Student interns in Practice


Okay so im a student intern at a firm that super great and does really cool work, but I'm bored to death and feel like im wasting my time as well as theirs sitting at the office with very little (i mean less than an hour) of work to in a full 8 hour day. Its discouraging actually, because I love architecture as a profession. Since i'm in school and I still have time to actually consider things are there other routes within architecture that aren't insanely boring? Just wondering if architects do exist out there that don't sit at the same desk all day. I get it, a student intern isn't the most productive person in the office and i'm super appreciative of any opportunity, so I get that things will change as I progress and finish school and move up in the profession, but are there other professionals that felt similarly and found other outlets?

not trying to change majors or anything drastic but I'm just keeping genuinely curious. 

Disclaimer: also i've written on the forum before and i'm not looking for smart aleck remarks about how I should drop out or how I'm ungrateful so please only respond with genuine responses. 

Jun 12, 18 3:07 pm

I had to ask for work.  A lot.  Production staff aren't always used to delegating.  So, it takes some prodding.

I played a lot of flash games when i was there.  They knew i wasn't occupied.  

Jun 12, 18 3:15 pm

Thanks for the response


Never play games at work... it's totally the firm's fault for not keeping you productive, and yet they don't see it that way, and especially the principals view young staff with facebook or flash games open as a waste of their money. Keep asking for work and when that doesn't pan out (it won't always) use your own skills/programs to make some nice renderings of whatever project you can get your hands on. It'll make you look proactive and give you something to put in your portfolio.

Non Sequitur

Hopefully this is a paid position you're in.  Need something to do? cycle through old project drawings and read the spec manuals.  Follow the administration and contract aspects and see how the design evolved.  Look at the CCN and SI logs, site reports, city official letters, etc... anything to get your feet wet in the real work that architects do.

Jun 12, 18 3:36 pm


Jun 12, 18 3:37 pm
Non Sequitur

As our Lord and saviour Denis Leary once righteously said: 

"You're 16 years old, you don't know shit about shit, and PULL UP YOU'RE PANTS!!!". 

 See my post above if you want some real advice on how best to use your free time while on the clock. If you find what I list boring, then you're likely to have a difficult time.


Obviously You didn't even read the question, because i'm not looking for work to do in my office or "my free time on the clock". I want to hear from people that are 'architects' that don't fit into the standard mold of what an architect is in today's world if that exists.

Non Sequitur

So you're still stuck on the romantic illusion of the cancer curing architect. Fine, most students are and get disgruntled once they get into the working world. Not holding this against you but you need to ask yourself what you want out of this. Is it design? Is is hard-boots & helmet site stuff? Is it client/P.eng negotiations?


I'm not stuck on anything hence my original question.... nor am I disgruntled about the working world. I've worked in an architecture office for years, and most of my colleagues/classmates have yet to set foot in one. I actually enjoy the whole process of the design to construction to the challenges of working with clients. Knowing what I do know, about the working world of an architecture office and how mundane it can be at times, I just wanted to hear from other professionals in design practice that might see it otherwise and what direction or steps it took to get there. Since i'm in still in school I haven't figured out all the answers or which direction I want to go in. Do some people find working in residential to be more preferable? Do they like public work over private work? Did they change jobs and become a landscape architect? This is what im asking.

Non Sequitur

Eastcoast, these are not the questions your initial post alludes too. There certainly are mundane aspects in the profession but there are also plenty of highlights. Not every project is a shiny museum with an unlimited budget so, and as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, there is plenty to take pride in once you know what you're doing. You're still very new in this space and the working world is tough. As for these new questions... 

  • public projects with gov tenants are the worst. Sure, there is unlimited money available, but the people you deal with are daft as fuck. 
  •  Repeat commercial clients will keep you employed and busy for long periods of time but gets repetitive unless your asked to be part of a re-branding effort. 
  •  I don't do residential but I would not mind working on large residential developments. I don't have much interest in working out people's marital problems while designing custom homes however.
  • Landscape? Why? 

