November 3, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
University Of Nevada, Las Vegas
University of Idaho
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
The Catholic University of America
University at Buffalo – The State University of New York
Seminole State College of Florida
Rochester Institute of Technology
University of California, Davis
Kansas State University
College of Charleston
The Pennsylvania State University
Dak Kopec Ph.D.: Experience in the areas where one intends to practice. If someone wants to work in hospitality design, an employer will see what kind of experience they have. This is why selecting one's internship location is so important.
Many employers are also looking to see how well the Interior Designer can think outside the box and develop innovative design ideas.
An area of specialized knowledge that will complement the existing design team. Most firms are looking for future leaders.
Dak Kopec Ph.D.: Design thinking. This can be done by looking for certificates or attending a series of seminars. The COVID-19 virus has opened up numerous opportunities to shape an Interior Designer's scope. Using Design Thinking as a means to solve problems will enhance a person's marketability.
Additionally, I would recommend learning about disease transmission and pathology. With a stronger foundation in these areas, the interior designer will be better equipped to address the infection control expectations that will likely be required of future Interior Designers.
Dak Kopec Ph.D.: COVID-19 has changed the playing field, and future skills will need to include creative ways to use materials and systems for enhanced infection control. This will consist of thinking differently about ventilation systems, space planning, and material specifications.
University of Idaho
Randall Randall: Diversity of creative work demonstrated in a portfolio.
Randall Randall: Communication skills (both disciplinary and interpersonal); strong work ethic; reliability.
Randall Randall: Adept with hand-drawing, model making, CAD, and graphics software (photoshop, illustrator). Experience with some kind of hands-on-making/construction is a plus.
Randall Randall: Strength in all of the above, i.e., being the "whole package."
Michael Brazley Ph.D.: Yes, there will be an enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates. The first issue that comes to mind is lack of work for graduates because of lack of architectural commissions. The second point that comes to mind is that design itself will have changed because of covid-19. And third, more people will be working from home.
Michael Brazley Ph.D.: Architectural Graduates will have to have very strong computer skills; not just in drawing but in writing also. Graduates will need to know the latest software, and in many cases, help to introduce the latest software to their new companies. Students are learning to make 3D digital videos and virtual reality models.
Michael Brazley Ph.D.: Work experience in an architect's office is best.
James Shields: In mid-to-late 2020, some 70% of architecture firms saw a decline in billings due to Covid-19 impacts. Some architecture firms were hit worse than others; firms that designed office buildings, hospitality projects and cultural buildings fared poorly, and in general have not been hiring. Health care organizations and the architecture firms that service them have also been hit, although most firms have helped hospitals evaluate or design alternative Covid-care facilities.
Firms that design housing projects remained more stable and have continued to at least interview some job candidates. There has also been an increase in demand for master planning services of all kinds, as communities and businesses want to be prepared for the end of the pandemic and a return to more normal economic activity with a plan for expansion in place. Firms that design Science & Technology buildings, like university lab, science and health care teaching buildings, have also seen their workload remain stable and be less affected by the pandemic as many US States have continued to fund such projects.
School design firms have also done well, as many local districts have been able to pass referendums for new projects during the crisis, keeping their architects busy. There has also been a surprisingly strong turn towards interest in sustainable energy and infrastructure systems during the pandemic.
James Shields: Many interviews for architecture jobs remain online at the present time, so an ability to communicate via Zoom or Teams is vital. Looking professional on the small screen with an ability to show your work well are skills that can be practiced before an interview. Most architecture employees are currently working online from home, so knowledge of the essential digital architecture programs (like Revit, Bluebeam, Sketchup, et al) is currently very important. On resumes and in portfolios, any experience in the architecture sectors that have remained relatively stable (Housing, Master Planning, Science & Tech, Schools, sustainable infrastructure) should be emphasized. If you have no such experience, read up on current trends in these practice areas online and find some that interest you. Conveying such an interest can go a long way.
James Shields: Areas of the country that have been experiencing booming growth rates like North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado are expected to generate increased demand for architectural services as the pandemic is controlled. Look for cities whose growth rates top the US charts as you contemplate a location to settle after your time at the University, but don't be afraid to use the contacts you have already developed elsewhere as a rising economic tide raises all boats.
Robin Puttock: I think we will continue to see more use of online platforms. I believe we will have an increase in firm participation this year in our annual School of Architecture and Planning career fair due to the online platform. In previous years, we invited representatives who were local and who could attend in person. There were also space limitations in our architecture building. Now that we are online, that opens up a world of possibilities, both for the hiring firms and for the students. In addition, the interviewing process can be quite efficient online, especially in the initial stages.
Robin Puttock: My background is in sustainable civic architecture that supports wellbeing. Therefore, I would highly recommend earning certifications, if possible. I would recommend the LEED Green Associate and/or the WELL AP. In addition, NCARB's AXP hours can be quite flexible and can accommodate experience hours outside of the traditional architecture office.
