Saturday, May 26, 2012

Degree Path - Which Choice?

I stumbled upon your blog and website when I was doing some research on architecture programs and only wish I could have found it earlier. Better late then never though. I have learned quiet a bit from reading questions that others have asked you on your blog and am in the middle of reading Becoming An Architect: A Guide to Career in Design and will continue to read both. I did though have some indivdual questions for you that I hope you can answer or guide me towards one. 

I am currently a student at Georgia Southern University and just finished my second year. Even though GA Southern doesn't have an architecture program I chose to go there to complete my core classes, its close to home, and financial reasons. Now that I am finished with my core I am a little lost at what to do next.I had my heart and mind set on transferring to GA Tech next Spring (2013) but after this past semester it might not happen.  

My standing GPA is a 3.40 and when I chose my classes at GA Southern I made sure that they were the ones that GA Tech require transfer pre-architecture students to take but after this past semester and my low GPA I might not be able to get into GA Tech.

After doing some research I have looked at some options. Because I  want to complete my bachelors in arch in state to keep from being in debt, I have four options: GA Tech, Savannah College of Arts and Design, Southern Polytechnic State University, or Major in Interior Design at GA Southern University. After I complete my bachelors, I want to get my Master in Arch from out of state, possibly ****

In doing my research, I discovered that GA Tech's B Arch is not NAAB Accredited and SCAD's and Southern Poly's B Arch are. This past spring, at Ga Southern, I took Interior Design Graphics to gain some basic knowledge on drafting and using the tools to create plans. I ended up making an A in the class after putting a lot of hard work and all nighters. 

I would like to ask you to help me figure out and narrow my options.

Actually, the Master of Architecture at GA Tech is the accredited degree; their undergraduate degree is a pre-professional degree; this is different than the BArch offered by Southern Poly.  SCAD offers a BFA with the accredited Master of Architecture.
The four-year undergraduate program in Architecture at Georgia Tech is a pre-professional program that fulfills the preparatory requirements for admission to most two-year professional architecture programs.

With that as introduction, you must decide which is the best path for you to obtain the professional accredited degree in architecture.  Given that you have completed two years at GA Southern, you have choices - 1) complete the degree at GA Southern and attend one of over 90 Master of Architecture programs across the country; or 2) transfer to GA Tech or another program to either complete the BArch (Southern) or the pre-professional degree to later attend the Master of Architecture.

It has been my experience that most students want to start architecture as soon as possible.  Towards that end, apply to GA Tech while still completing your degree at GA Southern.  If you gain admission, you can make decision.  If you do not you can continue your degree.

Regardless, be in touch with the program to which you wish to apply and ask lots of questions.

I wish you the best and feel free to ask more questions if needed.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

International Education

My daughter wants to study and become an architect. However she is thinking of studying this in the UK or Australia-If she wants to practice in America as an architect would the UK degrees or Australian degrees be recognized in America? What does she have to do to gain her license once qualified in lets say California or Florida?

Congrats to your daughter for pursuing a career in architecture.

To become licensed as an architect in the United States, one must fulfill the requirements of the state/jurisdiction in which they wish to practice.  In most states, you need to fulfill 1) education (NAAB professional degree), 2) experience (fulfill IDP), and 3 examination (pass all divisions of ARE).  You may wish to contact the NCARB website to learn the specifics of Florida and California

If she decides to study in the UK or Australia, she would need to have her education evaluated against the NCARB Education Standard better known as

You may also wish to review the Canberra Accord with regards to an education in Australia.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Internship Seeking

I have my Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I started the fifth year program but ran into funding issues, i.e. I ran out of money. Now I need to work instead of finishing my degree. I wish it were different but this is not the case so…

A little about me, I am about to turn 39 and returned to school after many years as a carpenter. I have a lot of building experience. I was an independent contractor for many years so the resume looks a little thin for someone of my age. I bring a lot to the table that many of my academic colleagues do not. Much of this is due to my work history but mine is not the typical route to Architecture. Do you have any advice on how to proceed? 

My fear is that I will not represent myself properly and be looked over for someone who is a bit more of the typical candidate. I suppose that I am just wondering about how to best move forward with my career shift. 

