Looking for the Lights

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How do you find the school of architecture on any campus in the dark? Look for the lights! While future doctors, lawyers, engineers, and scientists are studying in their dorms, the design studios in schools of architecture will often be filled throughout the night with architecture students working to meet the deadline for their latest project. Those same students will take other courses in a traditional classroom setting, but the design studio is a unique part of their education as an architect. Here they are given their first challenge to create a solution to a specific problem. Here they begin to learn how to assemble all the parts and pieces that eventually come together to make a building. Here they are often tired and feeling overwhelmed. But, if they are meant to be architects, they will sense that first stir of excitement that one day will peak when, as an architect, they see their ideas become a building.

Actually, learning to make a building is not easy. In fact, it is very difficult. For a building to be considered architecture, it must pass three tests: it must be safe for those using it, it must serve the purpose for which it was constructed, and it must be pleasing to the senses. To be able to design such a building, architecture students must not only spend years in the design studio, they must also be educated in the liberal arts and sciences.

There are no easy courses in an accredited architecture curriculum. Math, physics, English, art history, structural analysis, and other courses in construction methods and building materials are all subjects essential to the practice of architecture and part of an architectural curriculum. Those same courses present a daunting academic challenge.

If you succeed in earning a degree in architecture, you will have gained a quality education that will enable you to choose from a broad range of vocational opportunities. Many of those opportunities are identified in this book.

Before you decide you want to be an architect, consider your options carefully. Talk to an architect, listen to your high school counselor, and even try to get a summer job in an architect's office. If you do all of these things and are still interested in becoming a practicing architect, be absolutely sure that you start on the right academic path. While that path is well-marked, your academic experience is only the first step of three that must be successfully accomplished before you can call yourself an architect and begin to realize your dreams. You must be also continue to learn under the direction of a practicing architect, and you must take and pass a rigorous national examination.

As a practicing architect-who also teaches architecture and serves as a regulator of the practice of architecture-I am sensitive to the plight of young men and women who, for lack of guidance, have strayed from that path. So here, briefly, are the three steps that will lead you to your goal:

Step 1: You must enroll in a school of architecture and earn a professional degree in architecture that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). There are more than 110 such accredited programs to choose from. Some universities offer both accredited degrees and non-accredited degrees; others offer nonprofessional and non-accredited architecture degrees which, sadly, they are not required to tell you unless you ask. So ask! Your future will be affected by the answer you get.

Step 2: You must enroll in the Intern Development Program. Today almost every state either requires, or will soon require, that an architecture graduate enroll in and satisfy the requirements of that program before he or she becomes eligible to take the Architect Registration Examination. The Intern Development Program is designed to help new graduates continue their education in the field of architecture by gaining practical experience as preparation for taking the national exam.

Step 3: after completing the Intern Development Program, you must take and pass the Architect Registration Examination. This is the last step required to become a registered architect in a single state.

As a final reminder, after you complete steps 1, 2, and 3, you are eligible to apply for National Council of Architectural Registration Boards certification, which is the basis for allowing you to become registered and practice architecture in most of the fifty states, the five U.S. jurisdictions, and the ten provinces of Canada.

To a young person, the steps along the path to becoming an architect may seem part of an obstacle course. But you will take them one at a time, and if you want to reach your goal, you can. If, by the time you are nearing completion of your high school years, you are attracted to the things about buildings that make them important, you are already on the right track.

How do I know? I'm not exactly sure, but I'll tell you this. When our four children were between eight and twelve years old, my wife and I decided to build our own home. As an architect, I wanted my kids to grow up in a house that I had designed for them.

The design was mine, and the construction involved all of us working together to make it happen. Today those children are grown and have children of their own. Two of them are now members of my architecture firm-a fact that makes me proud as a father and as an architect.
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