July 09, 2012 AdminHBA Design, Wisdom (Lessons Learned)

Architecture Unemployment: A Reaction

Study models created by an HBA employee during design studio at Virginia Tech

A recent publication from Georgetown University entitled “Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal” shed light on some harsh realities that recently graduating college students have to face.  Relevant to our profession, recently hired Architecture graduates are staring down the possibility of losing their jobs to the tune of 13.9% unemployment, the highest number in the publication.  The article rightfully notes that the effect of the collapse of the construction market is the prime culprit of the rate of unemployment among recent architecture graduates.  The NY Times took the story and ran with it.  This brings our profession into sharp focus for a soon to be college student looking for a major.

While these reports are tough realities today, I don’t think the unemployment rate should demean the education itself.  Going through an architecture program at any university prepares one for more than just designing buildings, though of course that’s the end goal of any prospective architecture student.  An education in architecture at its basic level is an education in problem solving and creative thinking, of communication and presentation.  These skills will serve a graduate well in any field they move into, whether it’s architecture, graphics, mass media, industrial design, or even politics, as a class mate of mine dabbled in for a while.

The challenge with an Architectural education is that there are so many things to cover in a relatively short span of time.  The fundamentals of design are what enable people to mentally grow and explore, to push the boundaries of what’s possible.  These are a precious few years that start a young person down the design path with open eyes.  While aspects of business know-how are important, most interns don’t come out of school needing to know how to run the company, as those skills can and will be learned over their career.

Yes, it’s still a bit bleak in the realm of architectural work at the moment, but as has happened in the past there are ups and downs in the economy (and hence profession) and things will turn around.  The profession needs new people to join and help it evolve and grow into the future.  Shelter will remain one of the most basic necessities of life, and at the simplest level architects provide it.

  Tee Ellis