Careers in architecture and engineering offer a similar professional environment, but one major difference is income. Structural engineers make quite a bit more money right from the start. Although architects have a chance to make a name and have a visible influence, they often begin at lower salaries. They earn autonomy, respect and job satisfaction but fewer financial rewards.
Another difference between architecture and engineering is education. Engineering school involves math and physics immersion, and the competition can be ferocious. Students who starred in high school are sometimes surprised how challenging a college engineering curriculum can be.
Architecture school is art-focused. Architects generally study some physics, statistics and a year or more of calculus, but their concentration is in design. Future architects draft and draw, present designs and have them critiqued. They study great structures and the way cities work, and listen to passionate lectures.
An engineer who works on buildings is usually a structural engineer. Architectural engineers have chosen a relatively unpopular way to prepare for their career. Their uncommon qualifications may lead to better prospects, or may make their job search difficult.
Potential employers may feel an architectural engineer has not received the most thorough possible grounding in either architecture or engineering. However, the Egyptian pyramids, Gothic cathedrals and Greek temples were probably each designed and built by someone who was both an engineer and an architect.
Structural engineers concentrate on the physical facts that form the basis for the way buildings are put together. Architectural engineers understand a building's structure and function as well as its visible effect. Architects concentrate on the way a building looks and feels, and on the way it works for the people who use it.
Neither of these career paths is superior. The best buildings, like the best bridges, have beauty and function that comes from an elegant engineering solution and a finely honed aesthetic sense. The world has work for both architects and engineers.
Therefore, a student must decide which career will best fit his or her talents and way of looking at the world. Each is a valuable profession. Architects and engineers work together to produce modern structures, each contributing according to his or her particular training and personal gifts.