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What’s it really like to be an architect?

It’s a career where an eye for the finer details is a big plus, and a steady hand will serve you well. Becoming an architect is such a specific career choice that it holds a category all on its own, combining design, engineering, research and communication in one package.

So, what’s it really like to be an architect? Is it all about designing huge shiny skyscrapers and sprawling stadiums? Graduate architect, Aspin Campbell, finished her Master of Architecture at Deakin in 2015, and currently works at architecture firm, Bayley Ward, in South Melbourne. We asked her to fill us in.

You finished your masters degree in 2015. Where to from there?

‘When you finish your masters, all the graduates are on an even footing because there’s also a registration process. You have to practice for a minimum of two years before you can get registered, and once you do, you can own your own firm, and sign off on drawings and projects.

I was lucky enough to get work with a firm in Melbourne that primarily does residential work. We do a combination of high end homes and single dwellings, as well as apartments and townhouses. Although most firms dabble in many different areas, they also often have an area of expertise – some are as specific as only doing aquatic jobs, or schools.’

What does an average day look like?

‘My day is always very varied, and that may be because I’m in a smaller firm. Sometimes I’ll work on four different projects in a day, I’m always flicking between bits and pieces. Bigger firms often have specific departments; you might work in town planning, or construction documentation, and I think there’s pros and cons to both small and large firms – it’s great to get a diversity of experience.’

Are there any qualities that you think future architects need to possess?

‘The number one thing is passion. I think you learn it at uni – you have to work and study so hard at university before you even get to the workforce, that you’ll know whether it’s the right thing for you pretty quick! You have to work long hours and be pretty engaged with it to get the job done, so being passionate is really important.’

'My day is always very varied, and that may be because I'm in a smaller firm. Sometimes I'll work on four different projects in a day.'

Aspin Campbell,
Bayley Ward

What are the biggest challenges you face?

‘You need to learn how to work efficiently, and choose your battles. Some people get bogged down in details that aren’t necessarily relevant to the bigger picture, but with architecture, you need to be thinking holistically the whole time. Being able to juggle priorities is also really important, particularly to be able to move up the ladder. That’s something that I learned in uni. It may sound odd, but I think I worked even harder at uni than I do now – and I know it’s usually the opposite!’

So, architecture isn’t for the faint-hearted?

‘Exactly. I think you have to also have a certain level of confidence in your ideas and projects, whether you’re presenting something to a client or consultant. If you don’t believe in it, they won’t either, so it’s important that you learn that skill early on.’

What do you love most about your job?

‘I love that it’s so diverse. Even though I spend a fair bit of time at my computer drawing, I also go to meetings and sites, and there’s that change of location as well as task. One of my favourite things is working with like-minded professionals, being around other people who are really passionate about the same thing as you. We’re all total architecture nerds; if I say to my colleagues, ‘’look at this window detail!’’, they’re going to be excited about it too.’

Interested in pursuing a career in architecture? Visit Deakin’s course and career search tool, Explore to find out more about the courses you could undertake to lead to a career in architecture. Or visit Deakin’s architecture discipline page.

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