The Appeal: When screenwriters give a hero a career, it's often architecture: from Walter Pidgeon in Mrs. Miniver to Adam Sandler in Click. In There's Something About Mary, when Matt Dillon attempts to impress Cameron Diaz, he pretends to be an architect. That's not surprising. The public perceives architecture as a career for creative, free spirits who nonetheless earn good money while designing cool new buildings. Alas, as usual, there's a Grand Canyon of difference between the screen and reality.
The Reality: Architecture has many pluses. Indeed, it made it (barely) into last year's list of Best Careers. Alas, for 2008, architecture must be moved to the overrated category. Not only is the housing decline souring the job market, but more potential clients are offshoring the work to India, downloading premade blueprints developed by top architects, or having lower-cost interior/exterior designers or building contractors design their structure. Two recent job satisfaction surveys painted a mixed picture: One gave architecture high marks, but the other rated it very low. A major cause of low job satisfaction is that many architects don't get to design buildings but rather must produce detailed drawings of the components of other people's designs, such as the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system.
Alternative: Interior Designer. Halfway between an architect and an interior decorator, interior designers recommend where a wall should go as well as the color scheme.
More info: American Society of Interior Designers and Professional Practice for Interior Designers, 3rd Edition by Christine Piotrowski