Saturday, September 24, 2016

Paying for an Architectural Education

First I want to say that I own your book and it has been very helpful! I have always known that I want to be an architect but I made the bold choice of majoring in Art History & Visual Culture (Studio Art minor) as an undergrad at an expensive college because it is something I am also passionate about and I didn't think I was ready for architecture school right after high school. I now know that I want to pursue architecture but my question for you concerns money...

I am currently in my third year of undergrad and I already have a tremendous amount of student loan. Do you recommend that I pay this debt off before applying to grad school for architecture? OR do you recommend that I just pursue my dream now, and aim for grad school right after i graduate (and possibly accumulate more debt)? 

I am currently working 30 hours a week (with school full time), but I will still have a lot of debt when I graduate. My undergrad GPA is also kind of low because of personal problems during my first year, which concerns me in terms of getting scholarships. I have read that it isn't really possible to work and attend architecture school. Is this true? Is there a way I can attend and pay for architecture school even though I'm already in a ton of student debt?

With due respect, decisions where finances are involved are best left for experts on money, of which I am not one.  However, I will provide some insights.

First, there is actually more financial aid in the way of merit-based scholarships, research or teaching assistantships, etc available at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level.  When contacting graduate architecture programs be sure to inquire about what they have available and how you apply.  For example, with your Art History degree, you may be a perfect candidate to be a TA for the Architectural History courses that a program offers.  During my graduate studies, I was an out-of-state student, but out-of-state tuition was waived because of my academics and the assistantship I received almost covered my full tuition; all I paid was living expenses and books.  I had almost little debt from my graduate studies.

Also, inquire about continuing scholarships and award programs that a program may have; where I work now, we provide almost 500K to new and continuing students.

As for working and attending school at the same time -- it is possible, but it depends on the program, where it is located and if positions are available; plus, what impact with working have on your academics.  I once had a former student who worked about 30-40 hours as a shift manager at a fast-food restaurant because he could work nights and attend school during he day, but his time towards work meant less time for studies.  Almost needless to say, his academics suffered.

In addition to merit-based financial aid, be sure to be in touch with the Office of Financial Aid at each school about need based aid.  This may increase your debt, but you must decide how much you can take on and whether it is worth it.

Finally, be honest about your academics from your first year.  Many programs only truly look at your last 60 credit hours.  Any aid you receive may be more based on your portfolio and letters along with your transcript that a course during your freshmen year.

Best to you and feel free to contact with more questions if you wish.


Fall has just begun, but you have already started researching your college choice; but how do you best learn about an institution and its architecture program?  Yes, you can visit websites, but they are impersonal and sometimes difficult to find what you want to know.  You can request information from the program directly, but the materials you receive may be more “sales” oriented.  And, while a website like is extremely helpful, it still lacks the personal connection.  Often overlooked, the best method may be to visit one of the career day/college fairs in architecture held throughout the country.

While many high schools host annual college fairs, these events do not focus specifically on the discipline of architecture; even if an attending institution has a program in architecture, the representative may not have any direct knowledge on the program. However, there are a few annual events (see list below) that are the answer.

Typically held in the fall, the Career Days/College Fairs focused on architecture is a great opportunity for you to learn more about pursuing a degree in architecture.  You can interact with representatives of the program and ask specific questions (see examples below); you will connect with faculty, program administrators, and possibly alumni and students of the program.  You can obtain a much better insight to a program through this connection by having a personal conversation.

During these architecture specific events, you can visit with between 35-50 programs in architecture allowing you to connect with more schools in a single day.  Granted, these events may not be near where you live, but the investment in time and travel may be worth the cost.

Aside from connecting with the programs, these events will often provide workshops on selecting a school, career options, and financing your education.  Some may have a keynote speaker who is an architect that provides you some insight on the discipline of architecture.

 Thus, while there are many different ways to learn about architecture programs, one of the best ways is attending one of the Career Days in Architecture this fall.  If you wish to become an architect, start you research by attending Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, or Dallas.

