Career Choice: 3D Artist or Architect?
Career Choice: 3D Artist or Architect?

People often confuse 3D artists and architects, thinking that their job is absolutely the same. But once you dig a little deeper, you will see that they are nothing alike.

Generally speaking, an architect's job is a bit more serious, as he/she is responsible for designing the buildings around us. On the other hand, 3D artists have become very popular across multiple industries.

Both use similar tools to create designs, but their jobs are very different. Keep reading, and we'll tell you everything you need to know about these two popular careers.

They Are Different Positions

To get a better idea of what makes these two jobs different, we first have to look at the difference in their goals.

Let's start with 3D artists. Their job is to create a visual representation of an object or building. They use advanced 3D software to bring a design to life in virtual reality. Architects, on the other hand, are responsible for creating the first draft of a construction project.

While 3D artists create designs according to simple instructions, they have to have a good sense of space to recreate an object in 3D. They have to stick to the plan, while architects have much more freedom. An architect perfects his design on the go, making changes to the project as needed.

A 3D artist doesn't make changes to an existing plan, but they can tweak some cosmetic features as long as they stick to the original plan. With that said, many projects and designs require these two specialists to work together. Their skills work in perfect harmony with one another; however, the architect must think about safety norms, procedures, and other rules when creating a building plan.

Architects and 3D Artists Often Work Together

Even though architects and artists work using similar methods, their jobs are very different. Architects have specific responsibilities, and they usually specialize in one field. Most architects focus on designing buildings and ensuring they are safe, stable, practical, and aesthetically pleasing. Their job requires a lot of detailed measuring, maths, and the ability to create blueprints for buildings.

3D artists, on the other hand, have to use multiple skills to provide an excellent 3D render. They often combine illustration, painting, design, and photography to bring a 3D render to life. 3D artists don't get into the details; they focus on creating the best possible design visually.

Both professions work together in synergy, and they often depend on one another. The architect designs a building, draws detailed plans of all features, provides measures, and everything else a 3D artist needs to create a realistic 3D render. Once the render is complete, the architect can then visualize his/her design and make changes to the original design on the go. After some back and forth, these two professions' collaboration can provide the best design possible, which then enters the construction phase.

Different Education Paths

One of the most significant differences between architects and 3D artists is in their education. Anyone with enough dedication and a little bit of artistic feeling can become a 3D artist, while the road to becoming an architect is much longer and more difficult.

Architects have to get a university degree to get all of the licenses they need to start a private business. No one would want to hire an architect without a license, and the license can only be obtained with a college degree. These licenses are essential as they guarantee that an architect has the necessary knowledge in fields such as safety, welfare, health protection, and of course, laws and regulations. If an architect opens an office without these licenses, they could end up in legal trouble.

The bottom line is that 3D artists don't have nearly so many responsibilities as architects do, but they do need to have numerous skills architects don't have to invest time in. Architects face a series of enormous responsibilities, so they have to commit to every project with the same seriousness and understanding.

What Architects do

Put in simple terms - architects are responsible for creating a design for buildings and structures. They focus on creating designs for future construction projects and redevelopments. Architects have an extensive understanding of the construction process.

They have excellent drawing skills needed to develop building designs, and these skills combined help them create safe, sustainable, functional, and aesthetic ideas.

Their typical work includes creating building designs in great detail, working closely with contractors to ensure each aspect of the project, including town planning legislation, environmental impact, and so on, is taken care of. Architects also work in teams; they ensure requirements and laws needed to complete a design are met, including specific requirements for each individual project.

What 3D Artists do

3D artists work in many different niches and industries. This includes fields such as media production, the video game industry, computer program development, and of course, creating detailed 3D models and renders. Their knowledge extends from the use of colors and light to understanding the forms used in specific positions.

Unlike architects, who create the blueprints from scratch, 3D artists get detailed instructions on what the project should look like in the end. Their job used to be to build miniature models from clay, wood, steel, and other materials, but today, most of the work is done using 3D rendering software.

After getting the initial instructions, 3D artists apply their own unique style to create an animated version, which is then presented to the architect.

3D artists also need a sense of business and marketing to be able to find quality prospects. They usually present their work in portfolios, and they prefer to work alone. You don't have to have a college degree to make it as a 3D artist, but it would certainly help.

