8 Myths About Architects

Myth #1:  I can’t afford an architect.

This is number one because it is the most mis-understood. An architect will make your budget his or her best friend and will negotiate to get the best materials and the best workmanship for a good price. More bang for your buck. An architect will not only advocate for your budget but will also design to reduce the life costs of energy consumption and maintenance. They spend time planning to avoid costly changes during construction by anticipating problems and solving them before they are a problem. All for what you might pay in sales tax for the project.

Myth #2: Architects make a lot of money.

Why is it that architects always get lumped with doctors and lawyers? Maybe the extent and intensity of education can be relatively as lengthy and costly for the three, but it certainly can’t have to do with how we are compensated.  As of the date of this post an intern architect makes between $40k and $60K annually. When I started in 1997 I took $27K as a starting salary. Looking back I could have probably held out for something north of $30k. Depending on the area of specialty, a doctor can start somewhere between $160k and $250K annually. After 16 years I haven’t even scratched at the low end of a doctor’s starting pay.  There are a few architects who make a comparable salary, but there’s only about 5 or 6 of them.

Myth #3:  Architects only do drawings.

We also do:

  • Energy analysis
  • Site selection
  • Interiors
  • Flooring selection
  • Color selection
  • Cost analysis
  • Restore old buildings
  • Update old buildings
  • Design and build new buildings
  • Find a skilled craftsman
  • Construction administration

Myth #4: Architects are for large complex and expensive projects.

Regardless of size and complexity, every project needs a thoughtful design. In fact a small project is likely going to have intricacies not found in larger more expensive projects. Such as tight budgets, lot restrictions, client restrictions or needs. The challenge of a smaller project can have inverse proportional affects that will need the expertise and guidance of an experienced architect.

Myth #5:  I have a deadline, I don’t time for an architect.

Deadlines? Architects have a very intimate relationship with deadlines, see myth #8. The term ‘charrette’ is a very common expression used in both classroom and office environments. An architect is trained to coordinate all the facets of a project and most have refined and streamlined a process to complete projects in time; regardless of the time constraints. The film industry has romanticized architects as deep thinkers who will contemplate a door knob for weeks. The truth is we are compelled by the same economics that propel most businesses, time is money. The most efficient way to get a project funneled through design, bidding, permitted and in the ground is through one single source. Architects are trained and experienced to coordinate the channels and expedite any project, whether it’s a small kitchen addition, large home or a high-rise in Times Square.

 Myth #6: All architects wear a black turtleneck.

In the movies, yes. Me? I’ve never owned a black turtleneck and have only met one colleague who did. Not sure what he’s wearing these days. Architects can be slightly eccentric but rarely do any care what they are wearing.  Usually just the normal business attire.

Myth #7: Frank Lloyd Wright is the most influential architect in the world.

He might be the only one you’ve ever heard of but he is certainly not the most influential. I have seen post holiday office parties where FLW gifts are re-gifted. Yes, every architect has likely received a FLW book, tie, or coffee mug from a relative. Some of the names that might circulate the circles of architects are:

  • Frank Gerhy
  • Filippo Brunelleschi (even though he was an engineer)
  • Alvar Alto
  • Robert A.M. Stern
  • Rem Koolhaas
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Michael Graves
  • Walter Gropius
  • Thomas Hastings
  • Louis Kahn
  • Le Corbusier (Probably the most influential architect… ever)
  • Renzo Piano
  • Michelangelo Buonarotti


Myth #8: Architects get plenty of sleep.

“Time is a hunter that requires no sleep” is usually my response when told I need more sleep. See Myth #5 above. But in our defense it is more about the passion for our work then it is about time management. Ideas beget ideas, and those ideas beget more ideas and they all need to be explored and tested. Get it? Good, I’m going to go take a nap.


photos used w/ creative commons license


  1. Tamara says:


    I googled ‘Myths About Architects’ and your site came up. I am a second semester Architecture student and I am having second thoughts, I do not have a passion for it, but my professors says that I have “a tremendous amount of ability” and “that there is a lot of talent and intelligence” in me. So, my question is, how is “a life of an architect”, I feel like if I don’t like it now, would I like it later? How far should I go before I decide to drop? I’m afraid of regretting it. Do architects make a lot of money? I know some of them do, but I mean what does it take for an architect to make lots of money?

    Tamara Awad

  2. Tamara,

    Out here, far away from the glamor and romance of the university architecture studio, a jaded architect who does this for the money will say “RUN!”, and then while flailing about he or she will rant negatively about what we do. Another architect in the same room who does this for reasons not related to money will stand up and say “Wait a minute, before you go…”, and proceed to talk you to death about his passion for what he does. It’s a personal preference but success, whether it’s being happy or wealthy, at any level will require passion… and patience.

    But like any career you have to determine what YOU want out of it AND what you want to do with it. Being an architect can be frustrating and lonely. No one really understands what we do and can’t see the value unless their project requires a stamp. Some architects do not feel rewarded unless they get that big paycheck, and for them the frustration will likely cause weariness and resentment, wishing they chose a more financially rewarding career. That’s not to say an architect can’t make a lot of money. Those who do are likely doing something in addition to designing and building, such as real estate development. Those architects who are indeed able to break into the 1% by doing only architecture will tell you that it takes hard work, mind numbing patience, days and days without sleep and countless unappreciative bosses and clients. But they are probably a peace and comfortable with their choice, fueled by their passion to create places for people to live, work, play and pray. A couple of dream clients that we all search the horizon for tend to help as well. However, this breakthrough in the careers of what the industry calls “starchitects” is not likely to occur at all for most of us, if one does reach that level of success it will not be until he or she begins to approach the age of 50.

    If by your 2nd year you are not waking at 5am and rushing to your studio to study and test an idea, on a project that will never be built, working for what seems like just a few hours only to realize that the sun is rising and it’s the day after tomorrow. Then it might be time to explore some options. The talents that you use to design a composition of rooms, or buildings are not relegated only to architecture. Right brain thinkers are also found in fashion, film making, mechanical engineering (designing cars, door knobs or toys… not HVAC systems), even software engineers and entrepreneurs need that level of creativity. If you have not found your passion don’t sweat it, your young. Stay where you are for awhile, see where it takes you.

    But don’t take just my word for it. There are other bloggers out there who are architects. See what they have to say…
    Coffee With an Architect
    Think Architect
    Life of an Architect

    Good luck!

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