Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Hacking employment, improving work, professional development
Post Reply
super-moolah
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:33 am

Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by super-moolah » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:20 am

Does anyone have any insights into what working as an architect is like? Or do you know anyone who has tried to train in architecture or environmental engineering after a first degree in an unrelated subject?

I'm currently in my 3rd year of a 4 year humanities degree (literature/modern languages). I regret not choosing a course that allowed me to do some science, but I figure I had better just finish off my degree and graduate so I have something to show for it, since I only have one year left where I'll be eligible for a student loan towards my tuition fees (I study in the UK). An alternative would have been switching to another course slightly more related to a career but it would probably mean doing another 2 years of study and I don't know how I'd fund it or if I would be told to repay some of my student loan early.

I got the ideas of architecture and environmental engineering from doing some careers counselling. They seem to have relative good pay and don't seem to be 100% boring typical desk jobs which I might have otherwise got stuck in. Here's my thoughts on the two:
* In terms of Architecture, I know that it's perhaps not compatible with the idea of 'early retirement' as such, given the long training period. It would mean having to re-train in it from scratch, but I found an option where I could do some on-the-job training to get the first of the three degrees needed, which seems quite cost-effective as I'd have a salary and it's much cheaper per year than doing a second undergrad degree. :D
* Then there's Environmental Engineering, which sounds really interesting too, and well paid, but seems it would be hard to switch to it from a humanities/arts degree. I have found some Masters degrees in things like Sustainability and similar things which don't require a scientific Bachelor's degree, but I have a feeling they might not necessarily lead to Engineering jobs.

Oh and I also considered Law, which I haven't looked into much yet but it doesn't sound as interesting to me. I'm still researching these careers, and looking to do some shadowing or internships in relevant companies to see which kind of environment I like best. I think that if I like any of them enough, I would look into how to train myself and then just get started, as I really want a career I would be satisfied with, so that I don't die of boredom along the way in the quest to 'making a living'. Plus, I haven't yet decided if early retirement is for me since I don't know what I would do with all my time post-retirement, but I do wonder also, whether these two kind of jobs would leave early-ish retirement open as an option to me or not...

P.S., I feel like I need to be posting this on some kind of other forum more focused on careers or studying or something, but I'm just curious about the views of the ERE community on this, since I'm still trying to gather information and opinions since it's such a big choice to make :lol:

User avatar
Dream of Freedom
Posts: 391
Joined: Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:58 pm
Location: Nebraska, US

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by Dream of Freedom » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:30 am

Have you considered teaching? Sounds like a way to use the degree you've worked toward with only a little more education.

chenda
Posts: 1119
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:17 pm

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by chenda » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:58 am

I work in the UK in town planning so I'll give you my take on this. I did a history degree, regretted not doing architecture for a long time, ended up doing a masters in Planning and Sustainability. With hindsight, I am glad I didn't go into architecture but I am glad I went into the built environment, which is a good area to work in. Its very diverse, relatively well paid, and often lends itself to flexible working, part time, contract, public or private etc. And your not stuck in an office all day.

As you probably know, most buildings are not designed by architects, and there are no post-graduate routes into the profession aside from the lengthy office-based route. (IMO, its a overy elitist profession which should become more accessible, but thats another thing) It is quite competitive, and I hear a lot of people with architect degrees end up not working as architects.

Town plannning, as a planning officer or private sector consultant, is very much like being a solicitor with some design elements thrown in. You'll need good verbal reasoning skills as you'll be arguing various nuances of plannning law e.g. is this piece of land residential curtilage or not ? Is this proposed dormer window sufficiently subservient in scale and character to the host dwelling to comply with Policy XYZ of the local plan ? To get a flavour read up on some planning officer reports at your local authority and see if it interests you. A lot of people will find this horrendously boring, but if you have got a legal mind it might suit you. Just don't think you will be actually designing anything.

