For those graduates working toward an ultimate goal of licensure to practice architecture, the internship period is intended as a continuation of the process of architectural education, providing specialized training and knowledge about architectural practice that is not usually covered in the academic setting. Each US state registration board establishes the details of its own training requirement; for those states and provinces requiring an NAAB- or CACB-accredited degree, three years of training in addition to the degree is the norm.
As the scope and complexity of architectural practice have expanded, the traditional method of mentorship, where apprentices attained practical training through a close working relationship with a practitioner, has become less tenable. In the United States, the Intern Development Program (IDP) was created to provide a coherent structure ensuring that graduates entering the profession today can acquire the specific knowledge and skills necessary for the competent practice of architecture.
While some state registration boards allow training options other than IDP for those pursuing licensure, most boards have adopted the IDP training standards as a requirement for licensure. The IDP requirements outline specific training in four major categories: design and construction documents, construction administration, management, and professional/community service. Participating interns must demonstrate competency in each of these areas in the course of their internship in order to meet the overall training requirement.
In addition to the more traditional settings of architectural practice, IDP also encourages interns to gain experience in less conventional areas within the overall profession. While every state mandates the acquisition of experience under the direct supervision of a registered architect, many states also accept experience gained under the supervision of other design professionals, such as landscape architects, engineers, and general contractors.
To a greater extent than in the academic setting, the internship period must balance the needs of the intern with the needs of the educational setting, which in this case is also an employment setting. While the firm has a responsibility to provide the training opportunities central to the internship, it also expects the intern to perform basic professional services and learn the particularities of how the firm practices architecture. Successful interns will learn to recognize and take advantage of the overlap in these often conflicting goals in order to maximize the value of their internship experience.
There are approximately 85,000-90,000 licensed architects in the United States today, including some who are retired and others who are not working as architects. In addition, substantial numbers of non-licensed people are working in architectural offices. An estimated 33,300 students are enrolled in schools of architecture in the United States; 16,000 are in five-year professional degree programs, 5,200 in professional master's degree programs and 12,100 in pre-professional four-year programs. In 1997, there were 3,028 five-year professional degrees and over 1,600 professional master's degrees awarded. The pre-professional programs awarded 2,324 degrees in 1997. In Canada, there are approximately 7,000 licensed practitioners. These figures have remained fairly constant over the past five years even though the National Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook predicts an increase in architecturally related jobs over the next decade.
Determining the demand for new employees is complicated by many factors, not the least of which is the apparent desire of many graduates to pursue a career other than one in an architecture office. This, coupled with the cyclical nature of construction activity and the unpredictability of national and world-wide economics five to eight years hence, make an accurate assessment of the future needs for architects very difficult. A good source for predicting future needs is the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Government. This book should be in your local library.
The better graduates from professional programs have little difficulty finding a professional job opportunity, particularly if they have acquired some summer experience in an office or in building construction and if they are willing to relocate. Often, various sectors of the country will be "booming" while other areas are in a state of near recession.
Beginning salaries for architecture interns also fluctuate widely, depending in part on geographical location, demand due to building activity, availability of applicants, and, most important, the capability of the individual applicant. A beginning intern architect typically earns $18,000-$27,000 per year. Since a new graduate must work as an intern architect for three years before taking the licensing exam and becoming a registered architect, the salaries are for interns, not registered architects. Remember, your entire educational experience requires approximately eight to nine years of combined formal schooling and internship. Essentially, your internship salary allows you to earn an income while completing the last two or three years of your education. A 1996 survey of architectural firms indicated that the project managers in mid-sized firms earned an average of $48,500 annually. Three quarters of partners in firms of 10-20 employees earned between $50,000 and $150,000. Partners in large firms can earn several hundred thousand dollars annually. Remember, however, that this last group constitutes only a tiny percentage of the profession.
Types of Architectural Offices
There is considerable opportunity for architecture graduates to select both the type and size of office in which they work. Traditional architectural practices are usually structured on one of two basic models. The first model consists of a series of departmental specializations: designers, specification writers, structural experts, landscape designers, production draftsmen, etc. A job starts in one division and is passed to the next as work progresses. In such instances very few people will "see the job all the way through," but each performs a specific function for each job the office undertakes.
The other model divides the office into teams, each team being responsible for the project from start to finish. There may be various specialists on the team or consultants may be employed. A team may be working on several jobs simultaneously, but will have little, if any, responsibility for other projects being undertaken by other teams.
Few offices precisely fit these simplified models, and many have certain aspects of both. Some architectural firms subcontract with consultants and other firms for major portions of the project, thus keeping their own staff to a minimal number. In fact, principals of large firms may spend little of their time on actual design or drawings for new buildings.
Architectural employees may be paid either an hourly wage or annual salary. Most firms expect more than 40 hours per week during busy times, which can be frequent. Some firms have profit-sharing plans for those who are not partners. Often extra hours are spent at tedious and exacting tasks. Nearly every field includes work that is less than stimulating, and architecture is no exception. Many mundane tasks must be done carefully. Architecture is not quite what was depicted in Ayn Rand's Fountainhead .
Architects working in larger firms are not solely responsible for a complete building. A large and complex building, such as a $100-million hospital, may require three to four years from preliminary programming to completion, with as many as 40 people working nearly full-time on this one project.
Depending on the particular model (or variation thereof) a firm follows, the roles available for architects within the firm may range from design to management, or anywhere in-between. While larger firms may offer opportunities to specialize in a particular aspect of the practice, smaller firms often require the architect to master many different facets of the profession. Common practice roles include project management, facilities planning, site planning and design, technical research and specifications, document production, contract administration, urban design and planning, interior design, and practice management.
Alternate Career Paths
Because of the unusual breadth of architecture programs in both the arts and sciences, both the public and the private sectors offer a wide range of opportunities for architecture degree holders. In addition to traditional practice in private architectural firms, architecture graduates are commonly employed in public and government agencies, community design and urban planning firms, building and construction firms, community development corporations, and building products manufacturers. Alternate career paths may lead into related disciplines as well, such as architectural history, landscape architecture, planning, interior design, industrial design, graphic design, real estate, or engineering, to name just a few. Teaching and research provide yet another practice setting for many architecture graduates. Many of these alternate career paths do not require architectural licensure, but may necessitate additional education, training, or certification required by the particular allied profession.