Students graduating from architecture school face a major turning point concerning their first career choice. What type of firm is best? Whether to go for small architecture firms or big ones? And how to select an architectural firm that is right for you? There are many questions surrounding this dilemma, however, there is no straightforward answer.
Small Or Big Architecture Firm? How To Select The Right Architecture Firm For Yourself
Writer at Oneistox
● 9.5 mins read
Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.
The ‘decision-making’ process is an important aspect of life. At some point or the other, we all arrive at crossroads confused about which way to go next. The option we choose can set a direction in our lives and impact our future.
The decision-making process and the thinking man (Source: Author)
Making the Choice Between Small and Large Achitecture Firms
To help you make the right choice, here are some points to introspect when you come to a halt.
1. Define your Priorities
Have clarity about what you want to achieve. Visualise and imagine the outcomes related to the choices and check which one aligns more with your values and goals.
2. Research and Analyse Both Options
Next, do your research and analyse all the relevant information, facts and figures on the options at hand. Talk to people who have travelled the lane and can help you understand things objectively. For example, if you are interested in BIM, you can reach out to BIM professionals. Or if you are interested in other design fields, you can explore experience design like Mitheel Vartak did.
3. Make a Pros & Cons List
Weigh all the pros and cons of both scenarios and think about the related outcomes. Go for the one that is in tune with your short/long-term goals, lifestyle, and interests. This process will help you make the right choice and give you a wholesome understanding of things you value or need.
The Importance of Firm Size
Now, here comes an important question. For a fresh graduating architect, how important is the size of an office? Does it really matter?
It is a question I have often come across during general discussions within the architectural fraternity, especially during the recruitment drives. Though both types of firms have many benefits, selecting the right-sized firm is a crucial aspect of your career, even for an internship. It may be advisable to work in both types of offices just to experience the differences for yourself and figure out what works best for you.
However, as this is not always possible, let us look at the characteristics of big firms and small firms to help you streamline your decision-making process.
A Look at Large Architecture Firms
Foster + Partners Office, UK (Source: www.archivibe.com)
Many young architects are carried away by the glamour portrayed by big firms, which stand tall promising an abundance of opportunities, big projects, and international labelling. Needless to say, they do provide some very enticing benefits.
1. Greater Human Resources
Big architecture firms provide a different set of opportunities mainly because they have more people, therefore human resources would be adequate.
2. Greater Technical Resources
As large firms typically generate more revenues and profit, they can invest in more physical resources than a small firm. Computers, the latest design & modelling software, study materials, in-house care facilities, materials library, printers, 3D printers, laser cutters, virtual reality technology, and advanced audio-visual rooms are all part of the work environment. Along with abundant resources, large firms can dedicate a portion of their time and resources, including finance, for research and development.
3. Skill Development and Exposure
Besides tangible resources, big firms also provide in-house training programmes and various courses/workshops to encourage upskilling. Growth Potential in terms of international exposure could also be available.
4. Big Projects
Large Firms have dedicated avenues of focus on business development, production, account management, project management, social media management, design, and so on. The scale and diversity of the projects undertaken are also wide-ranging.
5. High-income Opportunities
A large firm has the potential to share the highly generated revenue with the employees. Subsequently, the earning potential is more.
There are some other points to be simultaneously noted. Big firms often have a rigid structural hierarchy. You become part of the system with clearly laid out rules and established practices. In such an environment, you might have to put in extra effort to stay disciplined. Also, the work done by employees here would be more specialised as different people are assigned different roles. This lack of flexibility could result in a potential creative burnout. Though it’s important to note here that these firms also look to hire freshly graduated professionals capable of handling a wide range of different tasks.
Hence, if you are someone looking for a firm having a global presence, a wide range of projects, immense resources, and want attractive pay, large firms offer a wealth of opportunities. But this comes with commitments of your effort and time. This also depends on the type of projects and the team you are involved with, the deliverables in hand, and the overall organisational strategies.
The Vision of Small Architecture Firms
People working at a small architecture firm (Source: www.arch2o.com)
Let’s dive into the advantages of working with small firms.
1. Wearing Multiple Hats
At a small architecture firm, employees have to wear various hats. Here you have the scope of performing your best and becoming a valuable member of the firm. You get an opportunity for a more hands-on experience.
2. Improving Accountability
As the team is small, you tend to make stronger connections with your colleagues. You will be situationally manoeuvered to become a jack-of-all-trades and are likely to gain a more comprehensive experience.
3. A Holistic Project Experience
Every professional involved is a one-man army whose work ranges from sketching to drafting, from making construction drawings to visiting sites, from understanding client requirements to writing specifications. You get to do all, be all.
4. Way to Start Your Practice
The experience from small architecture firms can make you more confident in undertaking scalable projects on your own, thus fast-tracking your way to start you own archtitecture firm.
Some points are worth noting here. The salary structure offered by small firms generally would be less competitive compared to the big firms. Also, besides the overall limitation of resources in small firms, there is a narrower lens framing the associated social circle in the field.
Hence, if you are the type who can take on the challenges responsibly and overlook the financial part for the formative years after graduation, then small firms present golden opportunities for comprehensive training in the field. It would prepare you to take on challenging projects in the future and is best for those planning to start their architecture practice soon.
Some Additional Points to Note
A checklist for yourself (Source: www.writermag.com)
● Large architectural firms are often organised into smaller groups of 10-15 people. In other words, a large firm can be thought of as a bunch of small-sized firms organised under one name.
● There will always be exceptions. There would be small architecture firms that offer good salaries and large firms that pay less than expected.
● Both small and big firms have their advantages and disadvantages. Each firm is different in terms of its style of working and the rules set by the management.
● Before making your final choice, you could look up the reviews of the particular firms or connect with people who have relevant experience to understand the overall work environment.
Make your checklist keeping in mind the points discussed, with your career objective in place. You need to understand and explore your interests to strategically determine how you would find satisfaction in the undertaken work.
Remember that you have the power to decide and create what you think would be best for you and your aspirations. Your dreams will dictate your decision which will, in turn, carve out your future!
Ensuring that you have the right skills will increase your chances of getting hired by your dream firm. So don’t wait! Upskill now with Oneistox’s courses on in-demand skills – BIM Professional Course to master BIM workflows and software, and Parametric Modelling Course to explore this cutting-edge modelling methodology.
Keep exploring and stay tuned for more career insights on the Resources page!
Juby is an architect from India having a strong professional background, rich experience and has undertaken many wide-ranging large scale projects. She strongly believes that the built form should complement nature and that the implementation of innovative architectural projects with a focus on sustainability is everyone’s social responsibility. She strives to build a better world by creating awareness through architectural communications.
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