Report on the first (exploratory) Afterlife study

The goal of the Afterlife project is to gain insight in the different alumni profiles and to detect (mis)matches between the skills that architecture students are taught and those demanded by the industry across Europe.

In a first exploratory study, the educational and professional trajectory of former architecture students was mapped. In this report, we provide information about the professional trajectories of architecture alumni, and shed light on the phenomenon of people who choose to leave the architectural field during their career. Furthermore, we shortly discuss the respondents’ view on their architectural education, and go into further detail about the topics that will be investigated in a follow-up study.

 

 

Participants

 

Both architecture graduates and students who left their architecture education were questioned, resulting in 2664 responses.

Participants were 44% male and 56% female, and belonged to the following age categories:

 

Age categories

 

A considerable number of countries was represented (N = 91), with participants mainly living in Belgium, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey.

 

 

 

Professional status

 

Of the 2211 architecture graduates who were professionally active, 73% was working as an architect (63% exclusively, and 10% in combination with another field), 21% was working in a field related to architecture, and 6% was working in a field outside architecture.

 

 

The degree in which respondents were working in a certain field, was dependent from the country where they were living. In Belgium, Spain, France, Greece and Croatia, between 60% and 70% of the working respondents is exclusively active as an architect. In the United Kingdom and in Italy, less than 50% is currently exclusively working as an architect. An peak can be detected in Turkey, with more than 80% of the respondents working exclusively in architecture.

In some countries it is more usual than in other countries to combine work in architecture with work in another field. For instance, in Belgium and Turkey, it is unusual to combine another field with architecture (less than 10%), whereas in Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Greece and Croatia, more than 10% of the working respondents, combine architecture with another job.

In Belgium, the United Kingdom, and in Italy, more than 25% of the respondents is working in a related sector, whereas in Turkey, this is only 13%. Also in Turkey, few people work in an unrelated sector (only 2%). Out of all countries, Italy has the most respondents who are working in an unrelated sector (i.e. 16%).

Note that the survey responses may partially be influenced by the way the survey was distributed in each country (e.g. through alumni networks vs. through architecture networks). Nevertheless, general trends can be detected.

 

 

When we look in more detail to the sectors that are combined with architecture, we see that interior architecture, and teaching in higher education are the most popular combination options. Other jobs that are often combined with architecture are jobs in urban planning, building construction, consultancy, research, and creative industries.

 

 

When we compare this to the respondents who work exclusively in related sectors (thus, not combining a job as architecture with another job), we see a slightly different pattern. The same sectors stay very popular, but the most chosen sectors are consultancy and higher education.

 

 

 

Leaving the architectural field

 

Very interesting is the timing of leaving the sector. Only 17% left the architectural field immediately after graduation, which means that the vast majority decided to leave the sector after working in the field for some time. Of the people who stopped working as an architect, more than 25% did that in the first year. More than half of the people stopped in the first three years, and more than 75% stopped in the first seven years.

 

 

 

This pattern differs across countries. In Belgium, France, and Italy, more than 25% left the architectural field immediately after education. In Spain, Greece, and Turkey, this is less than 15%. When we look at the number of people who are currently not working as an architect but used to work as an architect in the past, we see that some countries have more ‘early leavers’ than others. In Croatia, Italy, and Turkey, leaving architects stop earlier in their career, than in Belgium, Spain France, United Kingdom and Greece. In the latter countries, the ‘drop-out’ is more distributed over time.

Note that the distribution of ‘number of years before leaving architecture’ depends on the number of participants in each country. For instance, Croatia has only 17 participants who filled in that question, compared to 82 in Belgium. This can lead to more ‘extreme’ results. A complete overview of country participation is given earlier in this report.

 

 

 

In general, only 9% of the people who left architecture regrets this choice. When we look at the results of the different countries, we can conclude that leavers in Belgium, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom are quite sure of their choice, whereas in Greece, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey people are far more ambivalent about whether leaving was the right choice or not.

 

 

When it comes to the reason why people leave the architectural field, a minority points at practical reasons, such as child care or continuing education. More than 90% of the respondents says that there were other substantial reasons to change sector. Preliminary analyses of reported reasons include bad job conditions (such as bad pay, high workload, poor work-life balance, etc.), loss of interest in the job, or problems with other professionals or craftspeople.

In future research, we will further explore the reasons why so many people decide to leave the architectural sector.

 

 

Architectural education

 

In general, people reported that their architecture studies prepared them well for their professional life (regardless whether they were currently still practicing architecture or not): 63% answered ‘yes’ on the question “Did your architecture studies prepare you well for your professional life?”

In Spain, the United Kingdom, and Greece, respondents are most satisfied with the preparation of their studies on their professional life.

Note that these results are influenced by the response rate across institutions in the respective countries.

 

 

 

People reported a variety of important competences that they acquired through architectural education. They also indicated some gaps in their architectural education. With regard to points of improvement, they often responded that their curriculum contained too little opportunities for practical experience, and that they felt insufficiently prepared for the practical aspect of running a business in architecture. A more systematic investigation on the importance of different competences will be carried out in future research. The current exploratory study serves as a starting point, to identify relevant competences in education and practice.

Participants were also asked if they wish they had studied something different than architecture. We can expect that most people would choose again for architecture, as 52% responds ‘no’ to this question. Again, results differed across countries, with respondents in the United Kingdom and Greece most frequently reporting that they do not wish they had studied something different. Note that these are also two countries that were quite satisfied with the preparation of their studies for their professional life.

 

 

 

 

Income

 

Income significantly differed across fields of occupation. A striking result is that the highest income scales were most often obtained in the sectors that were related to architecture.

 

 

Note that income is also dependent from country, and that the distribution of field of occupation differs across country. In a follow-up study, the impact of sector on income and income satisfaction will also be controlled for country of work.

 

 

Future research

 

Currently, a follow-up study is carried out to investigate the described patterns in more detail. Where this exploratory study aimed to collect describing data, and invited the respondents to write down their thoughts and concerns, the follow-up study will adopt a more quantitative approach. The answers that were given in the exploratory study are analyzed, and transformed to a questionnaire that aspires to detect relationships between architectural education, professional life, and work-life balance in general.

Firstly, in the follow-up study, we further investigate the drop-out pathways during architectural education and during the architectural career.

Secondly, the follow-up study investigates whether a given set of competences or skills are acquired through architectural education, and how well this matches with the demands of the workplace.

Thirdly, ample attention is given to work-life balance, job satisfaction, and financial aspects of working as an architect.