Career in Construction: Degree

Amy Sullivan reflects on studying architecture at university and what prospective students should consider when thinking about an architectural degree.

Before studying, I knew little about what a career in architecture entailed and struggled to find accessible information about it.  As I was the only architecture applicant in my school, my teachers were unable to help.  I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and it was by pure chance that I loved it.  This lack of transparency can become a barrier to people entering the industry.  As a result, I made a website – – with the vision of making architectural education more accessible to people from all walks of life.

This blog discusses the architecture undergraduate course from my personal experience and that of architecture students / graduates I have spoken to from universities across the UK, with the hope of helping others decide whether architecture is the route for them.

Career in Construction: Degree
A sample of Amy’s university work

Why study architecture?

The studio

Unlike on other courses, architecture students tend to have their own area of university, the studio.  In my opinion and that of many others, the studio is the best part of the course – spending every day in there with your course mates means you form amazing friendships.  It’s a place where everyone collaborates on ideas and techniques.  Our tutors told us at the start of university that we will learn as much from each other in the studio as we will from our lectures, and this was certainly true.  Architects work in a studio, rather than an office, so the studio prepares you for your future working environment.


Architecture students come out of university with a high level and varied skillset.  This makes them valuable to employers, which can be an advantage when finding fairly paid, enjoyable work.

Value for money

Architecture tends to involve regular one to one support from professors and architects, a permanent studio, printing facilities, a model making workshop and sometimes 3D printing, events / yearbooks to showcase student work, trips abroad and direct involvement with practicing local architects.  This helped me get my job at Ryder after graduating.

Career options

The course teaches skills that are applicable not only to becoming an architect, but also in wider fields such as graphic design, interior design and marketing, to mention a few.  The undergraduate course teaches you how to think creatively, as a designer, and problem solve.

Freedom and flexibility

Architecture is great if, like me, you are interested in a range of topics.  In school I loved art, maths, physics, geography, psychology, history… I didn’t want to have to choose one.  Architecture is all of these subjects and more.  I didn’t have to choose – I get to learn about all of them.  University design project and essay briefs are structured to allow you to pursue your own interests.

Career in Construction: Degree
Career in Construction: Degree

Common Misconceptions

Course length

People can be put off the course because it is renowned for being seven years long.  The traditional route is:

  • Three years of study
  • One year of work in practice
  • Two years of study
  • One year of work and study combined

In total, that’s five years of study and two in work.  Personally, I didn’t consider this a problem.  It is no different to time spent working upwards in any career, as very few people start at the level they intend to remain at for their whole career.  Many of my friends who studied other subjects also do further study, either to get a promotion at work or go into a more specialised area.

If it’s the full time study that seems off putting, there are other routes into architecture worth considering.  Some require as little as two years full time study and more time in work, earning money as you learn.  This includes PlanBEE, a campaign initiated by Ryder for change in Built Environment Education, and part time postgraduate apprenticeship courses.  These options tend to come with less, if any, student loans and could be considered the future of architectural education.

Architecture, art and design

Some of my friends who dropped out of the course realised that architecture wasn’t what they thought and transferred to engineering or surveying.  They had expected it to contain more maths and science – a reasonable assumption as maths and science are often considered core subjects that lead into architecture.  It is important to understand that the reason mathematical ability can be useful to an architect is because architecture is complex problem solving.  A successful floor plan is a complex solution and balance of many competing priorities, including views out, privacy, sun path, heat loss, convenience, acoustics, area requirements, budget, and structure.  Finding a solution requires the same kind of thinking required to solve a mathematical problem. However, it tends not to take the form of an algebraic equation.  Architecture is artistic and design based.  If art and design don’t interest you, then you could be more suited to other careers in construction, such as engineering, surveying or project management.

I graduated from undergraduate architecture at Northumbria University in July 2018.  Shortly afterwards, I started work at Ryder.  Ryder was my first choice of companies to work for due to its pioneering and people oriented design ethos and company culture. I have loved working with excellent designers on a variety of exciting projects, collaborating with industry experts, meeting clients, mentoring, giving back to the community and seeing one of my designs get built – Life Kitchen in Sunderland.  I hadn’t expected to experience so much in a year and would like to say thank you to everyone across Ryder for the support I have received and the many friendships I have made.  In September, I will be starting the degree apprenticeship, described in Ryan’s article of this series, to complete my architectural training whilst continuing to work at Ryder.

This is the final blog in the Career in Construction series, written by Ryder students at different points of their studies.  For more information on a career at Ryder, visit our Join Us page.


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