Thursday, May 28, 2009

Portfolio Contents

I do not have a portfolio - any resources you can suggest on how to build an effective, compelling portfolio, if you're starting from scratch, what elements it needs to contain, how deep it needs to be? My creative outlets are typically writing and drawing (badly!) for myself, and I'm admittedly intimidated by the idea of putting together a winning creative dossier.

I am looking at applying to school for fall '11, so I have plenty of time.

With that much time, I would suggest you take some freehand drawing courses; this will improve your ability and provide materials for a portfolio. In addition, purchase a sketchbook, carry it with you at all times and draw no less than 30 minutes per day. Part of drawing is making it a habit. While waiting, draw something you see for 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes. It does not matter what the subject is.

As for resources for portfolio, the best is Portfolio Design by Harold Linton. It is also a website -- -- It teaches you the basics of layout and the importance of balance between graphic and white space. If you do not have the talent, learn Photoshop and InDesign as it will make doing a portfolio that much easier.

As to what to put in your portfolio, contact the schools. If your undergraduate degree is something other than architecture, what is inside does NOT have to be architecture. You want a balance of creative work so an admissions committee can see how you think and create. This could include freehand drawing, painting, three-dimensional work that is photographed, photography, etc.

If you truly feel intimidated, try to look at other people's portfolios. As you visit programs, be in touch with the current students and ask to view their portfolio. However, do not be swayed -- just use it to gain ideas.

Dr. Architecture

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Becoming an Architect - International Degree

I moved newly to USA-TX by the international organization for migration. I have B.Sc. in architecture and M.Sc. in urban planning from Baghdad university in Iraq. How can I qualify my transcripts and an authorization to work as an architect? Please can I get some information about the procedure. I found many wbsites and I do not know from where to start.

If your desire is to become a licensed architect in the United States, you must contact NCARB -- -- In particular, you will want to visit the following link of which the text is listed below:

There is no reciprocal registration between foreign countries and the U.S. (with the exception of Canada). You cannot practice architecture in a U.S. jurisdiction without acquiring a license to practice in that jurisdiction. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands has an architectural registration board which regulates the profession in their jurisdiction.

To become a registered architect in a U.S. jurisdiction, you must first comply with that jurisdiction’s education, training and examination requirements. Recognize that not all jurisdictions have adopted NCARB's education and training standards. All questions regarding your eligibility must be directed to your jurisdiction’s registration board. For the contact information for each board, see jurisdictional board.

Many registration boards require applicants to have a professional degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Foreign-educated individuals, who do not hold such a degree, may be directed to have all of their post-secondary education evaluated by NAAB. NAAB performs the Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA). Applications for the "EESA-NCARB" evaluation must be requested from:

National Architectural Accrediting Board Inc. (NAAB)
1735 New York Avenue, NW, 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 783-2007

Fees for this service will be billed to you directly by NAAB which is a private organization, not affiliated with any architectural registration board

Most NCARB member boards have adopted the training requirements established for the Intern Development Program (IDP). In the IDP, training is measured in training units; one training unit equals 8 hours of acceptable experience. To satisfy the IDP requirements you must earn a total of at least 700 training units, with prescribed subtotals in various training areas. The maximum credit allowed for foreign experience in architecture is 235 training units if under the supervision of an architect not registered in the U.S. or Canada.

Five years of full-time, verified foreign experience as a principal in an organization whose architectural practice encompasses the comprehensive practice of architecture is an alternative to the IDP Training Requirement, which may be recognized by the jurisdiction(s) where you seek registration.

Every NCARB member board requires interns to pass NCARB's Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Those who practice architecture outside of the U.S. Or Canada must also pass the ARE to qualify for registration in the U.S. For further information, see ARE.

