28 May 2008

I love design but I probably should have gone to law school

So for the past couple of days I've been drooling over the news that Apple filed a patent to infuse their products with thin film of solar cells. If this is true and if we start to see Solar MacBooks in the near future.....well, I will probably achieve complete zen. (Nevermind that I have a perfectly functional MacBook Pro with a pretty new screen.....oh by the way, Apple can't recycle their own products yet, did you know that?)

Image courtesy of www.inhabitat.com, obviously

And this news is all fine and good, but the reality is that items like this are rarely within my price range. Has an architect or another designer ever told you about how little we make? No? Then you probably don't know one, because let me just clarify: the amount of money that an architect makes is quite often woefully inadequate in comparison to how much schooling we have to go through to achieve licensure in our profession. To get a law degree, you need about 7 years of school and then you study for a few months, and you take the Bar Exam, and then you get to start charging people an eye-popping hourly rate. To get an MBA, you need about 6 years of school and then, oh I don't know, go to Wall Street and start making piles of money. To get an MD, you need what, 8 years of school? Isn't some of that residency? I don't know how doctors work or how much they make because I freak out about blood and can't really pay attention to them for long, but I still think it's more than architects. Who, by the way, need at least 5-6 years of school (7 at the rate we're going), 3 years of internships, and after July, we need to take 7 exams to become licensed. (It used to be 9 but they "scaled back").

Don't get me wrong: I love what I do. I like living simply and I love the economy of IKEA as much as the next person. But it is awfully frustrating to realize that my hours of toil and research and careful planning to keep that roof from falling on your head are worth only a fraction of what a lawyer's time processing some paperwork is - according to the market, anyway. How did it get to be this way? Granted, designing a building takes a heck of a lot longer than defending or prosecuting a case, in many instances, but are we, as architects, too reliable? Are our practices and techniques too open for mimicry? Should we all start screwing up some buildings so we'll be paid at least on par with what entry-level attorneys make? Is desperation the path to earning a living wage?

I don't know where all of this came from. I guess now that I'm out of school I have plenty of time to think about these things. :o)


liz said...

hey! not all lawyers charge an eye popping rate!

i make 1/4 the salary many of my classmates are currently making

Bill said...

damn straight emily!

Laura said...

Using doctors as an example is a really poor choice. They have eight years of school (this may or may not include their internship) three to five years of their residency and for those who specialize you have another one to three years of fellowship. Baby docs (those right out of school) just like those fresh out of architecture school, hardly make any money. My friend only started making really money when she started her fellowship and by that point she was 35. Don't forget the obscene amount of student loans they take out and all the liability and malpractice insurance they have to pay on an annual basis. Doctors aren't as rich as everybody thinks they are.