Decoding Design

How does an architecture degree pay off?

How does an architecture degree pay off?

Posting in Architecture

A new study has architecture students worrying about their career choice. But their starting salaries, and prospects for graduate degree holders, may be more promising than expected.

In the last week, there's been a flurry of press warning college students that majoring in architecture might lessen their odds of finding a job after they graduate. The Washington Post published a piece titled "New study shows architecture, arts degrees yield highest unemployment"; The New York Times' Economix blog ran "Want a Job? Go to College, and Don't Major in Architecture." And posted "Unemployment Soars Among College Majors Like Architecture."

The catalyst? A new study released on January 5 by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, titled Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings: Not all College Graduates are Created Equal. The full report is available online as a PDF.

Yes, the Georgetown report shows very clearly that architecture has the highest unemployment rates for recent college graduates with that major (a whopping 13.9%) and for those with graduate degrees in that discpline (7.7%).

Still, one could look at the report's figures and suggest that getting a graduate degree in architecture offers better employment prospects than getting merely an undergrad degree in math or computer science, for which the unemployment rate is 8.2%.

And salaries for recent college grads with architecture degrees -- those who are fortunate enough to land a job -- are higher than those of a number of other majors. The average for just-minted architects with bachelor's degrees is listed as $36,000; while those of majors in the life sciences is only $32,000; those with law and public policy undergrad diplomas will receive on average $34,000 in yearly pay.

The highest paid recent college grads are engineering majors, who will see $55,000 pay checks right out of school, on average, beating computer and mathematics majors at $46,000. Business majors, perhaps surprisingly, will earn only $39,000--not much more than (employed) young architects.

Image: Wonderlane/Flickr

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure