Your peer group is very important in your choice of profession.

Additional Thoughts: Architecture doesn't pay well and, working alone, you can go long periods under-employed. Even working for a firm, you can expect to be laid off at least once or twice. In economic downturns, architects are the first to go, so it's a hard business to rely on financially. After a while, when you see peers who have much less education and more predictable work hours, you start to mind the low pay.

Popular Schools offering Architecture Programs

quickinfoThese schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles).

Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.

Matching School Ads

Liberty University provides a world-class education with a solid Christian foundation, equipping men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for success in every aspect of life.

  • Programs: BS in Aeronautics
  • Degrees: Bachelor
The Art Institutes system of schools
North Hollywood, Santa Ana

With an education from an Art Institutes school, imagine what you could create.

  • Programs: Industrial Design (BS)
  • Degrees: Bachelor

You can get started on a new career with Institute of Technology.

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit our website at www.iot.edu/disclosure

  • Programs: Industrial Maintenance and Automated Technology
  • Degrees: Certificate
Milan Institute

Prepare for an exciting new career at the Milan Institute.

  • Programs: Electrician, Oil and Gas Instrumentation Technician
  • Degrees: Diploma

Work toward your graduate degree with New England College Online.

  • Programs: MS in Management/Project Management
  • Degrees: Master

Earn your degree or diploma on your schedule and succeed at Ashworth College.

  • Programs: AutoCAD
  • Degrees: Diploma

Earn your graduate degree online with Northcentral University.

  • Programs:
  • Degrees:
ABCO Technology
Los Angeles

ABCO Technology is an accredited computer training academy that offers diploma programs for individual students, professionals and companies to learn different areas of Information technology and seek gainful employment.

  • Programs: PMP, Project Management
  • Degrees: Certificate

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota's Online Master's Programs

At Saint Mary's, we take pride in offering online graduate degrees designed to complement the schedules of working adults like you. Get an affordable, convenient education from a top-ranked university that's grounded in real-world applications.

  • Programs: Master of Science in Project Management
  • Degrees: Master
Matching School Ads
You are visiting:

Find a school near you

What are Career Stories?

Career Stories are concise, real-world career overviews written by people relating their personal career experiences and wisdom. They provide invaluable insights and mentoring advice to students and career changers.

Most stories include:

  • a typical day or project
  • tips and advice
  • best and worst parts
  • educational background
  • previous experience

Browse hundreds of Career Stories

More Details On This Career

Please also see our detailed information about Architects, including:

Back to Top