Monday, April 30, 2012

Biology to Architecture

I am a 28 year old professional with a bachelors degree in Biology. I am trying to make a career change and I applied to a M.Arch program this year and unfortunately almost all of the schools rejected me (U. Oregon, U. Washington, U. New Mexico, and Cal Poly Pomona). 

I was, however, immediately accepted into the program at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego after a very informal and un-rigorous (compared to the other schools) application process. My concern is why the NewSchool (which by the way is for-profit) would accept me when all of the other schools wouldn't; and while I'm not hung up on going to a prestigious school, I do want to make sure that if I spend the time and money it will be worth something in the end. 

So I'm wondering what you would make of the situation, if you know anything about the NewSchool or have any insight about for-profit schools, and if, like me, you are suspicious that it sounds too good to be true?

Thank you so much in advance for any help and advice you can offer.

First, congrats on your decision to pursue architecture. 

To learn why NewSchool would admit you and the others would not, I can only suggest that you contact the schools directly to learn more.  Contact each school that did not admit you and ask for feedback on the quality of your application as compared to what they were seeking.  Was it academics, portfolio, statement, etc?

Contact NewSchool to learn more about your admission and their program.  Granted, they are for-profit, but their program is accredited by NAAB.  An accredited degree is necessary to seek licensure.

Unfortunately, I do not have any direct experience with NewSchool and cannot provide any feedback.

If you are not comfortable with your choice, you can stay out a year and apply again with new insight on your application.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Summer Programs for Adults

At the age of 32 I am in the midst of a career change and I have always had a notion that I would like to explore architecture.  So, I am looking into some of the Summer 2012 programs to get a better idea of what the profession is about, and to build a portfolio.  I am finding that many of these programs are for high school students exclusively, are you aware of which also cater to adults like me?  I have looked at and liked the Harvard program because it addresses people of all ages, as does the City College of New York.  Any other suggestions?

Thank you for any help you can provide.

On is the list of summer programs that I compile each year and you are correct - most are for high school students.  However, the following are more for either college students and adults.

Aside from the summer program, consider LAIAD (in the list) as they have full semester and year long programs to assist students transition to architecture programs.

Do let me know if you discover others.  Best!
California at Berkeley, University of - Berkeley, CA
July 2 - August 10, 2012 (8 weeks)

California at Los Angeles, University of - Los Angeles, CA
June 20 – July 29, 2012 (6 weeks)

Columbia University - New York, NY                          
July 5 – August 3, 2012 (5 weeks)

Harvard University - Cambridge, MA
June 4 – July 13, 2012 (6 weeks)

Los Angeles Institute of Architecture and Design (LAIAD)
Washington University - St. Louis, MO
June 3-16, 2012 (2 weeks) College Students and Graduates

Washington, University of - Seattle, WA
June 18 – August 17, 2012 (9 weeks)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Becoming an Architect

I am a resident of Mumbai, India
I just came across you through a website.. namely 
actually presently.. I have just given a high school exam of class 10th. i want to become a architect.its my dream ambition. actually i want to go in building designing and urban planning sectors in architecture.
so, sir I request you to please guide me that what all i have to do, which exams i need to compete. etc. in order to become a architect.
I will be thankful to you.
My expertise is in becoming an architect in the U.S., not India.  Thus, I will encourage you to review the following website as it relates to becoming an architect in the U.S.

I can imagine the process is different in India.  I did find the website below that may be helpful.

Sorry, I cannot be of more assistance.

Making a Decision

Thank you first of all for your website and all it's truly helpful information. I was wondering if you could provide some insight from a professional standpoint. Currently I'm deciding between Penn State and Virginia Tech. 

I was accepted into Penn State's architecture program, but only university studies for Virginia Tech. I'm very interested in attending Tech however, and trying to decide whether or not transferring in would be a suitable option for me. I'm willing to work hard, extremely hard, but it is a risk to try to get in, especially when I've been accepted to Penn State and Rensselaer. 

Could you give me your opinion on any of these three colleges? I'm very interested in city design (especially working for a firm such as SOM), although I also am open to designing houses. Thank you for your time!