How Much Money You Can Make

Both architects and 3D artists have an average monthly salary of over $5,000. However, generally speaking, architects are paid more, which is only logical since they have more responsibilities and bigger expenses for proper education and acquiring the required licenses. According to this research, architects made $80,750 on average in 2019. The top 25% made an impressive $105,600 during the same year.

On the other hand, 3D artists made $59,515 on average in 2020. A small percentage of artists make up to $85,000 per year, but only a few can reach such heights. Most 3D artists make around $50,000 per year, which is not bad, but it's nowhere near what architects make.

Again, that makes sense as 3D artists don't have so many things to consider during the design process. Anyone with the right skills can be a 3D artist, and they only need a good computer to start working.

Finding a Job

Generally speaking, there are never enough architects and 3D artists, so finding a job shouldn't be all that hard. However, many 3D artists that used to be successful 20 or 30 years ago lost their job because they couldn't adapt to new technologies and standards. Ever since 3D rendering became the go-to solution for modeling, younger artists took over since it's much more affordable and efficient.

The need for 3D artists, graphic designers, and similar professions was on the rise between 2000, and now, so many new artists flooded the market. Today, many 3D artists struggle to find a job, and the smallest differences in presentation and style often make the difference between who gets hired and who doesn't.

Having skills is not enough anymore. Only those artists who develop a unique, recognizable style by taking a different approach get hired.

Making it big as an architect is much harder than doing so as a 3D artist. Firstly, you have to invest in a college degree so you can start a private practice. After college, architects usually spend a few years working at entry-level jobs for a low salary.

Most architects start making real money only after they open their private businesses. Of course, they first have to get all of the licenses and so on. The process usually takes between 5 and 10 years.

The saddest thing is that most architects never get the chance to make some real money. They have a very responsible job and often work under tremendous stress. The road to becoming a successful architect is so long and hard that many people never get to the finish line.

Room For Career Progression

When it comes to career progression, both of these jobs are very specialized and limited. Architects get recognition when they open their own office and start working on big projects individually. They usually begin their professional careers working for other architects who have all of the licenses they need to open an office.

After five to ten years of hard work, multiple licensing tests, and a ton of underpaid tasks, architects have everything they need to start their own office. If they are really talented, they might land a massive deal for a big construction company. One such deal is enough to ensure a bright future for the entire office.

3D artists, on the other hand, need multiple skills to get a job. Some artists start their careers working for private companies, while others freelance, looking for clients over the internet. Depending on their skills, 3D artists can land jobs much easier than architects.

The need for 3D rendering is massive, so finding a client isn't that hard. The most successful 3D artists usually have different approaches and unique styles, which clients see as an advantage.

After years of hard work, some 3D artists turn their focus on industries such as game design, 3D animation, and so on. 3D artists have more options, as their skills are needed across many different industries.

However, their job progression is quite limited, and the most they can hope for is to become a team leader working on large projects with other designers. Of course, specializing in complementary skills relevant to their niche can help them move further up the ladder.

The Future

New technologies are not doing any favors for 3D artists. Outsourcing is the biggest issue, as there are many talented freelancers and artists looking for a job. Technologies such as 3D scanning, motion capture, and photogrammetry make it hard for 3D artists to keep up with the latest trends. If they don't learn new skills regularly, they lose track of the market and become obsolete very quickly.

Architects face an even bigger challenge. Small offices rarely get important projects. The demand for architects largely depends on the state of the markets.

For example, the demand for architects in the UK has dropped by 40% since 2008. Small companies are shutting down within a few years of opening, and only larger businesses survive. Even though architects are important, new technologies are making them obsolete. The future of architects is uncertain. Only the most talented and capable architects will survive.


If you're looking to pursue a career as a 3D artist or an architect, you should work on developing new skills. The road to success is very long and hard, and you should be ready to work long hours for years until you get a real chance to prove yourself.

With that said, 3D artists have more choices, so it's easier to build a successful career as long as you have the talent and the know-how. Put simply, both of these careers require you to learn new skills regularly. With a little luck and some talent, you will have a successful career. Good luck in your future endeavors.