Thursday, April 28, 2011

Architects and Beyond: Diverse Career Opportunities

I thought I would share the details of a session that I will be moderating at the upcoming AIA Convention in New Orleans, LA.  Amazingly, this will be the sixth AIA Convention in a row.  If you happen to be in New Orleans, please attend.  I will report the results of the session later in May.

Architects and Beyond: Diverse Career Opportunities
Thursday, May 12, 2011
2:00 - 3:30PM

LU  / HSW  /SD 

Program Summary: Because of the broad education and generalist practice of an architect, individuals with an architectural education regularly pursue careers that extend to a variety of field related-to or completely outside of the field of architecture.  However, current economic conditions and its effect on traditional architectural practice, pursuing careers beyond architecture are becoming more commonplace.

Using a Pecha Kucha like format, a panel of design professionals will provide an overview of their current career field – what they do, but more importantly why and how they came to pursue the current career field.  Following this will be an interactive presentation that engages the audience in learning the process of “career designing.”  Attendees will be guided to and through a variety of resources that will help them interactively actualize their own vision for their career.

After a question and answer period, resources will be shared with the audience.

Learning objectives
1.    Facilitate innovation and creative thinking pertaining to careers in architecture and beyond.
2.    Teach and interactively engage participants about the career design and development process and how it can be implemented.
3.    Examine how an architecture background can benefit a multitude of careers
4.    Implement ways to support, promote, and adopt alternative career paths.

Provider: National Associates Committee

Moderator: Lee W. Waldrep, Ph.D., Associate AIA – Assistant Director, School of Architecture, University of Illinois
Nathan Benjamin, Associate AIA - Planet Reuse
Wayne Mortensen, Associate AIA, NASW - Rose Fellow, Neighborhood Progress, Inc.
Casius Pealer, LEED AP - President, Oyster Tree Consulting, L3C
Derek Roberts, Associate AIA, LEED AP - Jacobs Engineering
Margaret R. Tarampi, Associate AIA - Doctoral Candidate, University of Utah

Pratt vs. Northeastern

I have just recently been on your site and I was wondering if you could answer my question if you have the time. The problem is that I am stuck between choosing Pratt or Northeastern. Pratt offers a five-year program to attain a B.Arch degree and then a three-year program for a M.Arch. Northeastern offers a four-year B.S Arch that takes five years to complete because they have a co-op program and then a year program for a M.Arch. Which route is better? Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon.

First, you need to understand the process of becoming an architect.  You will need to accomplish three tasks - 1) Education, 2) Experience and 3) Exam.  With regards to education, you will wish to complete the professional accredited degree by NAAB; this includes either of the two degrees you mention - the Bachelor of Architecture or the Master of Architecture. 

As both degrees from you are deciding are professional accredited degrees, you need to consider other criteria to make your decision.  What is most important for you in making this decision - cost, location, facilities, etc.  Have you had a chance to visit the programs?

I will suggest you determine the criteria by which to make the decision and compare each program against the criteria.  Do not compare the programs against each other.  Bottom line, the question is not which route is better, but rather which route is better for you.

p.s. Another option is to flip a coin where tails is Pratt and heads is Northeastern.  Flip it but do not look at the results.  Instead, what did you want the result to be when the coin was in the air.


Dr. Architecture

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Foreign Architect

I am writing in regard to my career and new situation as I am an architect holding an architectural BSC. degree from a university in Egypt, I am also PMP certified and working for a firm in Kuwait.  However I am now U.S. green card holder and I am seriously thinking to move to the United States NYC. Please advise me what process needed to be done in order to be able to work in NYC and if my certificate needs accreditation what steps should I follow.
Your support will be highly appreciated

To become a licensed architect in the U.S., one needs 1) education, 2) experience, and 3) examination.  While it slightly varies from state to state, NCARB does require a professional accredited degree in architecture, completion of IDP and passing of the ARE to obtain certification allowing one to gain reciprocity from state to state.

