As architecture graduates nationwide struggle with low employment rates, the University’s Department of Architecture has taken steps to ensure that its alumni are armed with a diverse skill set for an increasingly challenging job market.
Due to changes first implemented in the fall of 2010, students are now required to learn architecture software earlier in their undergraduate careers. Additionally, they are now required to take electives outside the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.
These changes follow the National Architecture Accreditation Board’s decision to increase the number of out-of-college credits necessary to graduate to 45, according to Prof. Mark Cruvellier, chair of the Department of Architecture.
Both Cruvellier and architecture student Karen Chi-Chi Lin ’13 said this change will help students by providing them with a broader array of talents.
“The older kids focused more on theory, history and analysis kinds of things,” Lin said. “Now they’re changing the curriculum so that the requirements are loosened and architects are required to take more out-of-college credits. They have a broader selection of what they’re learning.”
While figures are not available by department, preliminary results from the Class of 2011 Postgraduate Survey indicate that recent alumni of AAP have the lowest employment rate of any of Cornell’s seven colleges.
About 40 percent of recent AAP graduates reported that they were neither employed nor enrolled in graduate school several months after earning their degrees — approximately twice the average of respondents across the University. By contrast, only 11 percent of recent graduates from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and only 15 percent of recent graduates from the School of Hotel Administration reported that they were neither employed nor enrolled in graduate school.
Additionally, according to a Jan. 5 blog post by The New York Times titled, “Want a Job? Go to College, and Don’t Major in Architecture,” architecture majors reported one of the highest unemployment rates of all college graduates. About 14 percent of undergraduates and about eight percent of graduate students in the field were unemployed, according to statistics The Times gathered from 2009 to 2010 census data.
Some students, such as Michael Lee ’11, have adapted to the grim job prospects in the U.S. by working overseas. Lee and three other Cornell architects founded a design collective in Berlin, Germany.
Lee said many of his peers are having trouble finding jobs in the field.
“A lot of my classmates have only had internships or very small undefined contracts,” Lee said. “Finding a full-time position is increasingly difficult in the architecture world.”
Architecture major Lin said that, at a recent dinner she attended with 12 Cornell architects who graduated two to five years ago, only one or two had jobs with firms. The rest, she said, were self-employed.
Lin said that self-employment is popular among architects. Many hold temporary jobs and are unsure of whether they will be continuing their current work in two to three years, he said.
“People just don’t know [and] I think that definitely adds different kinds of stress and anxiety,” Lin said. “Architecture just doesn’t have the same stability that my other friends [in different majors] have.”
However, some students said that they remain confident their architecture degree will provide them with an important base for finding jobs.
“It’s easy to graduate with a degree in architecture but then go into graphic design, interior design, lighting design or something else like that,” architecture major Carly Dean ’14 said. “It’s definitely a good foundation degree.”
Dean added that, despite some concerns over the job market, she would not change schools.
“I’ve never chosen architecture as a field of study based on how much I’ll get paid,” Dean said. “We all love what we do so much that it really doesn’t bother us. I would never consider switching majors.”