Start to Be an Architect in High School

Bottom Line - Learn as Much as Possible and Develop Good Habits

overhead photo of young architects at a table filled with architectural tools
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Architecture is usually not part of a high school curriculum, yet the skills and discipline needed to begin a career as an architect are acquired early on. Many paths can lead to an architectural career — some roads are traditional and others are not.

College is the traditional route. While still in high school, you should plan a strong college preparatory program, because you will want to go to a university to become a registered architect.

An architect is a licensed professional, like a medical doctor.  Although architecture was not always a licensed profession, most of today's architects have been to college.

High School Courses to Prepare for College

Humanities courses will sharpen your communication skills and your ability to put ideas into words and concepts into historic context. Presentation of a project is an important business aspect of the profession and vital when working in a team of professionals.

Math and science courses help develop problem-solving techniques and logic. Studying physics will get you familiar with important concepts related to force, such as compression and tension. Tensile architecture, for example, "stands up" because of tension instead of compression. The PBS website for Building Big has a good demonstration of forces. But physics is old school — necessary, but very Greek and Roman. These days you want to know about the changes in Earth's climate and how buildings must be built to stand up to extreme weather above the Earth's surface and seismic activity below.

Architects must keep up with building materials, too — how does this new cement or aluminum affect the environment during its entire life cycle? The research in the growing field of Materials Science affects a broad range of industries.

Art courses — drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography — will be helpful in developing your ability to visualize and conceptualize, which are both important skills to an architect.

Learning about perspective and symmetry is invaluable. Drafting is less important than being able to communicate ideas through visual means. Art history will be a lifelong learning experience, as movements in architecture often parallel visual art trends. Many people suggest that there are two avenues to an architecture career — through art or through engineering. If you can have a grasp of both disciplines, you'll be ahead of the game.

In summary, devise your high school course of study to include:

  • English, history, and other humanities subjects
  • mathematics and science, including physics and geometry, but also trigonometry, algebra, pre-calculus, and the Earth sciences
  • art, such as sketching and sculpting, art history, and visual arts related to presentation

Elective Courses to Take in High School

In addition to required courses, the optional classes you choose will be extremely helpful in preparing for a career in architecture. Computer hardware is less important than knowing about how software works and what you can do with it. Consider the simple value of keyboarding, as well, because time is money in the business world. Speaking of business, think about an introductory course in accounting, economics, and marketing — especially important when working in your own small business.

Less obvious choices are activities that promote cooperation and consensus. Architecture is a collaborative process, so learn how to work with many different kinds of people — groups that have common objectives to attain the same goal or make one product. Theater, band, orchestra, chorus, and team sports are all useful pursuits...and fun!

Develop Good Habits

High school is a good time to develop positive skills that you will use your entire life. Learn how to manage your time and get your projects done well and promptly. Project management is a huge responsibility in the architect's office. Learn how to get it done. Learn how to think.

Keep a Journal of Travel and Observations

Everyone lives somewhere. Where do people live? How do they live? How are their spaces put together compared with where you live?

Examine your neighborhood and document what you see. Keep a journal that combines sketches and descriptions. Give your journal a name, like L'Atelier, which is French for "the workshop." Mon Atelier would be "my workshop." Along with art projects you may do in school, your sketchbook could become part of your portfolio. Also, take advantage of family travel and be a keen observer of your surroundings — even a water park has organizational design and color, and Disney theme parks have loads of different architecture.

What Others Say

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture suggests that "Aspiring architects should learn as much as possible about the field of architecture, by talking to architects and by visiting architectural offices." When you have a research project for a humanities course, keep in mind the profession of architecture. For example, a research paper for English Composition or an interview project for History are good opportunities to get in touch with architects in your community and research historic architects of the past and present.

Architecture Camps

Many schools of architecture, both in the U.S. and abroad, provide summer opportunities for high school students to experience architecture. Talk with your high school guidance counselor about these and other possibilities:

What if You Don't Want to Go to College?

Only registered architects can put "RA" after their names and really be called "architects." But you don't have to be an architect to design small buildings. Maybe being a Professional Home Designer or Building Designer is what you really want to do. Although all of the courses, subjects, and skills listed here are equally valuable to the Professional Home Designer, the certification process is not as rigorous as licensure to become an architect.

Another avenue to a career in architecture is to seek a career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The USACE is part of the U.S. Army but also hires civilian employees. When talking with an Army Recruiter, ask about the Army Corps of Engineers, in existence since the American Revolution. George Washington appointed the first engineer officers of the Army on June 16, 1775.

Learn More

A book such as The Language of Architecture: 26 Principles Every Architect Should Know by Andrea Simitch and Val Warke (Rockport, 2014) will give you the scope of what an architect needs to know — skills and knowledge that are not always obvious in the profession. Many career advisors mention "hard" skills like math and "soft" skills such as communication and presentation, but what about tropes? "Tropes build connections between many aspects of our world," write Simitch and Warke. Books such as these help you make connections between what you learn in class. For example, you learn about "irony" in English class. "In architecture, ironies are most effective in challenging beliefs that may be entrenched, or in overturning formal complexes that have been overcome by facile interpretations," write the authors.

Other useful books for students interested in a career in architecture are the "how-to" types of books — Wiley publishers have a number of career-oriented books, such as Becoming an Architect by Lee Waldrep (Wiley, 2014). Other handy books are ones written by real, live, practicing architects, such as Beginner's Guide: How to Become an Architect by Ryan Hansanuwat (CreateSpace, 2014).

Source

  • "High School Preparation," Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture at https://www.acsa-arch.org/resources/guide-to-architectural-education/overview/high-school-preparation [accessed March 23, 2014]
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Craven, Jackie. "Start to Be an Architect in High School." ThoughtCo, Oct. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/architect-subjects-to-take-high-school-175939. Craven, Jackie. (2017, October 24). Start to Be an Architect in High School. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/architect-subjects-to-take-high-school-175939 Craven, Jackie. "Start to Be an Architect in High School." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/architect-subjects-to-take-high-school-175939 (accessed December 17, 2017).