Thanks for you kind words on the website and its helpful information.

Having previously worked at an institution that had a two-tier admissions process, I would strongly advise you to pursue you top desired program despite what obstacles there may be -- If you are interested in VTech, contact them to best learn the process of switching from University Studies to Architecture; I found the following website, but contact the actual architecture program.

Ask how many students they accept from University Studies?  Are you able to meet the requirements as listed above?

Unfortunately, I do not have personal insights on the three institutions that you mention.  Instead, think of the criteria by which you wish to determine your decision -- location, cost, facilities, reputation, size, etc.  Compare each program against your criteria to determine which is the best for you.

Ironically, the three programs from which you are deciding are in rural locations yet you are interested in city design.  Which of the three will provide the avenue for you.

I wish you the best and do let me know what you decide.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Validate Diploma

I am sorry to bother you but I am in doubt, because I have arrived at the United States a month ago, I majored in architecture in a Cuban university and I was wondering if there is any way for me to validate my diploma here. 

The following confirms that your foreign education is equivalent to the NCARB Education Standard.


College Major

The college that I will be attending in the fall does not offer architecture as a major, yet I would still like to pursue a career in architecture. However, I fear that when the time comes to take the ARE exams, I will not have the proper knowledge necessary to pass. Do the ARE exams play a main factor in entrance to graduate schools? What should I do? 

I will provide the best answer I can with what you provided, but it would be helpful to know what college you will be attending and it what major?

First, in order to sit for the licensing exam (ARE), you must first complete an accredited degree in architecture and complete IDP (Intern Development Program) for the state in which you wish to become an architect.

As such, the ARE does not play a factor in applying to graduate programs in architecture.

Thus, if you wish to become an architect, consider completing your degree in another discipline and pursue the Master of Architecture (3-4 years); or you can transfer to an architecture program to more quickly pursue your architecture degree.

Aside from the degree, there are many pursuits you can follow to connect with the discipline -- 1) sketch, 2) read, 3) meet with an architect, 4) attend lectures, 5) see architecture, 6) visit architecture, etc.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

High School to Architecture School

I'm a senior in high school. Lately, I have been thinking alot about what i want to study in college and i have decided i want to be an architect. The problem is i only took one class this year and from what i understand, the architecture industry is very competitive. I have a 25 on my ACT and my GPA is around 3.4. Is there any hope for me getting into an architecture school?

Bottom line, there is hope for you to gain admission to architecture school.  I suggest you begin the process of researching architecture programs via -- -- and -- -- to learn which programs are a good fit for you.

Once you have narrowed down your choices, plan to visit a few of them and learn of their admissions processes and requirements. 

There is a full range of programs available meaning there is one that is right for you.  If your high school credentials are not adequate, you can consider attending a community college first to build your academics and transfer.

Best to you on your path -- You may also consider attending a summer program this summer -- visit -- for a list.

Finally, obtain the book Becoming an Architect, 2nd Ed. to learn all you need to know to become an architect.

Dr. Architecture

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mechanical Engineer

I am a college student and I am emailing you because I have a question about the profession of architecture.

So, here it is: I am currently a mechanical engineering student, but I've become somewhat disenchanted with my major. However, I have always been interested in the idea of architecture. Are there any opportunities in the field of architecture where I could put my ME degree to use? In other words, are there ways to get in architecture "business" without having a degree in arch.? I am open to any thoughts or ideas, including professions related to architecture.

Given that many firms are EA - Engineering Architecture firms, I would guess that there may be opportunities to put you ME degree to use within the architecture profession. It may more difficult for you, thus you may wish to attempt to take architecture courses or a minor while you complete your ME degree.

For the long term, you may wish to consider pursuing the Master of Architecture (3-4 years) for someone with a degree other than architecture.  Read an answer from a previous question.

I hope this helps!

