Architecture vs Civil Engineering vs Urban Planning (vs Architectural Engineering)

Hi everyone,

So I’m really interested in the three fields of Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Urban Planning, but I don’t know which is best for me. I love and I’m proficient at mathematics and physics, but the same goes with visual arts. As for my future job, I want to plan out and create urban communities by constructing buildings and roads. I want to design buildings so that they are sturdy and won’t fall apart, but I also want to have control over their aesthetics. My ideal tasks at work would be solving physics equations to find out if a building won’t fall, but also going out to the construction site and using computer programs such as SketchUp in which I can plan out how the building will look. I want to pursue a job that offers opportunities around the world so I can travel and live abroad, but also one that pays well, especially at the more senior level.

I do know that there is a field called “Architectural Engineering,” but according to what I have come across on the internet so far, not many universities offer a degree in that. However, I’ve heard that you can get multiple degrees in different fields of study, and that the combination of all of those degrees gets you ready for that path.

Therefore, which career (including Architectural Engineering) is the best path for me, and why? Which degrees do you need to get in order to become an architectural engineer? Which job pays the best? Which job gives the most opportunity for traveling and living abroad?

Sorry about my ignorance and very basic vocabulary! This is a high schooler here. I hope you all can give me great advice. Thanks in advance! :slight_smile:

OMG you sound just like me!!

I would personally say look more into civil engineering a bit more because their are dozens of professions within civil engineering. I think you want to be a structural civil engineer (has a nice blend of both art and engineering) They do a lot more math and science then Architects and you get to work beside architects on occasion if your a PE. Civil engineers are also on site a lot more then architects. BUT the civil engineers I know are not very arstic but they normally make an artistic choice on a project a few times a year.

I would say BS in Civil Engineering and MS / MA in Urban planning (with Architecture certification) would be a good path to start on. Check out Texas A&M.

Best pay? Civil engineer (it depends on your specialty)
Travel? Out of country? …IDK… In my experience, they’re all about equal as far as international travel is concerned. (since they would all travel for the same reason)) But I guess the architects will stay behind a desk a lot more.

@lessonwitch2 Thank you so much for your insightful comments and advice! I think I will look more into civil engineering now, but which specialties in particular have the best blend of STEM and art?.. and which have the best pay? Also, could you please tell me what PE means? Once again, thank you very much!

Heres a past thread you might find helpful:

These threads are also full of good information about the differences between architecture and engineering. Especially notable are @rick12’s observations.

I think the question that you have to ask yourself is how important involvement in design and creativity will be to your career satisfaction. In addition to spearheading building design and interact with the client, architects are also the hub of communication among the various players that contribute to getting the building built: engineers, interior designers, urban planners.

I’d suggest that you try to attend an architecture career discovery program this summer to gain a better understanding of what architecture entails before you commit yourself either way.

You might also look at some of the big urban development projects handled by architecture firms (see the websites of firms like SOM or SHOP for example) to get an idea of the scope of responsibility that falls under architecture.

You should be aware that a professional architecture degree can either be undergraduate (Bachelor of Architecture) or graduate (Master of Architecture). It’s feasible to get an undergraduate degree in engineering or something else altogether followed by an MArch, though you have to consider the time and money involved in 6-7 years of education.

@momrath I like her idea of going to career discovery programs and evaluating how much design is needed for your career satisfaction. Because if designing is more important than science to you, I’d say do architecture. If the science is more important I’d say civil engineering.

PE = petroleum engineering
They’re oil engineers and in your particular case, I think the only discipline of that filed of engineering you would like would be drill engineers (they design drills and drilling structures) but not building however.

Here is a link of different some of the civil engineering disciplines. The best paying one is Geotechnical (they can make 200k depending on where you work) But that has very little (if any) design.

I’d say environmental engineers have alot of art and science blend from time to time. But they don’t design buildings. In the industry of construction it is hard to find artistic jobs. enviormental engineers have alot of freedom if you work for a very small company where engineers get to do designing. (But this typically leads to less pay in a job)

@lessonwitch2 Actually, in the engineering world, PE stands for Professional Engineer. (Petroleum engineers are commonly abbreviated as PetE.) Professional engineers go through a licensing process, usually consisting of an accredited engineering degree, two tests and a certain number of hours of experience. Each state has their own professional licensing board which establishes the licensing requirements for their state. In almost all situations and states, it requires a licensed engineer, aka PE, to “stamp” or approve engineering documents prior to construction, just as an architect must be licensed to approve their design drawings prior to construction.

PE’s can be in any engineering field, but the most common PE’s that architect’s deal with are civil and/or structural engineers.

Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments everyone! Not many of you touched upon the career of urban planning, but may I ask you guys what an Urban Planner does at work? Is there art and/or science in urban planning? How much money do they make?

Urban Planning (sometimes call Urban and Regional Planning as it’s not always city focused) tends more toward policy than design. Wikipedia gives a good overview and also provides a list of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. You might look at the curriculums of the individual programs and see if they appeal to you.

There’s no simple answer to who makes more? Engineering, Architecture and Planning are wide and diverse fields. You can make a decent living in all of them, but your income level depends on the organization you work for, the part of the country you live in and your experience level.