If you have any questions, please contact NCARB Customer Service.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Philosophy and Approach

I am exploring MArch programs. On a number of web sites that discuss how to assess program fit I have seen the suggestion to pay attention to a school's philosophy or approach to architectural thought. But - somewhat cryptically - I haven't been able to find a breakdown of what the various key philosophies and approaches are, pros and cons of each, and how to identify or look for them when reading through a school's program description or website.
I'm wondering if you might help: are there in fact different schools of thought on how to approach architectural education, training and process? Do these show up in program curricula? How does one identify what approach a program takes and the pros and cons of being schooled in each different approach - both creatively and from a career perspective? Are there certain schools that are known for using specific approaches (i.e., in MBA programs, Harvard is uniquely known for using the case method - any parallels in the world of architecture?)?


As a prospective architecture student, you bring up good questions and I applaud your researching these aspects of an architectural education and using them as criteria to select your program. Unfortunately, the only true way to research a program's philosophy is to ask -- via a phone call to the program director or other key administrator. Of course, you may learn some of what you are seeking from the program's website, but it probably takes a conversation. Below are resources on architectural education and the architectural programs.

Although all architecture programs must meet the NAAB criteria, programs are different. NAAB tells programs what to teach but not how to teach. For this reason, programs teach architecture differently. Their differences come from their institutional context -- what academic unit are they located, the degrees they offer, their physical location (urban vs. rural), faculty, tradition, etc. As you will discover, some programs emphasize the theory of architecture, others emphasize the technical side. You have to determine which is the best fit for you. Your best approach is to talk with lots of people in the profession -- architects, students, faculty, others. Bottom line, just be sure that the program you enter is accredited and you will be able to eventually sit for the ARE - Architect Registration Exam. What you want in a program is truly up to you. What makes you most comfortable?

Dr. Architecture

Monday, May 25, 2009

Architecture vs. Interior Design; M.Arch. vs. B. Arch.

I have a BS in nursing and I'm considering going back to school to study architecture or interior design. I've been studying decorating magazines and drawing house plans since I was little, and I've been debating which major I should choose. I didn't pursue either one the first time around because I was unable to attend a university where the programs were offered. Frankly, I didn't think I'd be very good at it since I'm not a very good artist. But I'm older now and I've spent 20 yrs. in hospitals. I'm tired out, stressed out, and burned out. I'm kind of nervous but, good or bad, I'm ready to try something new.

I think an architecture degree would be more versatile than a degree in interior design. From what I've read, architects can specialize in interior design if they want to. Assuming I enroll in an architecture program, I have 2 questions. First, I would be attending LSU which offers a 5 yr. B.Arch. program and a 3 yr. professional M.Arch. The M.Arch. would be the logical choice for me. But I've read some comments from students online stating that a B.Arch. program teaches more "fundamentals" than a M.Arch. Is this accurate? The B.Arch. curriculum includes 5 yrs. of design courses and the M.Arch. includes only 3. Is there something missing from the master's program or is it the same material taught in a shorter period of time? Would I gain anything by taking the longer program? How would each degree affect my future salary?

Second, how can an architect specialize in interiors without the training in color, furniture, and fabrics, etc. that an ID program provides? I wish I could do both. Would it be possible to have a double major in these 2 fields?

I know this sounds like nitpicking, but I just want to make sure I have all the facts straight so I know what I'm getting into.

I plan to take physics and another drawing course ahead of time. Any other advice or suggestions would be much appreciated.

You basically have asked two questions -- architecture vs. interior design and if architecture, M.Arch. vs. B.Arch.

With respect to architecture vs. interior design, you are correct in that architecture is more versatile than interior design. I have often told many architecture students that architects can do interior design but interior designers cannot do architecture. With that said, you must decide which is best for you.

Resources to review are the following:

Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design

Becoming an Interior Designer: A Guide to Careers in Design

Your question about how architects can do interior design without training -- typically, it is through experience and working for a firm that specializes in interiors. Certainly, you could attend an architecture program at an institution that also has an interior design program. You could probably do a double degree, but you may learn as much through experience.

Ultimately, you must connect what you want and pursue it will full vigor.