Aside from that there are numerous other careers which are worth considering. Landscape Architecture, which I've considered moving into, is much more accessible that architecture and is very design based. There are also vocational routes into the profession. If you want something more science based, ecologist or arboriculturist is an option - the latter at least can be a trained via NVQs and doesn't need a degree (not sure about ecology)

I don't know much about engineering but I would imagine you would need to start all over again from undergraduate level ? As you've already committed to a humanities degree I am tempted to say you consider a profession which allows a vocational training route (your degree will definitely make this a lot easier) or at least just a post-graduate qualification. Perhaps town planning if you like law, landscape architecture if you want to design and arboriculturist/ecologist if you want something more science based.

If you can get some work experience at your local planning department it should give you an overview of some of the various roles.

super-moolah
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:33 am

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by super-moolah » Mon Apr 22, 2019 1:21 pm

Thanks for the replies!

@Dream of Freedom: Yes I have considered teaching as a backup but I don't really want to go straight into a teaching career. I am thinking of doing some tutoring before I complete my degree though, for the experience and to put the skills from my current degree to use.

@chenda: It's interesting to hear how you went from history to doing town planning. I think it could possibly interest me, and it's good to know that it is of interest to people who like law. I should definitely look into it further, especially if it can be more flexible than some other jobs. It might be quite interesting to do work experience in that area, thanks for the suggestion.
Landscape architecture sounds really interesting! It's funny that it would be more accessible than architecture, and I do have an interest in nature generally so will look into it. Oddly, though, I think being an ecologist or arboriculturalist might be a bit *too* outdoorsy-focused for me (but perhaps not so for ecology, on the research side; I'll look into it, but I just get that impression). The idea of climbing trees as an arboriculturalist sounds fun though haha (just perhaps not so much if it was in the blazing sun). And yes I do think engineering would mean starting again, so it's great to have other ideas to consider.

Colibri
Posts: 39
Joined: Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:26 am
Location: Northern Canada

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by Colibri » Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:54 pm

Hello,

I work in architecture here in Canada. Just my 2 cents of advices :

Depending if you work for a big firm or self-employed, being an architect is about 25% design \ creative work and about 75% of researching and project management (dealing with crooked contractors, difficult clients, fighting with the city to have the building permit, controlling budget...etc...). Maybe that is not what you have in mind ?
I agree that landscape architecture might be more balanced in terms of creative work vs office b.s. and you get to be outside more often.

platypus
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:19 pm

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by platypus » Mon Apr 22, 2019 10:15 pm

I want to apologize in advance for sounding like the prophet of doom.
super-moolah wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:20 am
Does anyone have any insights into what working as an architect is like?
No. Alas, neither do either of my friends who graduated with their bachelors in architecture. It appears to be a rather difficult field to break into.
super-moolah wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:20 am
* Then there's Environmental Engineering, which sounds really interesting too, and well paid, but seems it would be hard to switch to it from a humanities/arts degree. I have found some Masters degrees in things like Sustainability and similar things which don't require a scientific Bachelor's degree, but I have a feeling they might not necessarily lead to Engineering jobs.
You're right that the masters in sustainability won't get you an engineering job. Environmental engineering is an intriguing one. Aaron Clarey wrote it off as a useless degree in Worthless, but environmental engineering jobs do exist. I know chemical plants typically have an environmental engineer who basically makes sure all the production engineers (mostly chemical and mechanical) don't violate any environmental laws. I'm not sure what the job market as a whole is like for them; but there don't seem to be many positions open for environmental engineers in the industries I'm familiar with.
super-moolah wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:20 am
Oh and I also considered Law, which I haven't looked into much yet but it doesn't sound as interesting to me.

I don't know how it is across the pond, but the job market for JDs in the US is horrendous. There's a ton of people who graduate in liberal arts, realize there are unemployable as a philosopher or communicator, and end up in law school. Too many. Although lawyers can make a ton of money, most people who graduate with a JD won't.

A friend of mine graduated law school in the last few years, and he's now a senator's aide working for pennies as it's the only job he could find. His brother is a plumber and makes bank, go figure.

