All of your years of hard work have come down to this moment. There are fancy hats, lots of speeches, and by the end of the day everyone is clutching their shiny new rolls of parchment. Architecture school has been a blast, and you’ve finally graduated.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you’re not actually an architect yet. In order to call yourself an architect and put the initials R.A. (registered architect) or A.I.A. (American Institute of Architects) after your name, you’ll need to obtain your architecture license. So how does a person do that?
The good news is, you’re already partway there. Though the exact requirements for an architecture license vary from state to state, every region requires that you graduate from an accredited undergraduate or graduate university program in architecture. So you can check that off the list.
The next step is to complete your internship. This might be a little trickier. You will need to complete an Intern Development Program that requires you to get certain amounts of work experience in all the various tasks that they have deemed important for architects to be good at. In total, you’ll need 5600 hours of experience to complete your internship, and yes, those hours need to be carefully tracked so you can ensure you have enough to cover all the requirements. Some states may have internship requirements specific only to that region.
Getting that internship is the stage where you’re at right now, hypothetical architecture graduate, and landing an internship isn’t always easy. There’s stiff competition, and you don’t have much work experience yet. That’s okay. The first thing you’ll want to do at this stage is put together a stellar CV and cover letter. Be sure to tweak these to match the needs of the particular job you’re applying to (everybody hates form letters), but get yourself a strong base to start with. You’ll also need an amazing portfolio that highlights your talents and lets potential employers see all that you have to offer.
If you’re having difficulty finding jobs, turn to your university’s career center – they may be able to help you find a placement for paid or unpaid work. Unpaid work, you might be asking with a look of disbelief? Yes, volunteering for an architecture firm can be a great way to get your foot in the door. True, it won’t pay the bills, but it gives you experience to put on your resume and shows the firm that you’ll do whatever it takes for your career. When the firm is looking to hire paid employees, you’ll be at the top of their list. Likewise, even if full-time positions are hard to come by, see if any firms can offer you work on a part-time or contract basis. They’ll get to know you as an employee and are sure to turn to you first when full-time work is up for grabs.
Once you’ve finally finished your internship work, you’ve got tests to study for. There’s a set of general, nation-wide standard tests that need to be passed, called the Architect Registration Examination. This computer based-test has multiple parts to it, but don’t worry; you can take each part at any time and in any order. Since things can never be as simple as we’d like, some states also require you to pass their additional testing as well.
Once you’re educated, experienced and tested, there’s only one step left to take. You just need to register with your state and pay a small fee. That’s it! You’re an architect in name and education, on your way to designing the world’s great buildings!