MArch Decision - Round Two

Last year I had emailed you for some help regarding majoring in architecture and your guidance was very much appreciated. And as per your suggestion I read your book which was also very helpful. I was wondering  if I could get your opinion on some universities that I got accepted into
1) Southern California Institute of Architecture
2) USC
3) Pratt Institute
4)Cal Poly, Pomona

And I think I ll probably go to either SCI-ARC or USC. I am going to visit them in the coming weeks which I am hoping helps me decide. I was wondering about the Design Intelligence Rankings as well and whether I can use that as one of the factors in my decision. Your opinion about these universities would be greatly appreciated.
You may certainly use the DI rankings as one of your factors/criteria in making your decision, but be sure to understand their methodology for ranking programs.  As I understand it, DI surveys firms on the quality of architecture programs.
"For the 2012 edition, 360 firms in the four professional fields participated. Each respondent has direct responsibility for hiring and/or supervising recent graduate new hires in one or more of those fields surveyed. Practitioners selected to participate were drawn from a DesignIntelligence database of leading firms defined by both revenue and reputation."

Aside from the rankings, I would suggest you strongly consider other more important factors such as location, reputation, faculty, curriculum, facilities, etc.

In my opinion, the DI rankings are a popularity contest and do not take into account your personal interests.


MArch Decision

I applied last year and I have been offered places at Cornell University, Parsons The New School of Design and Pratt Institute, I have also on the waitlist for Columbia University.

I am currently struggling to make a decision about where to go and I have been asking various American friends and acquaintances about their impressions of each school as well as attending students. I have narrowed down my choices to Parsons and Cornell and I was wondering whether you could help me, by also telling me what your impressions/experiences are of both institutions.

The rankings and reputation in this case would suggest that Cornell be the best option, however I would have concerns about living in Ithaca. With Parsons, I am a little worried about whether employers would see it as a lesser institution as it is more generally known for art and design. I am a British applicant and I can only infer these things from a surface level. I appreciate that you cannot offer recommendations but it is important for me to get an opinion from a professional in the field. So I would be very grateful for any information that you can offer in this case.

I was also wondering if you could help me with details of approximate starting salaries for architects or if you could point me in the direction of a resource that would help with such details? I am in the process of applying for loans and I need to develop an out-of school budget.

Again, I would welcome your advice in this case. 

Congrats on your admission.  As you note, now is the struggle.

Truly, I do not have any insights that will be helpful.  I have NOT visited either program.  However, I can suggest the following which I have discussed prior -- Determine which criteria are the most important to you and compare each program against those criteria.

For example, is what is more important location, faculty, reputation, facilities, curriculum, etc.  Rank them in order and grade each program against your criteria.  Which program best meets your criteria?  Selecting a program is not an exact science, but try not to compare each program against the other; if you do, you will be spinning in circles with your decision.

As for salary, I refer you to the following article --

Salaries may be a criteria for you to decide; contact each program and inquire where its graduates go after graduation and at what salary.  Perhaps, this becomes a tie-breaker.

Best and do let me know your final decision.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Summer Program for Junior High Students

I have an eighth grader who is very interested in architecture.  All the summer programs I can find are for high school students.  Are there any for 8th graders?

As you have discovered, most of the summer programs are target to high school students and very few to junior high students.  They do exist -- As you do not share where you are in the U.S., I can only suggest you keep asking
- New York, NY - Chicago, IL

Other ideas are to contact your local chapter of the AIA (American Inst. of Architects).  They may have some ideas for programs (summer or otherwise) that would be for junior high students.  Also, check with museums that are in your area -- perhaps, they have programs on art, drawing, and/or creativity.

Aside from summer programs, have your child draw.  Buy a sketchbook and have them draw everyday for some time.  An important skill of an architect is to "see."  Have them sketch their neighborhood, buildings around town, etc.  Do not worry about quality - the task is to do it.

There are lots of books, but one that helps understand the process is
Becoming an Architect, 2nd Ed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I have a bachelors in fine arts (BFA) in architectural design which I received in 2002 from Massachusetts College of Art. I worked two summers in different architectural offices; one where I was assisting and another where I was designing.   I went on to do one year in London at the Bartlett's Architecture Diploma program.  I then worked in an architecture/interior design office for four years. 

