Monday, August 4, 2014

Becoming an Architect: Opportunities Abound - 15 years later

Having just returned from the IDP Conference in Miami, FL this past weekend, I am inspired to bring back an article entitled, Becoming an Architect: Opportunities Abound, that I authored in 1998 and appeared in the January 1998 issue of Architectural Record.

As you may know, NCARB has been made adjustments to IDP over recent years and is also proposing some additional changes all in an effort to streamline the program and more encouraging to architectural graduates to become licensed.  

Currently, the process of becoming an architect is approximately 12 years according to NCARB by the Numbers (2014).  Does this length of time discourage aspiring architects?  Are fewer interns becoming licensed because of the process?

Regardless of the answer, the article I wrote back in 1998 inquired what "you" would do if a young person asked you about becoming an architect.  What would you do?

I will emphasize what I shared back then -- I will hope you gladly and strongly encourage them to pursue architecture and licensure as the education and experience prepares one for any number of careers in architecture and beyond.

Continue the conversation.

Lee W. Waldrep


Becoming an Architect: Opportunities Abound
Lee W. Waldrep, Ph.D.
Architectural Record: Speak Out - January 1998 Issue

If a young person who wanted to be an architect sought your advice, what would you do?  Would you encourage them by sharing the positive aspects of the profession -- the creativity and variety plus the opportunities to improve the quality of life through affecting the built environment?  Or would you highlight the negatives -- five or seven years of schooling, a minimum three-year internship, a daunting licensing exam, and long hours with low pay.

As an educational administrator, I meet aspiring architects daily.  I encourage them wholeheartedly providing them with the resources and means they need to make an informed career choice.  I inform them that as an architect, opportunities abound because an architectural education is a springboard to a myriad of careers.

Statistics from the United States Department of Labor project that by 2005 the number of positions available to architects will increase by 25,000 to a total of 121,000.  National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) statistics indicate that by 2005 there will be almost 60,000 graduates vying for those 25,000 positions.  Based on these numbers, we should immediately shut down half of the degree programs in architecture before supply overwhelms demand.

But consider this:

           According to 1991 American Institute of Architects (AIA) membership statistics, one-sixth (over 8,000) of the AIA members indicated that their primary professional activities were outside of an architectural firm or private practice.

           In recent publications, both AIA and American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) highlight career options for architectural graduates.  In Career Options: Opportunities through Architecture AIAS lists over 100 disciplines where architectural graduates can apply their skills.

As an architect, you may have colleagues who are earning their livelihood in related fields.  In fact, you may be one who has entered a field that builds upon your education as an architect.  Just as I have pursued a related career field, educational administration, there are many “architects” who are pursuing other career fields.  In the spring issue of its college newsletter, Texas A&M profiled two graduates who capitalized on their education as architects to become an Air Force instructor and sculptor. 

Anecdotal estimates suggest that only 50% of graduates enter the profession as licensed architects.  If this is true, we should not be worrying about closing down architecture programs.  Rather, we should be finding ways to show graduating students how their hard-won skills can contribute to success in a variety of fields.  Conversely, our schools and professional organizations should be networking with other professional and business groups, informing them of the broad, creative, problem-solving skills that trained architects possess.  One need not be a licensed, practicing architect to make a contribution with these skills.

One resource designed to help future “educated-as-architects” individual is Careers in Architecture: Choices, Pathways, Success.  Published by the AIA, this book devotes a full chapter to “looking beyond architecture,” highlighting careers in landscape architecture; interior design; lighting design; acoustical design; engineering; construction; urban and regional planning; architectural history, theory, and criticism; and environmental and behavioral research.  As the section concludes, “the bottom line is that the building enterprise is an exceedingly broad field; the possibilities are endless.”

So, the next time a young man or woman comes to you inquiring about becoming an architect, you can feel confident giving them your wholehearted encouragement.  We need more architects who are not architects.  As Leslie Kanes Weisman, of the New Jersey Institute of Technology recently said, “I am certain that architectural graduates who are in command of the powerful problem defining and problem solving skills of the designer, will be fully capable of designing their own imaginative careers by creating new definitions of meaningful work for architects that are embedded in the social landscape of human activity and life’s events.”

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