For your education in Egypt, you will need to have it evaluated by EESA - -- It is a process by which they evaluate your education against the NCARB Education Standard.

You may also wish to review the following from NCARB --

Dr. Architecture 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Undergraduate Architecture Programs

As a high school counselor, I have a student who is French  and is considering applying to undergraduate architecture programs.  She is an average student - her grades are ok.  She will also have the challenge of taking the TOEFL and ACT.

This is my question.  What programs are the least competitive for  admission. Obviously she will apply to some reach schools, but I am wondering what would be some safety schools?  Thanks.

I would suggest you not consider programs that are least competitive but rather focus on improving her English to improve her credentials.  I do not know which are the least competitive schools.  One route could be to start at a community college and transfer afterwards to an accredited program.  In Illinois, College of DuPage and others have architectural technology programs that start students out right.

One resource for schools is --

Also, encourage her to attend the Chicago Architecture + Design Career Day set for October 15, 2011 on the campus of IIT - --

As well, she could attend a summer design program for high school students.  One to consider is
Discover Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Such a program could help with her English and gain her confidence.


Dr. Architecture 

Architect Position Titles

My son is an architecture major and although doing extremely well, questions whether it's the right path for him.  Finishing his second year he has done well academically, has won awards/contests and his professors consider him to be one of their strongest and most talented students.  He is very artistic as well as a strong academic student.  He is a hard worker and his attention to detail and accuracy comes natural -- a bit of a perfectionist.  He is very critical of himself and his work and often finishes a project thinking he has failed only to receive high praise from professors and peers.  
Within the field of architecture, what types of jobs would he be well suited?  I imagine there is a great need within architecture firms to have a very specialized, reliable, independent employee who is happy with some of the more tedious, mundane work that needs to be done with accuracy.  But, I really don't know the field and would appreciate your insight to the inner workings and needs of an architecture firm.

Thank you for offering this service! 

As you discuss personality, I could not resist referring you to an article (A Difficult Character) on personality and the architecture profession; this will not provide the answer to your question, but it may be interesting reading.

I do not profess to be an expert on the profession, but it needs all types of individuals including ones as you describe (see Definitions of Positions).  For example, 80% of all firms are one person - sole architects.  Through coursework, reading, or meetings with faculty or architects, he can start to learn the different types of positions in a firm.  One source is Dana Cuff's book - Architecture: The Story of Practice and Andy Pressman's book - Professional Practice 101.

In the manner in which you describe your son, he may be well-suited as a
project architect in a firm.

Encourage him to interact with upperclassmen that have worked internships, faculty, and alums that are architects.

I do hope this helps. 

Dr. Architecture

Architecture and Actuarial Science

I’m currently a junior in high school and for years I’ve been considering architecture to be my future career. I feel like I’d love the job, but many say that during a recession, many architects suffer and many lose their jobs. With our hard to fully predict economy, I don’t want my life to depend on that and be at such risk. To be safe, I’m thinking about becoming an architect as well as an actuary and choose depending on circumstances. Do you have any advice as to what degrees I should try to earn? A bachelor’s in mathematics, or in architecture, or in actuarial science, or in art…? then masters?

I also heard that just a  bachelor’s alone in architecture is basically worthless…
But on the other hand, someone told me teachers with masters degrees are to be paid more and therefore schools such as my high school don’t like to hire them, if that’s at all true, is it also true with architects?

Also should I be looking for a school that is well known in the architectural field or one in the actuarial science field?
I applaud your interest in architecture and actuarial science, although they are quite different careers.  If you have not already done so, review the following career information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Architect -

Actuary -

While I very much appreciate the fact that the architecture profession is tied to the economy, I would not use that as the sole factor in determining a career.  Think about career satisfaction.  Did you know that over 90% of architects would choose the same profession again?