My philosophy on work is more about fit than anything else. I'm not looking to be the next starchitect, I just want to do good work. I know that somewhere out there a firm could use someone with my skills but how does one go about finding that firm.  

Any advice that you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
I can certainly appreciate your current situation; my best suggestion is to NETWORK.  I truly mean network -- each day, you should be meeting between 4-6 new individuals that can assist you in your search for an internship.

Start with those you know - family, friends, classmates, faculty and move to those you do not know.  Connect via FB, LinkedIn, other social media, attending architectural related events, volunteering, etc.  Your full-time job is to secure an internship and/or position.

Given your background is slightly different, you need to truly step back and determine what you bring to the table that your classmates do not -- what skills do you bring?  While it is necessary to present your education and background via a resume, your best approach is in-person.  Knock on doors of architectural firms.

One book to recommend is What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles.  It provides tremendous input on job search and career change.

Be very proactive and keep at it.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Right ARE Exam Order For You!

Below is a guest entry from ARE Advisor --

I find that many ARE candidates struggle with choosing an effective ARE exam order because they worry too much about what other candidates are doing. There is no specific order that you have to take the seven (7) ARE exam divisions in; the choice is solely up to you and what is best for you. Some people do not find it necessary to study too much for each exam while there are others that need more time to prepare. I certainly recommend coming up with a solid plan of attack for taking the ARE and try your best to stick with it.

Before you start taking the ARE, take a brief overview of all seven exams to see what type of content will be on each exam. Chances are, you will be more familiar and comfortable with some divisions over another. This is perfectly normal as many candidates are stronger in some areas over others simply because they’ve experienced more depending on their role at work. For example, a candidate who has just completed IDP in three (3) years out of school probably is not as familiar with AIA contracts and other issues on the CDS exam but a candidate that has been working for some time may feel more comfortable with this exam. By taking some time to identify your potential strengths and weaknesses, you make the process of choosing the proper ARE exam order much smoother.

After briefly researching the subject matter on the seven exam divisions, I find it important for candidates to rank the exams from hardest to the easiest. This is not the order you should take the exams in, but it will help in planning. Once you have ranked the exams, consider some of these questions:
  • Do you feel comfortable taking a harder exam towards the beginning or would you like to ease your way into the exams?
  • What’s your time frame for completing these exams? Is it less than a year? More?

I find that these two questions can answer a lot when it comes to picking your exam order because they reflect your personal preferences. Some people will prefer to ease into the exams while others would rather get the hard exams out of the way and will take them first. Personally, I spread out the harder exams by staggering them in the middle with a few “easier” ones in between. The other question brings up issues of the time frame for completing your exams. Some candidates feel more pressure to finish these exams as soon as possible and may schedule exams once a month. There are others that would like to spread out the exams so they can take their time preparing for each exam. Again, this is up to you and should reflect your comfort with the material as well as the time frame that you have to take the exams.

The last issue to bring up in terms of the ARE exam order is grouping similar tests closer together. It turns out that a lot of the concepts covered on the ARE relate to more than one exam. This can be stressful to some people because it means preparing for additional material above and beyond what is covered by that specific division. Personally, I think the overlap between exam divisions can be used as an advantage for many people because if they can schedule their exams properly, you can be better prepared for them. One example of this is the overlap between the CDS (Construction Documents and Services) exam and the PPP (Programming, Planning, and Practice) exam because both of these tests cover issues such as project management, contractual relationships, and business management. Taking these exams back to back would certainly be an advantage to most candidates simply because of the fact that you won’t have to study this material twice and most of it will still be familiar to you as you prepare for the second exam.

I hope this is helpful for those of you planning on taking the ARE. Like I mentioned above, picking the right ARE exam order should mainly be based on personal preference. By planning out things ahead of time, you can save yourself time and stress later on down the line. Of course, you can make changes as you need once you start taking the exams, but sticking to a general outline can help guide and motivate you throughout the process.