Questions to Ask School Representatives
About the School
What is the setting? Rural, Urban, Suburban?
What financial aid/scholarships are available?
What support services are available for students with special needs?
What degree(s)/major(s) do you offer?
How does your school assist students with post-graduation plans?

About the Academic Unit
What is special or unique about your program?
Does the program offer hands-on and/or workplace experience as part of the curriculum?
Do you have a graduate program?
What kind of professional experience does your faculty have?
Are there opportunities for foreign study?

Boston Career Day – Boston Society of Architects
Boston, MA - Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 10:00am – 2:00pm
BSA Space, 290 Congress St., Suite 200, Boston, MA

Chicago Architecture + Design College Day – Harold Washington College
Chicago, IL - Saturday, October 15, 2016 – 10:00am – 1:00pm

New York Architecture & Design College Fair – Center for Architecture
New York, NY – Friday, November 4, 2016 – 4:00 – 7:00pm

Philadelphia Design College Day – Temple University
Philadelphia, PA - Saturday, November 12, 2016 – 11:00am – 2:00pm

AIA Dallas – 2B an Architect 2017 – Latino Cultural Center
Dallas, TX – Saturday, February 18, 2017 – 1:00 – 4:00pm

Friday, August 5, 2016

AXP Architectural Experience Program

AXP More alphabet soup?
As of June 29, IDP Intern Development Program is no more; in its place is AXP Architectural Experience Program.  To best learn the changes of the program (aside from the name), visit the website of NCARB (see below) and download/read the AXP Guidelines.

Architectural Experience Program (AXP)
All of NCARB’s 54 U.S. jurisdictions require you to gain and document a certain amount of experience before becoming an architect. That’s where the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) comes in. 

Through the AXP, you will learn about the daily realities of architectural practice, acquire comprehensive experience in basic practice areas, explore specialized areas of practice, develop professional judgment, and refine your career goals. 

The AXP is developed and administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). In most jurisdictions, completion of the AXP is a requirement for initial registration. The AXP identifies the tasks that are essential for competent practice. The program is structured to prepare you to practice architecture independently upon initial registration.

This week, I will be attending the Architect Licensing Advisor Summit to learn more about the program.  I will be back later to share more details as I learn the details of the new program.


Dr. Architecture

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Architecture and Beyond - Series of Three Articles

Architecture and Beyond

In less than a week, I have posted the following three articles to my Becoming an Architect Facebook []. 

All three highlight the power of an architectural education; they highlight the myriad of career paths one can pursue after an architectural degree.

Delicious by Design

This article in the UVA News highlights Stephanie Connock, an architectural graduate and her entry into the culinary arts.

“In Architecture, you have to stand up and present your ideas in front of a lot of people at once and then let them critique you,” she said. “Having that experience has definitely made me more comfortable talking with people and trying to get them interested in my products.”

Guide to Alternatives to Architectural Practice

In contrast, this article in Architizer highlights six different career paths - 1) Film, Video and Animation, 2) Tech and Web Design, 3) Fashion, 4) Jewelry, 5) Interdisciplinary Research, and 6 Ice Cream.

#6 Ice Cream has a parallel with the UVA article.


This last article is a summary of a panel discussion of previous architects as they transitioned into careers in technology.

All three are worth reading regardless of your career path as you see the power of design.

Dr. Architecture


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Discover Architecture: A Program for All Aspiring Architects

Charlotte Wyman
Hamilton College, Class of 2018

Discover Architecture program at the Illinois School of Architecture was a highly valuable experience for me. As a rising college sophomore, I decided to take two weeks off from my summer internship position at an architecture firm in Chicago. This was a decision my employer highly encouraged and one that I found to be ultimately rewarding. By the end of the two weeks, I had gained both an understanding of what my experience as an architecture student would be, and a reaffirmation of why I wanted to pursue architecture as a career.

I remember on the first day we were put into groups and challenged to build the tallest standing structure from spaghetti that could support one marshmallow at the top. Not only was this a great bonding activity, but it also encouraged a new level of innovation and experimentation that would come in handy in the next two weeks. 

