Can a Civil Engineer Work as an Architect?

One said that the answer is a yes and a no.


civil engineer work

I am a civil engineer by profession. My field involves building and structural design, which means that infrastructures are too familiar to me – something that architects share with civil engineers. Which is why some days, I cannot help but ask myself, “Can a civil engineer like me work as an architect?”

Architecture is described as the art, the science, and the business of building. It is commonly poked fun as the same as engineering but without math. If that is the case, architecture is not so hard to like given that math is that one huge obstacle, among others, in engineering.

Going back to the question, is it really possible that a civil engineer can become an architect in the industry? I have took to forums and found these answers to settle this crisis once and for all.

One said that the answer is a yes and a no. Because one should specify first about which kind of architect a civil engineer wants to be: a design architect or a project architect.

Design architects. Source: Shutterstock
Design architects. Source: Shutterstock
Project architect. Source: The Sun
Project architect. Source: The Sun

It is less likely that I can become a design architect, which is an architect who takes care of the outer and inner aesthetics and pays a lot of attention to colors, textures, finishes, and detailing, without a degree in architecture. It is these kind of textbook information that is learned inside the classroom and applied in buildings. Of course I could study them all by myself but it takes genuine architecture teaching to really learn “design”.

To become a project architect has a higher possibility. Because civil engineers also deal with construction and project management, this is fairly easy to learn. Project architects do not design, but ensures coordination work with the design architects and supports the on-site execution team. They are the ones wearing yellow hard hat in construction sites.

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Another said firmly that civil engineers doubling as architects are not entirely new to his field, only that they cannot sign as an architect, of course, but take its job anyway. He also cites that the only problem is that engineers usually don’t have that “artistic touch that architects have”. Which I agree, because I speak of personal experience.

But famous architect Santiago Calatrava disproves this. One forum commenter made him familiar by saying that he is a Spanish-Swiss structural engineer and architect, famous for his bridges supported by single leaning pylons, and his railway stations, stadiums, and museums, whose sculptural forms often resemble living organisms. He understands his craft in aesthetics while integrating his knowledge in engineering.

Source: Spain is Culture
Source: Spain is Culture

So that pretty summarizes it. One can become an architect if one is already an engineer, given that he or she has undergone proper technical training. Santiago Calatrava is living proof.

I have also read about civil engineering majors who take an architecture route in graduate school. I think this is the best way to become an architect if you are a civil engineer, only that it skipped the design essentials in a BS in Architecture.

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Randy Williams
Randy Williams: Student of Life. Professional Engineer. Skeptic. Explorer. Reader. Listener. From Greater Denver Area, USA.

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  1. Hi Engr. Dion. Im also struggling this kind of scenario here in my workplace. Engr po kasi ako pero yung scope of works ko dto sa site is more on architectural aspects. Actually parang nanghihinayang ako nung una kasi almost 2 years na ako dito tapos gusto ko na sanang lumipat ng ibang firm na babagay sa profession natin which is CONSTRUCTION. Pero nagkalaonan parang mas nag.eenjoy na rin kasi ako sa Architecture side. One thing is hindi sya masyadong exhausting yung trabaho di gaya kung andon ka nagbababad sa araw dahil may buhos ka. Gusto ko sanang mag.aral o kumuha ng units sa kursong Architecture. Pero parang masasayang yung time ko if ganun. Ano po ba dapat ko gawin?

    Salamat po?
    More power Engr.Dion?

    1. Hi engr Jonathan I would like to know if you shifting to from civil engineering to architecture is allowable. THANKS!

      Read more at: Hi engr Jonathan I would like to know if you shifting to from civil engineering to architecture is allowable. THANKS!

  2. To engr. Reynard. Sir we’re exactly in the same situation wherein I’m also hired in a firm that focuses on Architectural scope of works. Ang pinagkaiba natin sir is that you spend more time in your current workplace unlike me na 4months pa lang. If you have time sir can you share me some tips kung paano niyo naenjoy yung work niyo. Tingin ko sir pinagdadaanan ko na yung pinagdaanan niyo. hahaha. And regarding sa post mo sir, aabangan ko yung sagot jan concern. Goodluck sa profession natin sir! cheers!

  3. The best is to study architecture and take the licensure exam. 2 Year mandatory diversified experience will be lessen since you are all working naman. Contrary to popular belief , architecture studies a fair amount of mathematics subject especially pertaining to structural analysis and design. But thats not going to be hard on your part. Its the rigorous design exercises that will give you a challenge. But as long as you want it..nothing is impossible.

  4. civil engineers can do architectural as it simply pertain about the aesthetics/ overall look of the structure. But architect should not build without the structural design of an engineer.

  5. Your article is excellent. I aman architect and firmly believe that civil engineering and architecture are two sides of the same coin. However to practice either or both one must go through the entire course minus first 2 years and acquire the requisite skills, knowledge and qualification of the respective field. However one must remember civil engineering is more technical based on maths wheres architecture is combination of civil engineering ,vision, imagination aesthetics and functional planning.

Can a Civil Engineer Work as an Architect?

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