To read some more thoughts and tips on the ARE exam order:
If you would like more information on each specific ARE exam as well as the graphic vignette sections, check out ARE Advisor:

Good luck everyone!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Architectural Research

I read your book, it was extremely informative and helpful. In fact, it guided me to find that I'm not that interested in designing for clients or a firm but I'm more interested in architectural research. I would like to research architecture and innovate new types of construction, sustainable and efficient design process. I would like to be the person that CREATES THE METHOD of design rather than just using the method in the design. I'm a third year architecture student at University of Illinois Chicago. 

I am currently searching for schools or interning opportunities for architectural research but I don't know where to start. I know University of Michigan has a program called the Master of Science Architecture: Building Materials and Construction, but I'm not sure if that program is the correct program for an architectural researcher. Basically what my question is, what does an architectural research job consist of and how do I go about doing it?

Your comment will be greatly appreciated. 

I am pleased that you enjoyed my book and found it helpful.

Your question is slightly out of my expertise, but I will offer what I can.

Even though you wish to pursue architectural research, it may still be worthwhile to pursue the Master of Architecture on your path.  Also, as you have an additional year remaining, reach out to faculty to work with them on their research.  Perhaps, you can do an independent study with one of your faculty to learn more about research.

You may also wish to see if there is a "research methods" course at UIC.

Finally, keep asking lots of questions of your peers and faculty about careers in architectural research.  Connect with researchers on your campus in other disciplines.  There is lot to learn.

AIA Research (includes copies of research journals)

ARCC - Architectural Reseach Center Consortium

I hope this gets you started.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Architects Branch Out

Below is an article that recently appeared in Architect's Newspaper on the topic of the careers that architectural graduates can pursue. 

I was contacted for the article and was quoted as shown in the excerpt below.

According to a report from the National Architectural Accrediting Board, 6,191 people graduated from accredited programs in 2010-2011 academic year (and about half of those will go on to become licensed architects). “If we look at pure labor statistics we should shut down half the schools,” said Lee W. Waldrep, Ph.D., assistant director in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. Instead, he suggests that students trained as architects are also suited for communication, collaboration, research, and creative problem solving. This can open the door to careers in planning, project management, computer design, development, fashion design, photography, humanitarian development, furniture design, film, and many more. “Design is everywhere,” as he put it.

Biology to Architecture

I've been embarking on the potential transition into the architecture field.  I'd be applying to 3 to 4 year first professional master's programs.  I have a B.S. in biology and have worked/volunteered in a myriad of different positions (hospital-oriented, research, industrial biology/agriculture, zoological park).  I currently work for a publishing company which publishes job leads for companies in the construction business which has given me an superficial overview of the construction field.  
Over the years, I felt like I was missing something from these pursuits.  I came to find that it was creativity which these ventures lacked, and I yearned for it in my work.  I started delving into my artistic side and have become increasingly fascinated with ecological/sustainable design movement in the built environment, both of which led me to architecture.  I'm currently taking an architectural drafting course at a community college, have taken a sustainable design course, and I'm enrolled in a summer program in environmental design.  I was fortunately granted a scholarship to attend.  

I am wondering if you could add any insight to whether or not sustainable hospital design would be a good route to focus my architectural studies.  I have years of experience working in hospitals and have volunteered abroad in undeserved medical clinics.  I thought my background may come into play with designing and might also be a way to distinguish myself from a crowd in the work force.  I have read that hospital design and sustainable development are the most widely researched areas in the architecture field now-a-days.  I'm concerned that narrowing my focus may not be a good idea though.  Is it important to make yourself unique in the architecture field and, if so, how would you suggest doing that?

Also, what are the most common portfolio pieces that are submitted to grad programs from people who have no experience in art or architecture?  This will be a challenge for me. 

Any advice would be appreciated.  

Thanks for your time,
First, congrats on your decision to pursue architecture.

In one respect, I would caution you on too narrowly focusing your career at this early stage.  I do grant you that healthcare and sustainability are hot topics/markets that should continue for the near-term future.  You may wish to contact the following for your career path.

With that said, I would suggest that you pursue a broad set of interests within architecture so you can react to any changes in the economy/market.

As for portfolios, submit creative work (not necessarily architecture).  This can include art, freehand drawing, painting, etc.  At minimum, contact the programs to which you are applying to gain insight from them.  Finally, review the book/website - -.

Best!  Do contact me if you have further questions.