I suspect that trying to find the ideal career is a quest for El Dorado. In my experience the actual work matters very little, and the sort of people I'm working with matters quite a bit. Have you been working through college? Or have you worked full time before?

anesde
Posts: 60
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by anesde » Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:11 pm

Architecture is the sort of field that is very unbalanced. You have some celebrities at the top (“starchitects”) but most people with architecture degrees will end up not working in their field or getting paid very little in it. There are some niches if you want to be an entrepreneur but you need contacts and a good reputation before being able to do that.

Environmental Engineering is very broad - I would suggest narrowing down what it is you’re interested in. My degree is in Civil & Environmental Engineering but I focused on Structural, and only took a few EE classes. These focused on wastewater treatment, water treatment, etc. If you’re looking for an environmental compliance type role then you may need an EE degree for credibility, but I doubt you would really need anything you learned in school for that.

If your main focus is getting a job that isn’t office based I would suggest Construction Management. The field is generally split between buildings (encompassing high rises, airports, hospitals, schools, etc) and heavy civil (water treatment plants, highways, bridges, tunnels, etc). Many people in these fields have some type of engineering degree, but it’s not strictly required. Construction is heavily experienced based, so you start off making little but if you are capable opportunities tend to come quickly. You can easily rise up in 5-7 years to a more advanced, well paid position.

I worked in heavy civil construction for about 10 years before moving into infrastructure investment banking and the biggest benefit is the tangible aspect of the job. I got a lot of satisfaction on the progress, and the final product. Hours can be tough and conditions aren’t always the greatest (working out of trailers, or in remote locations). However, if you’re young, single and hungry to work it’s an excellent field for ERE. If you find the right opportunity you can have all of your accommodation paid for and sometimes even get a daily allowance. Note this only applies for off-shore or remote locations.

super-moolah
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:33 am

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by super-moolah » Wed Apr 24, 2019 6:52 pm

@Colibri, You make that sound very appealing... :D haha perhaps not. It's honestly hard to know how I'd deal with 'difficult clients' etc since I've not had to do so professionally yet, but it would be a bit odd if I pursued a career expecting one thing and then found out it wasn't what I expected. If landscape architecture is perhaps easier to get into I could look into that more instead, thanks.

@platypus, I'm in such an 'amazed optimist' mindset right now, thinking about all the interesting sides of different lifestyles and careers, that a good sprinkling of doom is probably what I need to help ground me a little. :)
I'm glad you commented on Law too because I keep feeling like 'maybe it will be useful...' but I really don't find it particularly interesting. Maybe I should look at specific areas of law instead of researching the field in general.. But I at least want the job I do to be somewhat interesting if I want a chance of sticking with something and making the most of the earning potential.
You're right though it is a difficult quest, it's easy to think maybe there's 'one true career' that has not yet been fully discovered, but everything has its drawbacks. Work experience will help to clarify things, I think, in terms of testing out the work environment as well as the work itself. In terms of if I've worked full time before, I'm actually doing an internship now in communications work as part of my degree. It started off full time but since it's in a startup, the hours have become more flexible over time, and it's pretty laid back. I purposely sought out a startup as I thought I'd prefer working with a small team but at times it can be a bit intense socially in its own way. There are some nice long lunch breaks sometimes though and fun moments that I somehow don't think I would expect from a 'typical' office, while the work itself is kind of easy. I haven't written off careers involving writing/communications to use my skills but I just want to see if there's anything I might find more fulfilling.

@anesde, yes Construction Management sounds interesting too, I'll add it to my list of further things to research, thanks.

