7 Alternative Career Paths for Architects
Compared to most other professions, architects are uncommonly malleable– as creatives and problem-solvers, they are able to put on many hats and apply their skills to a variety of challenges.
The digital revolution, which intensified the sharing of knowledge and experience, has helped architects realize that pursuing interests, inclinations and passions that diverge from mainstream architecture can be a viable career path. The availability of, for example, books on new business models for architects, or new communication channels, has made a huge impact on how young graduates see their role in the AEC industry.
The convergence of technologies has also made a strong impact on the industry, allowing new generations of professionals to explore innovative ways of designing, building, managing and communicating architecture. Young practitioners and graduates now have a wide array of career options which allows freedoms rarely enjoyed by previous generations. We have compiled a list of 7 alternative career paths for architects which give them the opportunity to operate in the AEC industry beyond solely providing architectural design services.
#1 Product Designer
Providing architectural services usually takes a lot of time and requires a kind of reinvention with each new client. Those who recognize the importance of streamlining their work have discovered that productizing design services can make the strongest impact on the success of their businesses. This process can take architects along different avenues, one of them being the creation of material products for the AEC industry. Grizzle and Jonathan Junker, founders of Greypants are great examples of architects successfully building a business based on products. The company produces pendant lights made entirely of repurposed corrugated cardboard, with an extensive portfolio including public artworks, architectural installations and several lines of lighting, furniture, packaging designs sold throughout the world.
Another type of products architects can develop are digital products. These include e-books, online courses, as well as software and apps that can potentially revolutionize the AEC industry. There are numerous examples of architects creating successful SaaS (Software as a Service) companies and app startups, like Steven Burns, FAIA, developer of ArchiOffice, an office and project management software. Steven created the original version of the software to help run his own architectural firm and eventually joined BQE Software where he continued to develop the tool and where he currently works as Chief Creative Officer.
#3 Real-Estate Developer
It is common knowledge that architectural services account for a small percentage of a project’s total value. An increasing number of architects are interested in developing their projects from drawing board to building site, and shepherding the entire construction project themselves. This can be quite demanding and risky, but architects-turned-developers like Jonathan Segal are proof it can be done. Segal worked in several architecture firms before developing his first project at the age of twenty five. Today his company designs and builds all their projects, many among which have received numerous o accolades for their place-making and design qualities.
#4 Urban Entrepreneur
Architects can use their knowledge of design and construction to effectively develop entire urban areas for different uses. They have the background with allows them to study, research and foresee viable and sustainable urban development solutions that will benefit investors as well as local communities. This is a great way of combining the creative aspect of the discipline with a business sensibility. They can actively participate in innovating and developing their own communities and influence their socio-ecological aspects, and are often neighborhood-based civic entrepreneurs who organize civic crowdsourcing campaigns to solve local problems, introduce solutions like a local bike-sharing service, or develop waste to energy facility, for example.
#5 Graphic Designer
Architectural education, as flawed as it may be in terms of providing business knowledge, builds a high level of visual literacy in young graduates. They develop creative skills like drawing and photography which can make them excel in any type of visual communication of ideas and concepts. Graphic designers are often part of the advertising process in architecture. They create images, logos and diagrams that help potential clients to identify and remember projects and products.
#6 3D Visualization Artist
Most among the most successful 3D visualization artists are architects who decided to leave the design aspect of the profession and dedicate their time to its representation. The best Archviz artists understand both the creative and technical aspects of architectural projects, and can communicate the main concept of the design through often photo-realistic imagery. They can work for architecture studios and developers, as members of in-house 3D visualization teams or companies specialized in 3D rendering. Firms like DBOX evolved from creating exclusively 3D renderings to offering complete branding content, including images, brochures, posters and typography, for high-end residential and commercial projects.
#7 PR and Communications Specialist
As designers, architects have to communicate their ideas to professors at school, and later investors, clients, city officials and contractors. The communication skills can have a huge impact on how a specific project is perceived. This can become a great basis for a career in public relations and communications in architecture. This job requires establishing reliable and trusted relationships with press and media representatives, architects and many other players in the industry.
What other jobs do you think architects would be good at?
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