Architecture vs Engineering: Career ROI

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Updated: February 27, 2024, Reading time: 10 minutes

Architecture vs Engineering - featured image

The career returns on investment among architects, and engineers are among the highest among professions for many reasons! For one thing, both professionals are vital in the construction industry.

The construction industry itself has been on a meteoric rise since 2021, thanks to legislative actions and the need for construction in diverse industries. The North American construction industry has a CAGR of 4.82% (2024-2029), meaning more jobs for architects and engineers. 

For another thing, the overall employment and median annual wage for architecture and engineering occupations contribute to excellent returns for these professionals. According to the Labor Statistics data, overall employment for these occupations will grow faster than average with about 188,000 job openings on average every year.

These occupations also earn nearly twice as much as the median wage for all occupations – $83,700 versus $46,310 per year, respectively. 

Which one is the better choice for you? You must first know their basic similarities and differences for an initial evaluation. 

In terms of similarities, both architects and engineers must possess strong math, science, and technology skills, as well as analytical thinking abilities, leadership and teamwork skills, and management capabilities. Both professions also work with a wide range of professionals, including construction managers, urban and regional planners, and interior designers. 

Architects oversee the overall design and planning of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, including homes, office buildings, and skyscrapers. Their work is more focused on the pre-construction stage, which usually requires more in-office work than fieldwork. 

There are many types of engineering specializations and career paths. For the purpose of this article, we are featuring engineers whose scope of work includes the entire creation-to-completion process.

They oversee transportation and utilities infrastructure projects like bridges, roads and highways, and reservoirs. Their work involves more fieldwork because their physical presence is typically required onsite for troubleshooting and progress-tracking purposes. 

A Quick Look at Their Differences

Read on for more information about choosing between being an architect or an engineer, if you’re deciding on a graduate program. Note that when we say “engineers” in this article, we’re referring to civil engineers. 

Average Annual Salary$82,840$89,940
Projected Job Growth5% (2022-2032) or 8,200 openings per year5% (2022-2032) or 21,200 openings per year
Licenses/Certifications RequiredYesYes
Primary DutiesArchitects plan and design residential, commercial and industrial structures.Engineers create engineering plans and supervise the construction and maintenance of civil engineering projects, including buildings, transportation infrastructure projects, and sewage and water systems.

What Does an Architect Do?

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Architects are responsible for planning and designing the places that we live, work, and play in, as well as the places we shop, eat, and rest. Their professional services are then vital in the design of both public and private spaces, as well as outdoor and indoor spaces. 

While your specific roles and responsibilities as an architect will vary depending on your organization and position, your main duties can include: 

While architects are usually more focused on the pre-construction stage, their work isn’t actually completed until the construction costs have been fully paid, the required tests have been performed, and the clients are satisfied with the outcome. 

Such is the respect and recognition given to architects that we can name many famous architects whose iconic works are still standing for us to enjoy today! Frank Lloyd Wright (Guggenheim Museum), Antoni Gaudí (Sagrada Família), I.M. Pei (Bank of China Tower), and Zaha Hadid (Guangzhou Opera House) are a few of the greatest architects of our time. 

The most successful architects possess specific technical skills learned from their formal education and hands-on learning experiences, such as through internships and fieldwork.

These hard skills include proficiency in design software (e.g., Revit and AutoCAD), technical drawing and drafting, and building codes and regulations. They must also possess a competent understanding of structural engineering, environmental sustainability, and construction and project management. 

Transferable skills are a must, too, and these can be developed alongside technical skills. If you’re interested in becoming a successful architect, you must focus on your analytical, organizational and visualization skills. You should be creative and have excellent communication and collaboration skills. 

Architect Education and Career Paths

Becoming an architect starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from an accredited college or university. Note that 35 states require that aspiring architects possess an architecture degree from an NAAB-accredited school for licensure purposes.

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) has, to date, accredited 175 programs, such as Texas Tech University and the Academy of Art University. 

There are currently three levels of education for architects, You can earn either a five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) undergraduate degree OR a four-year pre-professional Architecture (B.S.Arch) undergraduate degree.

A Master of Architecture (M.Arch) program allows students to pursue advanced learning in management and infrastructure planning. In consists of three tracks:

A Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch) degree can pursue top-level positions and take on academic teaching roles. Notably, the D.Arch from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa offers the only NAAB-accredited post-graduate program of its kind.

Every state has its specific licensing requirements for architects – check the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) for more information. However, every state architectural registration board requires the completion of a lengthy paid internship for architecture graduates to qualify for the Architect Registration Examination.

Most architecture graduates complete the 3-year internship through the NCARB-administered Architectural Experience Program (AXP). 

Once you have passed the Architect Registration Examination, you can apply for licensure in your state. Keeping your architect license can also mean engaging in continuing education, such as attending workshops and conferences. Architects enjoy career advancement, too, such as by becoming architectural and engineering managers. 

A career in Architecture is for you if: 

A career in Architecture is not a great fit if: 

What Does an Engineer Do?

What Does an Engineer Do - Image

Engineers are present in all stages of the construction project and, in many cases, even after the construction has been completed! Their professional expertise and experience are vital in planning and designing, building from the ground up, and repairing diverse structures.

There are also projects where engineers are only involved in specific stages of the project, such as the construction stage. 

In general, they: 

Engineers also collaborate with other construction professionals, such as architects, urban and regional planners, and construction managers as well as construction workers. Such is the wide range of collaborative efforts that engineers must be involved in that their communication, collaboration and interpersonal skills must be topnotch for them to be successful! 

Note that engineers can choose to be generalists or specialists. Civil engineers, in particular, can choose to specialize as construction engineers, geotechnical engineers, transportation engineers, and structural engineers. 

No matter if you choose to become a generalist or a specialist, you must possess specific technical skills to become a successful engineer. Your competencies should include surveying and mapping, use of CAD software and technical drawing and drafting, finite element analysis, and risk assessment and safety.

Engineer Education and Career Paths

Earning a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering is the typical path for aspiring civil engineers. We suggest earning the bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited program; the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) accredits post-secondary programs in engineering and related other fields. Michigan Technological University, Tennessee Tech University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are a few examples. 

If you have already earned a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, you’re not required to obtain a professional license as an entry-level engineer. However, if you’re planning on providing direct services to the general public, a professional license is a must. In this case, you should apply for a Professional Engineer (PE) license for the right to be called a Professional Engineer. 

The main requirements for a PE license include: 

Every state has its licensure requirements, too, meaning you must ask your state licensing board for more information. You may also be required to meet continuing education requirements to maintain your PE license. 

Aside from the PE license, you can also earn professional certifications to demonstrate your specialist expertise. Examples include: 

If you want more career advancement opportunities, such as when you’re planning on executive positions or college teaching positions, you can also pursue a Master’s in Engineering. You can also pursue a Doctorate in Engineering, which can either be research-focused (Doctor of Science or Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering) or application-centric (Doctor of Engineering).

A career in Engineering is for you if:

A career in Engineering is not a great fit if:

Architecture vs Engineering - fact

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