As for which degree to pursue, I can suggest you consider obtaining an undergraduate degree in mathematics and afterwards pursuing a Master of Architecture.  It will take longer than an undergraduate in architecture and the Master of Architecture, but it will keep your options open.  For architecture, you must obtain the master degree for licensure or the Bachelor of Architecture.  A good resource to obtain is Becoming an Architect, 2nd Edition.

As for architecture schools, access -- I am not sure which school are appropriate for actuarial science.

Also, as a junior in high school, consider attending one of many summer programs offered for high school students.  One to consider is at the University of Illinois -- --.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Portfolios via Cloud Computing.

Consider me a helicopter parent, and I suppose I will have to claim the title.  At any rate, my son, who graduated in May with a BArch, wants to apply to a firm that apparently wants to access his portfolio through what I guess must be cloud computing.  If I'm sounding stupid, it's because in this regard, I am.  So does he have to pay for some sort of service to upload his portfolio?  And in such case, would his portfolio be protected, or would anyone have access to it and could therefore pirate his materials?  He is so frustrated, so his helicopter mother is trying to keep him on track, but I need your help.
Thanks very much for any assistance you can provide.

I may have to claim ignorance on this one as well, but I will give it a shot.

Many architecture students and graduates post their portfolios via websites of their own making or websites designed for such purposes.  One such website is the following:
Issuu is the leading digital publishing platform delivering exceptional reading experiences of magazines, catalogs, and newspapers.
From my understanding, these websites are free to use for basic access, but there may be a fee for more advanced levels.  As firms do not want to have large digital files from candidates, they request the candidates digital portfolio online - or cloud computing.  In most instances, these files are NOT protected - meaning that anyone can access them.  A suggestion might be to NOT list your full mailing address but just email.

In all cases, he should be in touch with the firm as to how to best apply for a position.

I hope this helps!  If he is frustrated with a helicopter mom, tell him to contact me directly.
Dr. Architecture

Reciprocity Degree

My Bachelor of Architecture Degree and Master Degree in Architecture & Urban Planning were issued by Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture, Viet Nam. The BA Degree was issued in 1994, and the Master Degree was issued in 1998. I would like to have my degree to be certificated (Reciprocity Degree) for future using. Please advise. 
I am looking forward to hearing from you soon. I will be truly appreciated for your help. 
I am not sure exactly what you mean by reciprocity for future using, but if your desire is to become a licensed architect in the U.S., you would need your architectural education evaluated by the following:
Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA-NCARB)
NAAB administers the EESA-NCARB program, which evaluates the credentials of foreign educated and broadly experienced architects against the NCARB Education Standard. EESA-NCARB provides assistance to individuals who do not have a professional degree in architecture from an NAAB-accredited school of architecture and who wish to either apply for NCARB certification or for registration by an NCARB member board. 

If this is not what you mean, send a more detailed explanation.
Dr. Architecture 

Considering a MArch Program

I am 28 years old and am seriously considering dropping everything and following my dream of becoming an architect. My question to you concerns the competitiveness of MArch degree programs: Is it impossible to get into a relatively good MArch program with no Architectural background?? I have a BA in Geography and am currently enrolled in a MA program for International Development in Washington DC. I have always loved architecture--it is the one thing that truly excites me. I am quite artistic and have a collection of sculptures that I've made over the years--mostly from different metals, but also wood. I also enjoy drawing and painting and have been a substitute art teacher at my old high school. A few more questions:

-Would it be feasible to work part-time while pursuing a MArch degree?
-What sort of material should a candidate with no architecture background include in their portfolio?

Thank you for your help!

As you can imagine, gaining admission to a Master of Architecture is typically competitive, but as you have a background other than architecture, you will be judged accordingly. 

As you will find, most MArch programs require full-time study; perhaps, in the upper years of the program, you may be able to work part-time but you will want to concentrate your time on studies.

As for your portfolio, first ask the programs to which you are applying; next, include creative work - drawing, sculpture, etc.  Consider reviewing for ideas on presenting your work.  Given what you state, you should have no problems doing your portfolio.

As you are in DC, consider visiting Catholic University and University of Maryland.