I never wanted my life to come down to a numbers game. Life may have had other plans. In order to pay back my student loans and maintain a lifestyle similar to what I have now, I’ll need to make close to $40,000 straight out of college. I don’t know if that’s feasible. A simple google of ‘architect intern starting wages’ finds a number of figures anywhere from $27,000 to $38,000. I may have increased earning potential due to my second degree in planning, then again perhaps not. An architect intern is an architect intern. Any additional potential may likewise be mitigated by the down market, which is particularly hard on architecture and other construction related industries as they are tied to mortgage lending and business investment. Maybe I could scrape by on less and hope for a raise, but how long to I want to struggle like that? (Again.)
I consider a PhD. Doctoral students usually receive full funding from their Universities, often in return for teaching appointments. UNL has a very limited PhD program and I’m never seen one of our PhD students teach, so I’m not sure how the system works. I wouldn’t want a PhD from UNL in any case, as the only one offered is in Architecture Education. I would be more interested in a design based or planning PhD. In addition, the salaries of professors seem to be in the mid $70,000 per year. I could not find a starting salary estimate, but if we assume it is closer to the 10th percentile than the media, it appears to be in the mid $40,000 per year range.
The other argument for a PhD is the opportunity it will give me to research a pressing problem. I am interested in exploring physical solutions to gentrification (as community, economic, and social based solutions are already being or have been explored). The downside is that my opportunities upon exiting my PhD are limited. I like to teach and help people learn, but the entire tenure track rigmarole leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t want to live my life in the ivory tower, but there are lots of opportunities for service-learning in this major.
I suppose it will come down to this – if I cannot find a professional position able to pay me a living wage I’ll end up filling out PhD applications.