Licensure, Certification, and Reciprocity

I am an Intern Architect finishing up my IDP Record.  I will be relocating to Chicago soon.  I currently live in FL. I  graduated with a pre-professional degree in architecture.  I learned that you need @9,000 something credits by Dec 31, 2013.  I already have 6823 credits earned already.
Q #1: Do I apply for Illinois via a separate applic or do I just only click on IL in NCARB website of record transmittal? 
Q #2: Once I am licensed in IL and completed all exams, can I apply for NCARB reciprocity to other states AFTER all this is done? (with pre-professional degree)

Q #3: In general, what are the positives and negatives in being licensed out of state while living in another state?
You are asking specific questions concerning licensure; as I do not wish to misdirect you, I will suggest you contact NCARB and the Department of Professional Regulation for the state of Illinois.

NCARB | 1801 K Street, NW | Suite 700K | Washington, DC 20006 | P: 202/879-0520 | F: 202/783-0290

Illinois Dept. of Financial and Professional Regulation
Division of Professional Regulation
320 West Washington Street, 3rd Floor
Springfield, IL 62786

#1) As I understand it, you may simply request your NCARB record be transmitted to the state of Illinois.  Be sure to review the following -- -- as a guide to licensure in Illinois.  Effective 1/1/2014, you will need a NAAB accredited degree to become licensed in Illinois.

#2) Yes, you do that through NCARB, but you need an accredited degree for NCARB Certification - --

#3) Value of Certification -

I hope this is helpful.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

First of all , let me tell you that I have been following your blog posts for over a year and they are really helpful. I am an architect, and presently looking to hone my skills with a Master's in Architecture. I have been accepted into three schools of the lot that I applied to - University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign, Texas A &M University and Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. The hardest part now is the decision making. I have gotten in touch with the students at all these universities and have a few doubts. 

I am more inclined towards UIUC as it is comparitively closer to Chicago and the program is more flexible than IIT. Can you tell me more about the M.Arch. program at UIUC? I have read online that the students can choose one of the four options - design, structures, etc. How does this work?  Also how are the teaching/ reasearch assistantship opportunities for international students? 

As to a comparison which of the three M.Arch courses is more reputable overall? Basically living in a big city like Chicago would be better in terms of the exposure I get (which is also one of the important reasons for me to come to US for education) but, how well known is IIT outside of Illinois? Would a degree from the prestigious Big Ten university(UIUC) or TAMU mean a more well known and widely accepted platform - for job placements (exp. in this economy)? 
More specifically relating to Texas A&M, I have got reviews that they only have a healthcare design focus and most of the graduate architecture students end up taking that as their final project. Is this true? Although, I am interested in healthcare but would like a more broader curriculum focusing mainly on overall building design aspect. Apart from healthcare design, how is the overall program at TAMU if I don't choose healthcare?

As for my background, I am an Indian, brought up and lived in middle east. I would like to know how the schools would compare based on the programs, quality for money, job placements and location. I welcome any pointers you can offer. It would be great to get some insight from an experienced professional like you.

I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you soon.
I very much appreciate that you have been following the blog for over a year and found it helpful.  Also, congrats on your admission to UIUC, IIT, and TAMU; all three are excellent programs.

Now, the decision to determine which is the best fit for you.  To do so, you must first determine what are the criteria for making the decision -- location, reputation, facilities, faculty, program, etc.  Once you have determined the criteria, rate each program against the criteria to make a final decision.

UIUC is the second oldest program in the U.S.  With that history comes the largest alumni database and a robust awards and scholarship program.  Students do not actually choose from four options, but rather have a core curriculum that offers a tremendous amount of flexibility for choice to select courses in areas of focus such as structures, preservation, or as the student selects.  As for assistantship/research opportunities you will need to contact the program directly.

As for reputation, I suggest you possibly contact some architects.  Where do you plan to practice after graduation?  Do you plan to stay in the U.S. or return to India?  I do think IIT is known outside of Illinois, but ultimately, I believe the quality of the program is more important than reputation.

As I have never been to TAMU, I cannot speak to its focus on healthcare compared to other aspects of architecture.  Again, contact the program with your doubts.

I would suggest you keep researching by contacting faculty, students or alums of each institution.