As for the M.Arch. vs. B.Arch, you should pursue the M.Arch. (3-4 years) as it is designed for individuals who already have an undergraduate degree such as nursing. You will wish to verify that both degrees are accredited by NAAB -- --. You are correct in that most B.Arch. may have more design studios than a M.Arch, but more is not always better. The M.Arch. will be a sound program for you. Given that your commitment, the M.Arch. will serve you well.

As to salary, typically individuals with a M.Arch. are paid more.

You are smart to take physics and drawing. Begin the research process so you can apply for Fall 2010. Start the portfolio that will be required -- -- Talk with architects and interior designers to gain perspective.

Finally, you may be burned out on nursing, but strongly consider a career in heathcare architecture, one of the largest industries within architecture. Given your experience, you would be valuable to employers.

Dr. Architecture

Friday, May 22, 2009

Becoming an Architect

I am 37 and a resident of California. I have an undergrad degree in Liberal Studies. I'd like to pursue a career in architecture. Do I have to get a degree in architecture or can I start as an intern and work my way up and eventually get certified? What would be your recommended course of action? I'd like to avoid school if possible.

In general terms, it is very difficult to become a licensed architect without first obtaining a NAAB accredited degree in architecture ( However, very few states will allow an individual to become registered with either a preprofessional degree in architecture or a high school diploma, but the experience required would be increased.
As it turns out, California is one of those states. With only a high school diploma, a candidate would need 8 years of acceptable experience. For more details, contact the state board in California or the following:
While it is possible for you to pursue licensure without any additional schooling in California, I would NOT recommend it. First, you will find it extremely difficult to secure an intern position with no background in architecture. Next, as most states and NCARB require a NAAB degree for licensure, you will be limited to practice only in California.
I recognize that you wish to avoid school, but architecture is a very technical field. As such, you have much to learn both in the classroom and working within a firm.

Dr. Architecture

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

International Degree

If I were to obtain a 3 year bachelor degree from a university in Australia, would I be eligible to participate in the IDP, and take the ARE?
I currently have an Associates in Architectural Technology from a community college here in North Carolina. I would like to go to Australia and get a degree in Architecture, then come back and work here in the U.S. Is this possible?

To obtain the most accurate answer, you will need to contact NCARB - You may also wish to contact the state IDP coordinator in your state.

Most states require a NAAB accredited degree to meet the education requirement. As such, your degree from Australia will not only allow you to be eligible to become a licensed architect in the U.S. However, you can still become licensed by having your foreign degree evaluated by EESA -- Also, you should review a new accord -- - between the countries of U.S., Australia and others.

Bottom line, it is possible, but do your research ahead of time to recoginze what you will need to do upon your return to the U.S.

Dr. Architecture

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'm currently working as a web developer with 4 yrs experience in NJ,USA. I hold a B.Arch degree from India and always wanted to pursue Masters in Urban designing here. Now I'm interested in pursuing,which colleges are the best in NY-NJ and what are the prerequisites.

To my knowledge, there is a not a list of Master of Urban Design degrees; one possible resource would be -- -- this is a list of institutions that have accredited architecture programs, but does have a search mechanism allowing you to search on Urban Design as a related discipline.
As for prerequisites, you will need to contact each school individually.

Dr. Architecture

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Resources - Careers in Architecture

As the principal of a firm, we receive calls all the time and often meet with prospective students, but it would be helpful to have a handout to give them. Additionally, there ought to be a direct link on the AIA website to where it would be easy to download the pamphlet and a list of accredited list of architectural schools. If you log on to and try to print information today it is not in a friendly user format. What you are doing for AIA is very important and I commend you for your efforts.

I can share that they do have an online brochure from the following website on As you can see, there is a direct link to from this website --.

The National Architectural Accrediting Board has a website dedicated to resources on Careers in Architecture including an updated list of NAAB accredited programs (see below).

ACSA also has an online guide to architecture programs

May I also suggest you refer prospective students to the following: Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design.

A final resource is a description of the career from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Dr. Architecture