Getting Trained As An Intern

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Because of the equipment involved-drafting boards, computers, and a sizable quantity of paper, paints, and other material-almost all of this lab work is done at school. In most schools, the labs are open all night as the students in architecture push to meet a morning deadline.

Since much of the student's work is done in visual media, there is a great deal of brainstorming, kibitzing, and criticism of each other's work. Free advice is always in great supply at any art or architectural school. Consequently, open competition along with a full exchange of ideas is characteristic of architectural schools. Out of this grows a great camaraderie among the students. Traditionally, confrontations, discussions, debates, and occasionally comic relief through a healthy amount of practical joking are hall-marks of the architectural school.

The talents of the architectural students lend themselves admirably to the creation, design, and preparation of graphics, stagecraft, layouts for school publications, decorations, and constructions for various campus happenings. The architectural student never wants for involvement in extracurricular activities. The biggest problem may well be avoiding over involvement, for the architectural curriculum is normally so demanding that very little time remains to devote to nonacademic pursuits.

The student of architecture should have no problem finding summer employment that will offer personal and career development. The most valuable summer employment puts the student in direct contact with the building process-clerking in a building supply outlet or even a general hardware store, working as an assistant on a surveying team, working for a general or mechanical contractor, serving as an office helper/assistant in an architect's or engineer's office, or working for any of the thousands of retail, wholesale, or manufacturing businesses that serve the building industry, including blueprint shops, brick and masonry yards, and lumber mills.

Architecture is tangible. It is best understood when seen, felt, and experienced firsthand. Therefore, travel is an essential part of an architect's education. Personal finances may not allow a trip around the United States, Canada, Mexico, or other countries until well after your graduation, but you should plan to travel as much as possible and as early in your career as finances will permit. While in school, you will take field trips under school sponsorship; you may even be fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship just for travel. In the meantime, you have your own hometown, the city in which the college is located, and all the points in between. Moreover, every region in the United States has something to be seen that will be of value to your architectural education. Make these your travel objectives for the moment.

It is characteristic of the architect to be minutely observant of all surroundings, and you should begin now to train yourself to really see everything you look at-both natural and constructed objects-analyzing each for its function, its materials, its structure, and its relationship to other things.

During your third year of college, you will need to give serious attention to the possibility of going to graduate school. Historically, the architect has completed the required formal education with a bachelor's degree, but this has changed. The qualified student is encouraged to consider very seriously courses to earn a master's degree in architecture, structural engineering, or urban planning. Another possibility might be earning a second bachelor's degree in a field related to architecture and construction, such as landscape architecture; civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering; law; economics; or business administration. As has been repeatedly pointed out in this book, the architect's field of interest is broadening to include every activity that affects our physical environment. This broadening interest requires leadership from those trained in multiple disciplines. If you have the basic qualifications for this leadership, it would be wise for you to train for this role by earning a graduate degree.


Employment both during school and after graduation means a great deal more than an opportunity to earn a living. Your first job is also your first step in fulfilling the period of internship required by your state registration board. Usually three years of internship are required. The purpose of internship is, of course, to learn how the theories, knowledge, and skills acquired in architectural school find their use and application in architects' services to the public. Therefore, you must work under the direction and control of an architect registered to practice in the state in which you are employed. You will receive a full and regular salary during this period from the architect who employs you. You are not obligated to stay in the same office for your entire internship.

In looking for that first job, you should consider firms of good reputation where you will be exposed to all phases of practice. This may mean a small-to-medium-size office or a larger firm for experience in projects involving large numbers of design, construction, and business management specialists. Your school's job placement office may assist you in contacting architects interested in current graduates, or you can simply write to firms of your own interest and knowledge, stating clearly and concisely your qualifications as you see them and the salary range you consider equitable. The architect will respond, suggesting an interview if your application fits the job description. Be punctual for your interview, and be prepared to illustrate the attitudes, aptitudes, and motivations previously discussed in this chapter.

A portfolio presenting your studio projects and any experience you have accumulated will interest the architect. The intent of the interview is to engage you in conversation and try to understand how your skills and talents will contribute to the needs of the firm. In turn, you will try to confirm that the office will meet your educational needs.

While serving your internship, you will learn primarily through job assignments and observation and will gain experience from explanations and criticisms of your work. In most offices, there is no formal procedure or schedule for your internship work.
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