Architecture careers combine art and science into the design of spaces and environments. Architects determine needs for buildings and structures, transforming them into concepts for designs that are ultimately built by others. To accomplish this, architects create drawings, build scale models, write specifications, draft letters and other documents, and supervise architectural projects. They may also teach, conduct research, or provide consultation to building owners.
Urban development (or urban planning) careers revolve around the structure and function of cities. Urban planners tackle complex problems facing a region and develop strategies for future growth and development by helping to create a broad vision for the community. They also research, design, and develop programs; manage; lead public processes; perform technical analyses; effect social change; and educate. Some planners focus on one or two of these roles, such as transportation planning, but most will work at many kinds of planning throughout their careers. Urban planning can include: policy recommendations, comprehensive plans, smart growth, regulatory and incentive strategies, historic preservation, or redevelopment plans, economic development strategic plans, and disaster preparedness plans.
Design is interdisciplinary by nature, incorporating elements of various fields including engineering, technology, social science, media, and the arts to create the objects and tools we use everyday. Product or industrial design is a field attracting increasing attention, with pathways in user experience and interaction, product development, program management, consulting, and analysis among others. Some familiarity and experience with Computer Aided Design (CAD) and a background in engineering is often necessary to enter the field.
Architectural internship experiences for undergraduates are limited, as they are usually reserved for students earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree. If you are interested in learning more about the field of architecture, you may want to consider shadowing (or “externing”) with an architect to observe a typical work day. Alumni from the College or Graduate School of Design can be found through the Alumni Directory and are often willing to speak to undergraduates about career paths and preparation.
Urban development and planning internships are available in government, private sector, and nonprofit planning organizations. Students can obtain internships with cities, suburban communities, county planning agencies, and state and regional planning agencies. Opportunities exist with private planning consulting firms whose clients include municipalities, states, and developers.
Design firms typically seek juniors with engineering or technical concentrations for summer internships. Research or prior internship experience, in addition to class projects completed, are often helpful in the application process.
Most students will require a graduate degree before seeking a full-time job in the architecture and planning industries. Some administrative opportunities (e.g. office manager, assistant) do exist to gain exposure to the fields in advance of a graduate degree. While an undergraduate degree is typically the standard prerequisite for design jobs, a graduate degree in industrial design, engineering, or architecture is often required to advance beyond entry level opportunities.
Graduate and Professional Programs
A Master of Architecture degree is necessary for a career as an architect. Students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than architecture can apply for a M.Arch degree, a three-year program at most institutions. Common prerequisites for this degree include one semester of calculus, one semester of physics, two semesters of history of art or architecture, and some coursework in design or drafting.
A master's-level graduate degree is considered the standard for those interested in city/urban planning or development. To complete a degree in planning, students must be skilled in problem formulation, research skills, and data gathering; quantitative analysis and technology; communication; collaborative problem solving, plan-making, and program design. Upon completion of the degree, students will be prepared for careers in local, regional, and national government, as well as careers in auxiliary agencies, companies, and nonprofits.