Throughout the program we were challenged to think creatively and abstractly, but also work under strict time constraints. For both of the major projects assigned, we had to translate abstract figures into renderings. Initially we experimented with paper cutouts, each creating our own walls that formed a repetitive, multidimensional pattern (as pictured below). Our second project was coming up with our own three-dimensional cardboard cutouts. We were able to use a laser cutter to produce our shapes.  We were then challenged to create a site plan, elevation, and multiple sections to finish by the end of the program. Both of these projects served as great introductions into the basics of creating renderings. At the same time, working under a schedule challenged us all at some points to work under pressure, while still being able to produce high quality work.  


Attending lectures and working in the studio consumed most of the day and evenings were always full of activities. We were often able to explore campus; planned events included scavenger hunts, movie nights, bowling, or just playing games; there was also a field trip to Chicago with a walking tour of the skyscapers, a river and boat tour of the city, and a visit to an architecture firm. Meals were served at the dining hall right across adjacent to residence hall, and the School was only a ten-minute walk away. I found the program to be very well-organized, and there was never a moment where I found myself with nothing to do. 


All in all, Discover challenged me to learn quickly and question my way of thinking about building, shape and design. Not only did I leave the program with well-formed basic level skills in drawing and rendering, I could finally picture myself as an architect and designer. This summer, I am in a six-week architecture program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and the skills I learned in Discover have served me extremely well. 

If you are interested in architecture or design at all I would highly recommend this program. It was a great way for me to test the waters and explore my interest in architecture before committing to it.  

Listing of architecture summer programs.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Career Days for Architecture

Summer has just begun, but now is the time to start planning for the fall and the three main Career Days for Architecture - in Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Having attended these for years as a representative from IIT, University of Maryland and University of Illinois, these events are great to learn first hand about an architecture program.  Even more so, you can meet with 35-50 programs in a single day.

Chicago Career Day - October 2015

Boston Career Day – Wentworth Institute of Technology
Boston, MA
Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 10:00am – 2:00pm

Chicago Architecture + Design College Day – Harold Washington College
Chicago, IL
Saturday, October 15, 2016 – 10:00am – 1:00pm

Philadelphia Design College Day – Temple University
Philadelphia, PA
Saturday, November 12, 2016 – 11:00am – 2:00pm

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Architecture Uncensored: The License Dilemma

Last night, I had the pleasure of serving on a panel entitled “The License Dilemma” sponsored the by the Emerging Architects Committee of AIA DC.  Joining me was Adam Schwartz, AIA, a recently licensed architect and Associate at HGA Architects and Engineers and the Washington DC Licensing Advisor and Harry Falconer, Jr., AIA, Director of Experience + Education at NCARB.  Moderating the panel was Elizabeth Kinkel, Associate AIA of View Dynamic Glass. …

The panel started with an introductory discussion on Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL).  As listed on the NCARB website, IPAL provides students the opportunity to complete licensure requirements while earning their degrees. 

However, the thrust of the discussion both from us as panelists and the audience, mostly emerging professionals, was on the value of licensure and how WE (the profession) could do more to ensure architectural graduates would pursue licensure.  Harry relayed statistics from NCARB by the Numbers that stated that the average age of an architect becoming licensed was 32 years of age.  With recent changes in IDP (soon to be AXP), the timeframe from graduation to licensure is decreasing.

Some of the discussion was on what architecture programs (schools) could do; as will be the case with IPAL, schools might provide or encourage students to gain experience during their formal education making them more valuable to firms upon graduation.  But also, many in the audience thought schools could provide more direct knowledge on practice.  However, I pointed out that our system of becoming an architect includes knowledge from education and knowledge from experience. 

Unfortunately, some firms are not equipped to “teach” their employees like a hospital might do with aspiring doctors.  For firms, it is a business proposition – my answer to firms is the “your people” are your most important asset.  One member of the audience specifically asked – what could WE do to help firms more value their staff as they work towards licensure; no one had an immediate answer.

Mr. Falconer furthered the conversation with the notion that an architectural should pursue licensure not for their current position, but for their next one.  Adam relayed the sense of accomplishment when he had achieved the title of architect.

