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Pay Tuition or Get Paid?

This time of year in San Luis Obispo hundreds of architecture students are preparing for a new semester/quarter in college. Many students have feelings of excitement and fulfillment, while others have feelings of frustration and resentment. I have been in college for three years now and have seen friends graduate with degrees as well as drop out with lots of debt. Too often I talk to students who seem to have no purpose at a college, and are simply there because it’s a natural stepping stone to “figure it out”, whatever “it” may be. I am now going to highlight some pros and cons of studying architecture at a college versus working for an architect and learning the trade. This should be helpful for anyone in college, thinking about studying at college, or knows someone who wants to apply.

COLLEGE DEGREE:

1. Attending college will allow you to surround yourself with hundreds of diverse minds and will allow you to learn many abstract ideas that are hard to develop individually or in the workplace . (PRO)

2. Most colleges require you to spend more than half your time in general education courses. Although those courses provide a solid foundation for you to be a well rounded person, students who know exactly where they want to be feel like it’s a waste of their time . (CON)

WORK EXPERIENCE:

1. Unfortunately design is a very small percentage of the business of architecture, but a large percentage of architecture school. Working in an office allows you to quickly familiarize yourself with industry specific vocabulary and real-world practices that are relevant to an architect’s day-to-day responsibilities.  It also allows you to see the bigger picture of how the various trades work together to complete a project. (PRO)

2. Unless you are constantly developing your creative & abstract talents, not attending architecture school might stifle the creative maturation, which is present through college programs. It is very common for someone to start working in an office as a full time drafter while others work on the design. This might make it harder for you to learn the fundamentals of design, while a college student can immediately participate in it for four to five years. (CON)

SUMMARY:

Both career routes are an excellent choice and one shouldn’t be looked down upon over the other. The best way to decide is to make a list of Pro’s and Con’s for your specific situation and consult with architecture students, professors – as well as architects in the field. I strongly believe a hybrid system is the best way to approach this career. This can be accomplished by regularly meeting with a mentor who is currently working in the field. This should also be combined with summer internships at an office. The combination of school and practical experience will give you a remarkable edge over your peers!

+ M. Farid Shahid
High school graduates throwing their mortarboards in the air
Image Courtesy Of: www.theatremusicdirectors.org
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