Understanding Architecture

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This article explains sources important to your further understanding of what architecture is all about, what an architect does, the training and experience required for licensing to practice, and which schools offer accredited courses in architecture.

The architects in your own hometown are an excellent source of career information. You should not hesitate to telephone the local chapter of The American Institute of Architects and ask for the names and addresses of one or more practitioners whom you might call upon to discuss your choice of career. If your hometown does not have a local ALA chapter office, simply select the name of a practitioner from the yellow pages of the telephone directory, call and explain your mission, and ask for an appointment for an office interview. Be on time, have your questions firmly in mind, and record important points for later reference. You will find the experience immensely rewarding, and the practitioner will be pleased to have had an opportunity to assist you in the choice of a career.

In preparing for such an interview, you should review the questions you expect to ask with your vocational counselor. Chances are that you have already talked with the counselor about your search for a vocation and found the discussion to be of help in thinking out solutions to the many questions that have come to mind. By discussing your interview with the counselor before and after your visit to the architect's office, you will get the maximum benefit from your interview.

If by chance you haven't yet called upon your school's vocational counselor, or would like to know more about career planning before you do have your meeting, it is recommended that you check references in your school's library under "Vocational Guidance." There should be several available that will provide you with a general background on choosing a vocation.


A most convenient general reference for all information relating to architectural education is the Director, Education Programs, The American Institute of Architects, and 1735 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006. That office can give you general information on any aspect of architectural education, financial aid, internship and licensing, and career and professional concerns. Further, they can direct you to other organizations providing detailed information on these concerns.


The list of schools of architecture with programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, Inc., is issued by the NAAB, 1735 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006. It lists all schools of architecture in the United States that offer programs leading to a professional degree acceptable to the profession and the law. NAAB also publishes a list of Canadian Schools of Architecture recognized by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. These lists are revised annually and are valid in detail only until the next lists are issued. Copies may be secured, free of charge, by writing the NAAB at the address above. Schools within the United States include the institutions listed below. Not all of them offer accredited undergraduate degree programs. Some are exclusively graduate schools.

In addition to the schools that either has programs accredited by NAAB or that are recognized by the Royal Institute, there are a number of other schools in the United States and Canada that offer some programs in architecture. All are members of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). ACSA publishes Guide to Architecture Schools in North America, 6th Edition. It will familiarize you with nearly a hundred architectural schools. It provides handy demographic information and statistics. The ACSA Annual Directory provides all of the school addresses.

After reviewing a selection of the materials indicated above, you should then review the catalogs and other materials from schools of interest, consult with your guidance counselor, and secure his or her help in analyzing this information. Your objective should be the selection of those schools most nearly matching your qualifications and interests. Your counselor can be of real assistance in analyzing the details presented in the information you have gathered at this stage.


The states and territories have licensing boards that regulate the practice of architecture within their respective jurisdictions. Since architects practice across state lines, all states and territories have reciprocal licensing agreements with other states and territories. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) promotes uniform licensing procedures and otherwise furthers such reciprocity. There is no national law regulating the practice of architecture, nor a national license for such practice. However, the NCARB facilitates exchange of an architect's credentials through its programs to develop common licensing procedures.

To round out your view of the licensing requirements governing the practice of architecture, you should secure the name and address of the licensing agency in your state and write for a copy of the rules and regulations pertaining to the examination for and regulation of the practice of architecture. The name and address of the agency may be secured from the office of the city clerk in your hometown or the county clerk of your county. Or, you can write directly to the NCARB, 1735 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006, asking for the name and address of the architectural licensing agency in your state. Licensing regulations of this sort are often written in legal styles and may, at first reading, be difficult to understand. Your guidance counselor can be of assistance in pinpointing those parts of the regulations that will be of greatest interest to you at this point in your search for a career.


The names and addresses of the principal professional and trade associations that represent the different architectural vocations are listed here. You may wish to write them for additional information on careers in their particular fields.

In writing any of the above support group organizations, you should indicate to them that you want information on career opportunities in that segment of the construction industry they rep-resent. As you can imagine, some of these organizations have many interests outside the construction industry. The U.S. Civil Service Commission, for example, represents federal employees in all government agencies.

In your pursuit of career choices, no doubt you have uncovered many, many possibilities and want further information. Your school's guidance counselor is, of course, your first resource. Other excellent resources are the national professional associations devoted to advancing the art, the science, and the business practices of each particular segment of our nation's culture and economy. There are thousands of such associations and each is eager to introduce the young person to career opportunities within the segment of national life they represent.
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