I have recently moved back to the states and am considering applying for a masters program. I am currently working at a non-profit (not architecture related) and am looking to move back into architecture.

I would like any work experience I gain to apply towards my eventual licensure. I am slightly concerned that I am not able to because I did not get a degree from an NCARB approved institution. They changed the program after I left, added a year and a few professional practice classes and now it is accredited, but it was not during my time there. 

I read through the IDP guidelines and it seems that they are very clear for students who have just graduated with a bachelors in architecture but not for those taking a less traditional route.

So, I suppose my question is, how do I go about starting the IDP?

I am just not sure of the best way forward and I do not want to work and not have it count toward something if that is an option. I also do not have any contacts in my area so getting a mentor and supervisor would be difficult.
Obviously this is not urgent and I can figure it out along the way but if there are any steps you would advise that I take, I would appreciate it!

Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.

First, I will strongly encourage you to review the IDP Guidlines more closely as downloaded from the NCARB website - --.  As stated in the guidelines, the determine of whether an experience counts towards IDP is not the degree you have but where you are in your education. 

Now, it is true that because your degree in 2002 was from an institution that did not have the accredited degree, any experience will not have counted.  Plus, since that time, NCARB has established the six month rule -- meaning you must document your experience every six months.

For any future work to count, you must begin your NCARB Council Record and complete the Eligibility Form.  You will need to have the form signed by the IDP Coordinator at Mass Art.  But, none of your previous experience will count.

Depending on where you live, I would also contact the State IDP Coodinator, the list of which can be found on the NCARB website.  As well, you can always contact NCARB directly.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Architecture and Beyond: Opportunities Abound

Earlier in March, my colleague and author, Jenn Kennedy asked if I would author an entry for her blog on the topic of "career paths for architects."  Below is the start of the blog, but simply select the title to read it all.

Architecture and Beyond: Opportunities Abound by Lee W. Waldrep, Ph.D.

For many students, graduation is just around the corner.  As you approach graduation and ponder your future career path, do you still wish to become an architect?  When your family, friends, faculty, or even prospective employer inquire about your career goals, what do you share?  Do you quickly outline your path as one of pursuing internship, passing the ARE and becoming an architect or do you hesitate and state with less conviction, “I do not know,” as you are worried and not sure of your future.

Regardless of your answer, be confident, as an architectural education is a springboard to a myriad of career pursuits both in architecture and beyond.  But, what are these career fields and how do you approach them. 

 Reflect on your education and the skills that you are still developing and how they will launch your career.

... for the rest of the entry, click here.


Sunday, April 1, 2012


I am currently in an M.Arch program. During my B Arch years I got a general business minor and have been considering staying an extra year and getting my MBA.

I have always kind of hoped to be a project manager and help with management level things at a firm, as well as potentially owning my own firm some day. I am just wondering if you had any advice, pros and cons, etc about doing the joint MArch/MBA program? 


Given the current economic situation, I would strongly consider pursuing a joint degree - MArch/MBA.  It would provide you with a credential that not everyone in the workforce would have and possibly give you a leg up. 

Of course, I would only do it if you have a passion for it which it sounds as if you do.

Go for it, but consider contacting some current students in the program or even architecture firms to learn of their thoughts.

Sports Management to Architecture

I will be finishing up a bachelor's in Sport Management from the University of Georgia in December of 2012. 

Over the last several years, I have become quite interested in Architecture and would like to learn more about what it would take to become an Architect. 

Could you please send me some additional information?
As you have an undergraduate degree, you are eligible to apply and pursue the Master of Architecture (3-4 years).  Pursuing the degree begins your process of becoming an architect with its three steps - 1) education, 2) experience, and 3) examination.

To research potential programs, visit both NAAB ( and ARCHSchools (

A difficult task for you is that all graduate programs will require a portfolio of creative work.  You may consider taking a drawing or art course to generate materials for your portfolio.  Also, there summer programs that you could attend; for a list see or search the ARCHCareers blog -

Best!  Do let me know if you have any additional questions.