If a student cannot find employment in an architecture firm working under a licensed architect, students have the option to earn AXP hours working for contractors, landscape architects, engineers, etc. As a bonus, they will receive a well-rounded internship experience. Finally, I would also recommend getting in touch with their local AIA chapters and plugging into continuing education opportunities and conferences. Knowledge and network connections gained in these outlets may prove quite useful in a future interview.
Robin Puttock: In addition to all of the above, I recommend students stay connected with their professors. Most of us have a vast network that we would love to invite you into. Often, an introduction is the pivotal component to a new opportunity. Relationships are key, especially when a recent graduate does not have significant professional experience. In addition, recent graduates should be sure to spend time on crafting their cover letters, their resumes, their work samples, and their portfolios. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward when an opportunity does arise.
Korydon Smith: To the above point, I anticipate growth in both the mainstream field of healthcare design (e.g., hospital design) and emergent fields at the intersection of architecture and health, such as renovating buildings to improve air quality, accommodate flexible functioning and spatial distancing, etc.
Korydon Smith: Integrative thinking, a core competency in architecture, will become all the more important across sectors. Problem solving amidst complexity, resource constraints, and dynamic factors is what architects do; all businesses will need people that think this way.
Korydon Smith: Architectural work tends to be in population centers. Architectural practice has become globalized, where many firms work in multiple cities in the U.S. and abroad. Growth in mid- and large-sized cities in the U.S. will continue; likewise for Europe and Asia. Latin America and Africa are emergent markets.
Seminole State College of Florida
School of Engineering, Design and Construction
Christy Graves: I would advise the graduate to learn from everyone they work with within the workplace environment. Even though a degree in architectural engineering technology is valuable, it's impossible to learn everything you need to know to be successful in the industry by taking classes in school and earning a degree. Do not be afraid to ask others for help when you aren't sure about the task you've been assigned to do. In addition, keep up with new technology. Remember, learning should be a lifetime pursuit. It shouldn't end with earning a degree.
Christy Graves: BIM (building information modeling) technology will continue to become more important in the architectural engineering technology profession.
Christy Graves: From what I've seen, I believe job opportunities will continue to be available for architectural technology engineering graduates. While many industries have suffered from layoffs and unemployment during this pandemic, it seems that the built environment is still going strong. I think one of the biggest changes we may see is that once the pandemic is over, many employees are going to work remotely full-time, or the amount of time that was previously spent in the office environment will decrease.
Christy Graves: Software skills, such as AutoCAD and Revit.
Christy Graves: I'd suggest trying to get part-time work to enhance the skills that were taught while going to school. Students should contact the career development center at their respective schools for part-time work opportunities.
Clyde Eiríkur Hull: Graduates entering the workforce now and in the future will need to be comfortable in a digital workplace. Working digitally, whether in an established company or as a digital entrepreneur, was a growing trend before the pandemic, but it was pushing against a lot of inertia. That inertia has switched. Anything that works better, for the employer, digitally instead of in person is going to stay. Even if you aren't working remotely, you'll deal with many people who are. Graduates will need to be more capable of independent work, whether in virtual teams or on their own. But at the same time, interpersonal skills are going to become more important. People aren't interacting as much as they did, so their human skills are rusting. Anyone with polished interpersonal skills is going to stand out more.
Clyde Eiríkur Hull: I'm told that the best cities for architects are Atlanta, Chicago, and West Palm Beach (see archinect.com), but look for the construction booms. Given trends, I'd suggest that sustainable architecture, in particular, is due to take off in a major way.
Clyde Eiríkur Hull: Architecture is being hit with virtual reality and augmented reality. Anything you can design now can be built in virtual reality for modeling. But the trend toward digital work is going to impact architectural designs for a long time to come. How will future homes be designed when many residents plan to work from home? How will professional buildings be impacted? Those are questions that architects are answering right now.
A. Haven Kiers: While technological competency and hands-on experience will always be in demand within the profession of landscape architecture, more than any technical skills, young graduates will need a positive attitude and the drive to succeed. Because of the pandemic, employers are looking for graduates willing to take the initiative and tackle new projects with confidence and self-sufficiency.
New employees should be willing to take risks, be adaptable, and execute every task they are given to the very best of their abilities (even the boring ones). When faced with a design problem, they need to be able to think creatively, establish a good rapport with the client or community, test (and retest) a range of solutions, and to be able to do so with elegance and style. Technical skills can be learned on the job - the right attitude cannot.
A. Haven Kiers: While the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Washington, DC, and New York City always have and will continue to top the lists of landscape architecture hotspots; cities in the pacific northwest like Portland and Seattle are the new rising stars, attracting recent graduates from all over the country. Other niche markets attracting landscape architecture firms include Minneapolis, MN, Charlottesville, VA, and Austin, TX.
A. Haven Kiers: Technology has and will continue to play a significant role in the field of landscape architecture. 3D modeling, drone technology, and geographic information systems are increasingly integrated into even the smallest projects. While it will always be necessary for a landscape architect to demonstrate a concept with a quick sketch drawn by hand, technology will remain the primary source of both visual and written communication for the profession in the coming years.