Additional discussion centered on those architectural graduates that pursue an alternate path and not licensure.  We know that these individuals are NOT architects (in the legal sense), but are they are part of the profession.

Overall, the event was a success in terms of attendance, but more importantly in terms of conversation; attendees left with much to consider as each pursues licensure.  I am pleased to have been a part of the panel; I am sure this is not an exact summary, but it is a start.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Study Architecture - NEW

Just this past week, ASCA launched a new website -

From the home page.  
  • Have you ever wondered how you can make an impact? Ever imagined how to create sustainable communities, how to make urban spaces more personal, or how to use design thinking to improve how people work, live and explore? It is simple. Study Architecture. As an architecture student, the built environment is your canvas, and imagination is your only limit. Explore to find a wealth of resources, including where to learn, what to know, and the latest news in the global architecture community.
Below are the main sections.

Where to Study - allows you to search from the accredited programs that offer degrees in architecture.

What to Know - connects you to a number of resources.

What's New - links to a periodic blog on all topics related to studying architecture.

Your Journey - provides you a road map to becoming an architect and making an impact.

Check it out!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Portfolio Advice

I was wondering if you have any advise in regards to creating an architectural portfolio for graduate school for someone who didn't major in architecture. I'm trying to get a good idea of what the school would be looking for with the knowledge that my undergraduate studies were in another field. Any advise would be helpful, thanks!

With regards to creating a portfolio, I would suggest the following website --

Portfolio Design

This website talks about process; you may also want to obtain the book version by the same name.  As your undergraduate degree is not in architecture, do not feel you have to submit architecture; submit creative work --

Contact the graduate programs to which you are applying and see what they say.
Look at examples on

Search Google for Portfolio Requirements for ideas posted by graduate programs. 

Portfolio Requirements:
A portfolio of student and professional work is required of all applicants demonstrating the applicant’s abilities in architectural design and communications. Examples of work should include undergraduate design studio work, sketches, free hand drawings, construction drawings, photos of architectural models, and digital models and drawings demonstrating the applicant’s abilities to use architectural graphic programs such as Sketchup, Sketchbook Pro, Rhino, and others.  Portfolio content should meet the following minimum requirements:
  • Show at least six [6] undergraduate design studio projects completed as a student.
  • Show introductory analysis, conceptualization, project context, and project development as well as final products for each project entry. A short narrative must accompany each entry.
  • Demonstrate two- and three-dimensional design development
  • Demonstrate increasing complexity across the projects
  • Demonstrate increasing attention to detail development of the design across the projects
Do your best and continue to ask questions and for help.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Becoming an Architect - Undergraduate in another Discipline

I was recently doing some research online about studying architecture and came across your blog. I can't seem to find a straight answer to my question which is: can you become an architect with a bachelor's degree in something that has nothing to do with architecture, and if so how? I would imagine that one could study anything during undergraduate years, and then apply for a master's architecture program. Is this correct? Also, what type of course work should someone enrolled in a master's architecture program expect?
Thank you very much in advance!


My expertise is in the process of becoming an architect in the U.S.; as such, my comments/answers are from that perspective.

To become an architect for more jurisdictions in the U.S., one needs to have 1) education, 2) experience, and 3) examination.

To meet the education standard, one must possess an accredited degree in architecture - a BArch, MArch, or DArch.  For the Master of Architecture, one can pursue what is typically a 3-4 year graduate degree following an undergraduate degree in most any discipline.

So, what you state below - I would imagine that one could study anything during undergraduate years, and then apply for a master's architecture program. Is this correct? - is correct.

As for what to pursue as an undergraduate, it will vary depending on the individual.  It is common that the degree would be related to design and architecture - civil engineering, fine arts, landscape architecture, etc.  But it could be completely unrelated - English, finance, etc.

Ultimately, I would suggest you and others pursue an undergraduate in which you will enjoy and do well academically to allow for graduate admission.  As well, most graduate programs require a portfolio for admission -- thus, take courses in fine art and design that will allow you to produce materials for a portfolio.

Best. Dr. Architecture