A Crash guide to help you decide if architecture is right for you

Most adults have thoughts of becoming an architect while still in their childhood. These people usually liked math and art growing up and thought the profession was glamorous. In reality, it takes a special person to design buildings. If you are entering into college and are thinking about architecture, be sure to read through this article before making any decision.

1. Professional or Non-Professional Degree

In architecture, there are two different types of degree paths-the professional and non-professional. A professional degree typically takes five years and is more intensive than the non-professional degree. Opportunities to take classes outside of your design school will be minimal, but no additional schooling will be needed after graduation to become professionally licensed.

A non-professional degree typically takes four years to obtain. You will have opportunities to take classes outside your design school for fun or to minor or double major if desired. The non-professional degree is generally seen as being more balanced than the professional degree path. The easiest path to become an architect after a non-professional program requires two more years of school in an architecture graduate program.

2. College is a Commitment

Architecture is not your typical degree. Most college students spend college their weekends having fun and at times sprinkle in a little studying. Architecture students spend their weekends in studio and at times sprinkle in a little fun.

Your main course work is focused around intensive "studio" classes in which you will design a building throughout the semester. Teaching styles and assignments will vary, but you will typically go through a number of design exercises and analysis before you begin designing. By the end of the semester you will be expected to produce physical models and drawings that will convey your building's design to peers and other design professionals. Leading up to these "critiques," as they are commonly called, you will be lucky to sleep more than three or four hours a night if you want to complete all of your coursework.

3. Path to Becoming Licensed

If you still want to become an licensed after school, you will need to register with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and begin tracking the hours that you have worked in architecture. NCARB has a set of requirements that must be met before one is eligible to take the tests required to become a licensed architect.

These requirements constitute what is called the Intern Development Program (IPD), which seeks to create well-balanced candidates to become licensed. Typically, interns in the IDP program will take about two years to fulfill its requirements. To successfully complete the IDP program, interns must have a professional or graduate degree. Interns with only a non-professional degree must complete two more years of graduate school before being eligible to take the licensure tests through NCARB.

4. What to expect as an Intern

Life out of architecture school can at times be difficult. Just as in any new job, you will be lowest on the totem pole and will more than likely receive the tasks no one else wants to do. This usually means that you will be creating stair details and working on door schedules (a door schedule includes all of the doors in a project and notes every single thing you could ever think of about these doors). This is certainly not the case in every firm you may work at, but it is a very common occurrence for those new to the working world.

It is also important to note that oftentimes it is difficult to find a job in architecture. When the economy falls into recession, oftentimes the first thing to get cut is construction. Steady employment is now a rare thing to find. The Great Recession hit architecture especially hard with unemployment hitting over thirty percent.

5. Architecture will not make you rich

Popular opinion perceives architects to make a lot of money. While principals of firms often make into six figures, most architects will not make that much money until much later in life. Starting off, salaries can be expected around $30,000 a year with a yearly bonus and a three to five percent raise each year. Keep in mind, these figures all apply when the economy is positive. The starting salaries are subject to change with the economy, and a bad year will evaporate any chances of a bonus or raise.