Michael Armstrong: Like most professions, the availability of architecture jobs fluctuates with the economy.
To get a head start, graduates can contact their local American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapter to connect with nearby architects and coordinate a firm visit or email their state's architect licensing advisor, a volunteer program NCARB coordinates.
Michael Armstrong: While no one technology will completely alter the architect's role, NCARB's Futures Collaborative-composed of leading architects, experts in emerging technologies, and architectural licensing board members-anticipates that three technologies will have the greatest impact on the profession: generative design, computational analysis, and automation. Technological advancements, as well as shifts in market trends and client expectations, will continue to push architects to specialize in niche areas like building systems, 3D rendering, artificial intelligence, and immersive virtual reality.
The current licensure framework ensures that architects are competent in a broad range of skills-effectively providing a generalist license. But as specialization and project complexity becomes more pervasive, so will the need for increased collaboration with other AEC professionals.
Kansas State University
Department Architectural Engineering and Construction Science
Fred Hasler: Far and away, the experience that stands out on our students' resumes is their summer internships, where they get to work on structural, mechanical, or electrical buildings systems design. We are fortunate that most of our students have multiple summer internships before they graduate. A recurring theme that we hear from our industry employers is that our faculty's extensive, across-the-board industry experience makes our students highly sought for internships, which places them in a better position to hit the ground running in their careers when they graduate.
Fred Hasler: Design firms in the construction industry have certainly seen increases in the application of technology. Our graduates are well prepared, through course content and summer internships, and have adapted well. Technology issues during COVID have added another dimension. Some employers now appear to be hesitant to bring on new graduates because of the uncertainty of accomplishing that critical mentoring process when they have some or all employees operating remotely.
Fred Hasler: Our December 2020 and May 2021 graduates are not getting their offers or accepting entry-level positions near the pace that we've seen in recent years. Many companies have indicated that their timeline for new hires has been pushed back until after the election and after we see some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. In the long term, many companies have indicated that they are now more comfortable with remote work applications, so we will likely see the workplace quite a bit different moving forward. Our program has taken all possible measures to maintain safe, in-person courses to give our students a sense of normalcy, translating to industry participating in on-campus interviews for internships/employment while also offering virtual interview opportunities.
Dr. Barry Stiefel Ph.D.: A substantial and diversified background (such as internships, course work, relevant volunteer activities) in the student's professional field is worth pursuing.
Dr. Barry Stiefel Ph.D.: I highly recommend a gap year between high school and undergrad, or between undergrad and grad school, if they are unsure of what they want to do.
College and graduate degrees are costly these days, so they should be done as a means to end and not to pass the time (unless one is in a financial position to do so). During that time off, they should find employment (regular, temp, part-time, or apprenticeship) related to something that they are interested in and volunteer at a relevant organization or government agency. This way, the person continues to build their resume and professional social network.
Putting yourself out there is very important for making informed decisions on what career moves you want to do next. Even adverse employment and volunteer experiences can be beneficial because you now have learned what you don't want to do. Knowing what you don't want to do before spending significant money on a college or graduate degree is a financially smart idea.
Dr. Barry Stiefel Ph.D.: No one (except for maybe Steve Jobs) foresaw the Smartphone Revolution. Yet, by 2010 the world had changed. Five years from now (2025), there could be another new technology that we have not even imagined previously.
My suggestion is to try to be aware, as much as possible, of the latest and upcoming tech but focus on a specific set (or two) of hardware and software that most interests you. When I was younger, I tried staying on top of it all but quickly found that so much was coming out so fast that soon I spent all my time just trying to be on top of it all and unable to do much else. Technology has become so vast and diversified that to be good at something, you may not be able to do it all.
Professional and social networking can create professional communities where people who specialize in one set or two of technology or skills can share and exchange knowledge and expertise with colleagues and friends that complement each other. This is a strategy that I recommend.
Ross Weinreb: Hard to tell right now. It 100% impacted internships during the summer. This will inevitably cause a ripple-effect for most students who will now have a gap in their experience when applying for future internships or job opportunities. The 'good' part is that everyone will be in the same boat, so it shouldn't affect hiring. It'll be about "what did you do during the pandemic to increase your professional experience and/or skills." I don't think this will have an enduring impact on graduates as our industry has had several ups and downs in relation to economic trends.
Ross Weinreb: Not that I am aware of. Our Penn State graduates generally find work in the Northeast (Philadelphia, New York, etc.).
Ross Weinreb: I think the industry is going to look very different over the next five years. Most firm representatives I speak with say they are working fully remote or in some sort of hybrid (some days in the office, other days at home). Architecture is inherently a collaborative endeavor, but like most industries right now have made obvious that we can work remotely and still be successful in the way projects are delivered. I think office dynamics, in general, will be affected for many years. Just the way people are put together in a shared space will be different. Remote collaboration software will be critical for success. Architecture has also historically never been a "9 to 5" job, so office hours may work in a different way to maximize flexibility.