So you want to be an architect? There are lots of ways to start your career. First there’s education, then practice, certifications and eventually mastery. Although every journey is unique, each shares one common element: the initial moment of inspiration. It could be a house. It could be a painting. It could even be a song. However the thoughts coalesced, your path begins here. Now there are a lot of good architects out there. But what makes a great architect? That, dear reader, you will soon learn…
It starts with a drive
And a plan. Whether you’re 4 or 45, its not too late to embark on this new adventure. But know this – for all the excitement and fun, Architecture as a career is a real change that requires real commitment. So how to proceed? Get a plan. How? Do your homework (this will become a theme). Research, Research, Research. There is tons of info out there that will help you along the way. And tons of distractions as well, so don’t lose focus.
It becomes a discussion
There are forums that allow you to chat with current and aspiring architects, but nothing beats a conversation over the phone or in person to understand what they do. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table, whether they’re fresh out of school or burning the end of their rope, so its best to interview as many people as you can.
It becomes a chore
There’s no way to candy coat it – there’s a lot of homework. It starts in college. While a 4-year undergrad degree in math, engineering or environmental design is a good foundation, the most common method is obtaining a Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch) from a NAAB-accredited program. This involves a minimum of 150 semester credit hours in academic coursework including professional studies and electives. So you get a degree – done right? Far from it. Next you’ll need to gain some experience via the Intern Development Program (IDP): three years (or roughly 5,600 hours) of it. At this point, you will have gained enough practical experience to take the Architecture Registration Examination (ARE). This test is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and is composed of 7 divisions which can be taken in any order:
*Construction Documents & Services
*Programming, Planning & Practice
*Site Planning & Design
*Building Design & Construction Systems
Once you’ve passed all 7 divisions of the ARE, you will still need a state license to practice. Registration and testing requirements vary by each state, so its strongly recommended that you consult your state’s registration board to learn more. Once you’ve completed your states’ regulatory requirements you can gain a license to practice. Now you can call yourself an architect. If you want to excel, however, there are voluntary certifications you can take or you can continue your collegiate studies through a master’s degree. And all of this happens before you sign your first offer letter…
…and then you get medieval
Well, more like the Renaissance. Embrace a variety of experiences, draw inspiration from myriad sources. After all, the principles of spacial organization, ecology, rhythm and aesthetics – aren’t found in the same book. Blending disparate influences and shifting perspectives can foment originality and innovation.
It may feel daunting, but don’t get discouraged. Architecture can be one of the most exciting, creative and rewarding careers you can have. And at times – it won’t feel like work at all – just a space to spend your day doing exactly what you love to do.