I really appreciate the suggestions. So far I have found out that there are ways to study Town Planning as a graduate of 'any degree discipline', but for things like landscape architecture, arboriculture and construction management, I am assuming it would involve a mix of work experience and (in the UK) maybe an apprenticeship or something. I'm sure I'll find an answer on a careers site somewhere, whenever my next late-night careers research session will be. :D

chenda
Posts: 1119
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:17 pm

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by chenda » Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:03 am

A few years ago I spoke to a women called Poppy at the Landscape Institute who was very helpful https://www.landscapeinstitute.org

Also, wrt law there is definitely a massive glut of law graduates and finding a training contract is extremely difficult. You could look at doing the Legal Executive route, where you can become a solicitor without a law degree. Not that it will make finding a job any easier but it's worth looking at: https://www.cilexlawschool.ac.uk/study- ... lex-route/

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 11152
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by jacob » Thu Apr 25, 2019 7:38 am

DW graduated with a phd in env. sci. and her first job was as a senior scientist/project manager in an environmental engineering company that mainly did groundwater remediation (cleanups) around gas stations, dry cleaners, superfund sites, ... Her underling (technician) had a bachelors in env. eng. The technician's work mainly involved sampling (project manager arranges drill team, technician collects sample on site), monitoring, and remediation, that is, mostly field work.

Remediation meant driving a big-ass truck to the site and pumping fluid into the ground with one hose and extracting it with another after circling through some cleaning machinery on the truck. Think of sitting in an idling truck at a gas station or dry cleaner parking lot all day so you're there just in case something breaks (like a belt snaps or a hose pops off) and you got it. I don't know if the tech was involved in writing up any reports or whether they just wrote down some numbers on a checklist.

At the project manager level there was more paperwork (+report writing) and less equipment baby-sitting but otherwise much the same. Here the main issue was being stuck in between a client who wanted to pay as little as possible to get the various stamps and permits and "the city" who wanted as much done as possible and finding a compromise that left nobody happy :? As a clean environment is something of a luxury (why we outsourced most of our pollution to China and India) such jobs are mostly available where the economy is booming and in areas that are not economically depressed.

Jason
Posts: 2173
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2017 8:37 am

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by Jason » Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:08 pm

jacob wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 7:38 am
such jobs are mostly available where the economy is booming and in areas that are not economically depressed.
Environmental engineers are essential to the real estate landscape in NJ because it's assumed everything is contaminated. It's not just science, it's commerce. The ones who are the best deal makers are the most successful. It's shaping a scientific narrative in a way that at once can be understood by the layman and doesn't scare people off. Also, now that the sign-offs have been privatized, those with an LSRP designation are very important.

chenda
Posts: 1119
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:17 pm

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by chenda » Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:25 pm

@Jason This is true. Planning permissions here are often granted subject to ground contamination conditions, requiring desk top surveys, ground investigations, remedial works and verification reports. Hence an industry of private sector consultants providing these services to developers, who don't need to get their hands dirty. Archaeology consultants, acoustic engineers, drainage engineers, energy assessors, historic building experts...each one forms its own industry of professionals. Lots of options for the OP.

anesde
Posts: 60
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by anesde » Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:49 am

@Jason and @chenda

You’re both right but the OP should be aware of the type of work and ££ that it pays. I’ve worked in both NJ and UK alongside EE on contaminated construction sites and whilst the ultimate consulting companies charge a pretty penny, the onsite engineers/environmental scientists get paid very little.

Generally (like in most fields) consultants pay better the further up the chain you are, which tends to correlate with how much office work you do and more specifically, how much expert knowledge you have. The higher paid positions are in smaller consultancies which typically don’t hire/train new grads but rather poach experienced people (min 5-8 years experience). As a working man you get paid for how much expertise you bring.

Entrepreneurs can make out great here, but it requires the experience and industry connections to get started which again take time to build.

I’m not trying to put anyone off as this is the way the world works for many industries. However, if the OP’s primarily goal is to not be confined to an office and accelerate ERE it might not be the best. If however, the OP is genuinely interested in the environment and willing to enjoy the ride then it’s a fine career.

sky
Posts: 893
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: Architecture / Environmental Engineering

Post by sky » Fri Apr 26, 2019 5:48 pm

US work experience:

I have worked in urban planning and managed major environmental cleanup projects.

The people that I worked with that seemed to have the jobs that I would have liked to have had were landscape architects.

Urban planning: too much politics getting in the way of being a professional.

Environmental work: worrying what nasty stuff you are bringing home on the bottom of your shoes. And how much contaminated dust did you breathe today.

Post Reply