Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)

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    Your Jurisdiction and You

    Michael Monti
    Jun 5, '14 7:03 PM EST

    If you’re lucky, you could live in a state that wants your school to be responsible for both the education and the training of architects!

    Expect cautious optimism over the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) endorsement of a path for students to earn an architectural license and a professional degree together. The decision last week sets in motion a process to get the first students underway. The idea is easy to get behind, but for these plans to succeed, state licensing boards and participating schools will need to collaborate. A change to a licensing regulation may be necessary, but alone it is not sufficient. Licensure upon graduation is not a reduction in requirements. In fact it will require substantial commitments from schools and the profession.

    From interested schools it starts with a commitment to design a curriculum that adds professional competency—attested to by the license—as one of its stated outcomes. This drastic expansion in scope should not be underestimated. It will take 10 years for this path to come to maturity, and schools and the profession will have to build and sustain it together.  

    The path to licensure is greatly streamlined when students satisfy educational and licensing requirements at the same time. So from the profession there must be a commitment to employ students regularly. This is not an infusion of free labor, but rather a compact between firms and schools to have ongoing conversations about the experiences that students will get while working. Students who choose this path must be confident that employment opportunities early in school will be in supply and stay in supply.

    During the contraction of the profession in 2008 and the years after, architecture programs faced real difficulties matching students and employers. Students looking for a job will have to be savvy about finding the right match. Firms taking students will have to adjust, as well. Interns need IDP experience across a number of work areas, and architecture schools typically define in advance the educational outcomes that work in a professional office will occasion. In other words, what happens in the office will have to be purposely educational.

    A clear path to being an architect starting after high school is a potential game changer, but only with a lot of coordination, transparency, and frank assessments of the costs and benefits will it succeed. Start by visiting to check your state’s requirements for registration. What degree is required? When can someone start taking the ARE? Are additional requirements in place?

    If you’re lucky, you, too, could live in a state that wants your school to be responsible for both the education and the training of architects.


    • Licensure upon graduation is not a reduction in requirements. In fact it will require substantial commitments from schools and the profession.

      This is great.  I sincerely hope this move results in narrowing the current gap between education and practice, and allows for schools to move towards specialization, be it in a direction towards practical knowledge or towards theory and research. 

      One can also hope that this move will bolster the efforts of those firms who already take internship experience seriously, and help move the other firms (who just want free labor) towards realizing they have a responsibility to train the upcoming generations, as well.

      Jun 6, 14 2:17 pm  · 

      Licensure upon graduation is not a reduction in requirements. In fact it will require substantial commitments from schools and the profession.

      just not so much commitment from new aspiring architects.  it looks an awful like like a reduction in requirements.  sort of like, they currently require schooling, IDP, and a test.  with this change, they are proposing combining education with IDP, so students will just have education culminating in a test.  while improving education to more accurately reflect the real-life concerns of a real-life architect is a great step forward, removing the requirement for real-life experience means they are removing requirements, not improving them.

      in that sense, wouldn't it be a reduction in requirements?

      This is not an infusion of free labor, but rather a compact between firms and schools to have ongoing conversations about the experiences that students will get while working.

      is this compact going have some enforceable provision, with real teeth, to prevent this from happening?  does NCARB specifically state that these will have to be paid positions with a fair and reasonable living wage?  or is the plan to give employers free labor and just hope for the best?

      sounds like a lot of spin and half-truth.  might be more accurate to say you just want it to be easier to get a license.

      Jun 6, 14 3:54 pm  · 

      i don't know how you can force firms to take on students - in the end, a firm has to have enough work/revenue to justify hiring people. and, unless someone else wants to fully subsidize us taking on a student intern WHEN we don't have enough work to justify it... 


      so, could you offer a tax break to hire a student? maybe. but it won't apply to all firms - most llp/llc/limited partnerships have the firm income tied to personal income. ergo, we can't take advantage of most true tax credits unless our state offers them. could you offer some as-yet undefined hybrid - a true in-house internship while getting school credit? perhaps. it could be research based, though, and as beneficial as that could be for both student and firm, it doesn't seem to strike me as offering the true 'practice' component - at least as it's defined by a traditional route. could we offer a variety of non-traditional work experience paths to licensure, such as participation in a design/build setting like the rural studio? where you could start as a student, finish up as a post-graduate (but on your own) and have that satisfy the licensure requirements? perhaps - if the appropriate structure of supervision is in place, it could be a great alternative. 


      which leads us back to a few other experience choices: you can reimagine community design centers to be that teaching practice (similar to a teaching hospital). they would not have the burden of having to pay the student salaries IF it fits within a degreed program. you could develop far more structured study abroad/study exchange programs to get students to parts of the world that are doing so much work, they could be rolled into a practice setting, administered by a school.


      in the end, though, unless either the curricula itself contains enough experience to become licensed after graduation or there's a non-market driven setting that could accommodate that influx of student labor and match it up, it seems difficult to imagine how the free market alone can be relied upon to provide a steady, consistent set of openings that pay 'well' and guarantee enough work to fulfill the licensure requirements. 

      Jun 7, 14 12:07 pm  · 

      I think Gregory Walker's point about firms being unable to take on mandatory inters is well taken.  I would add that the kind of experience interns differs wildly and further makes the work requirement somewhat arbitrary towards liscensure.  Being stuck in a factory environment focusing on fire stairs or being used as stop gap labor in a small firm both have their deficiencies.  In the end, one has to cram for the tests and hope for the best.

      I also agree with Donna's point that this might lead to a specialization of sorts by allowing those who would want to persue a more theoretical based education be free of the practical reauirements this would entail.  It's still important to teach the world of archtiectural ideas in the "practical" side, should it be cleaved in two as Donna says, but my guess is the theoretical side would be seen more as a fine art or doctorate in archtiecture degree.  The theoretical component of a more practical education shouldn't be discarded altogether though.  It could either be taught through a history course or branding it as a philosophical course, but architecture school should be more than an understanding of plan, section, and elevation.  The most neglected portion of an archtiect's education seems to be the psychological one, how certain buildings and spaces makes one feel.  I'm sure it's the reluctance or difficulty in creating objective criteria to teach to, but it's still an important aspect of the architectural experience.

      Ultimatly this is a healthy debate as there are clear voices of dissent from various corners of the archtiectural spectrum towards the existing state of educational affairs.  I would encourage this process and not fear that our profession is being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.  On the one hand, we sometimes seem to lack a common denominator, and on the other, one never stops learning.  So if Foucault or Palladio ring your bell, there's still a life time to indulge one's intellectual curiosities.  For that matter, one can do it while in school, while a core curriculum would ensure some common understanding of what this profession is about and to whom we are primarily responsible to.

      Jun 9, 14 4:36 pm  · 

      As Waterloo Architecture is already a mandatory coop school with an enormous university department behind assisting in the placement of students in paid work experience, I can attest that the work portion of this can be done, but it will require many more jobs than are presently "available". Our work terms are staggered through fall, winter and summer to assist with placements.

      The extreme variation in the length of a "professional" degree will make the incorporation of professional and technical requirements for many programs quite a challenge.

      Jun 11, 14 8:17 pm  · 

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About this Blog

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture is a nonprofit membership organization, founded in 1912 to advance the quality of architectural education. Our members are over 250 schools, including all accredited programs in the USA and Canada, schools seeking accreditation, and non-accredited and international programs--representing over 40,000 architecture faculty and students.

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  • Michael Monti
    Michael Monti Washington, DC, US
  • Lian Chikako Chang
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