According to a recent report from CNN, graduates with a major in architecture have an unemployment rate of 13.9 percent,
the highest among recent college graduates. For more experienced architects above the age of 30, the unemployment rate dips to 9.2 percent.
The study, conducted by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, suggests that the “collapse of the construction and home-building industries in the recession is to blame.” The article implies that architecture is currently a poor choice of major, but how accurately is the industry portrayed in the study?
“Architecture degree holders looking for work are a relatively small percentage of the overall college-educated job-seekers out there,” said architect and senior lecturer at UTSA’s college of architecture, Rick Lewis.
“I would suggest that the CNN’s premise is not really an apples to apples portrayal of the ways the various disciplines of higher education were grouped for the article.”
The two majors with the lowest unemployment rate, according to the study, were health care and education. The study points out that these areas have a wider variety of career paths that can easily transition from public service to private practice and sales.
“Human health and student educating are social priorities that can’t be deferred like the building of new works of architecture can be,” Lewis said. In other words, architects cannot work if there’s nothing to build.
So what does this mean for UTSA’s architecture majors? “Here in San Antonio and Texas in general, our graduates have fared better than much of the rest of the country,” Lewis said.
However, Lewis admits that local architecture and interior design firms—which once predominately provided graduates with internships and start-up jobs—have not been able to hire recent architecture graduates for durable or sustainable jobs due to the decline of demand. This leaves graduates having to settle for less attractive entry-level positions.
“I would be quick to add that this situation is not exclusive to UTSA graduates,” Lewis said. “By my impressions, graduates of all eight of Texas’ accredited schools of architecture are struggling to get and keep jobs, compared to the pre-recession economy of the southwest where most of our graduates have tended to live and work after college.”
With the job outlook looking bleak for aspiring architects, the college of architecture is enhancing its traditional architecture curriculum by offering additional credentials such as certificates in design, planning and preservation specializations.
“Such certificates serve to distinguish graduates’ educational backgrounds as they seek careers in everything from governmental public works to non-profit organizations,” Lewis said. “An additional career edge benefiting a growing number of our master’s degree students is being realized in the form graduate research assistantships by way of grants being awarded to professors within the college.
Lewis adds that such research experience is known to be conducive to helping graduates land that all-important first job out of school—experience always counts when seeking a job.
Architecture graduates who are unable to find work in their field may have to look to other options. Lewis suggests that the skills learned from a degree in architecture are easily transferrable to other fields.
“The prospect of post degree career latitudes most certainly exist with an architecture education viewed as one of the most diverse and demanding curriculums within any university,” Lewis said.
According to Lewis, a degree in architecture and related disciplines across the construction industry offers graduates many employment options in commercial and institutional development, general contracting, marketing and sales of building materials, as well as interior spatial appointments.
“Being flexible and opened minded is always the responsibility of the individual graduate in setting life goals, but it is safe to expect that in going forward, college students will have to become more creative in piloting their destinies—I would add that this observation is not exclusive to architects,” Lewis said.