See the whole thread could have been avoided if this was the type of response that I got. I appreciate it. I am new to the working world in the grand scheme of it all so I don't have all the experience that most do. I realized probably the first day of undergraduate (i had already been working in a firm) that architecture wasn't going to be what I thought. I still love it and the grind of the whole experience. Just wanting to explore based on others' experiences parts of architecture that are different than the standard desk job.

Non Sequitur

I wrote earlier than I'm not holding it against you, even despite the obligatory sass. For example, I worked in a one-man shop office in the 2nd half of my bachelor's between my full time studios. Projects were small and forgettable but in doing them I got exposed to all sorts of aspects not taught in school... or even available to those in 100+ people offices. Things like permit negotiations, consultant fees, site reviews, etc. Blasting away through those mundane projects got me squared up come grad school and I entered the working world at full speed knowing full well that there is another side than just detailing handrail elevations for 8hrs per day. It's a long road and you could end up in one project for years at a time. I'm on project 12 (I think) with the same client. Project scales range from $40+ million to the cost of new cladding. All of them had their boring bits.


go clean up the flat files, Do sheet list, Sheet set - up

Jun 12, 18 6:25 pm

I don’t find my job boring. You say you don’t want “sass” but provide no meaningful information. Saying there is less than hour of real work and that you’re not looking for work to take is not presenting a very positive image. 

Jun 12, 18 6:26 pm

I wasn't asking about not having work to do, i was setting up why I was asking my question..."I get it, a student intern isn't the most productive person in the office and i'm super appreciative of any opportunity, so I get that things will change as I progress and finish school and move up in the profession, but are there other professionals that felt similarly and found other outlets?.." because I was curious about other people that felt similarly and found something else within architecture that changed for them. See you really didnt need to answer.


You still haven’t said anything informative so others could potentially help you.


Read the "genuinely curious" part. I not asking for help. I wanted feedback from other peoples experiences.


You are asking for help and all you’ve done is attacked everyone who has responded to you vague query. You’ve never stated what you find boring and until you are specific you will never get anything close to the information you desire.


It doesn't matter what I find boring. Its irrelevant. "Just wondering if architects do exist out there that don't sit at the same desk all day." I am going to attack people if they attack me first. Making a comment about me not presenting a positive image has nothing to do with the question at all. Literally nothing. If you didn't feel like there was enough information for you to make a response based on what is there then why answer?


Not presenting a positive image contributes to the type of responses received. You’re too busy trying to be angry that you fail to recognize when people are willing to offer advice.


Actually it doesn't because there are people who gave genuine responses without making comments about how im 'a pussy millennial' or 'not presenting a positive image' or 'being spoon-fed' which are all irrelevant. They're just ways for powerless people to feel like they have power while they sit huddled behind the screen of a computer.


so then you admit that you are a pussy millennial, not presenting a positive image, and are a spoon-fed? if you agree to that then we can help.

If you can’t deal with not being spoon fed every minute detail this isn’t the profession for you. Prior to your sass, others had given useful comments; eg seek out what needs doing, review specs and project directories, prod other staff for something to do, or better yet, phrase it as what can I help you with? Yet your response is more whining and hurt feelings. If you find these activities boring then you need to get out now.

Word of advice, nearly any professional desk jockey job on earth requires a lot of ‘boring’ activities, that’s one of the main reasons someone else is paying said professional to do it. Contrary to what art school teachers say, architect is not equivalent to being an artist. You need to find some component of that ‘boring’ activity that you enjoy otherwise you’ll be miserable and highly unproductive (read unemployable).

To answer your question, which only appeared after your original post (another lesson for you-learn to communicate), as a professional I find plenty of my work to be interesting, this very much includes details, code reviews, construction administration etc. I got good at those things by constantly asking questions to more experienced architects, which I continue to do even as a PM. I did not wait for someone to come find me and tell me what’s what. Further, anytime I’m on a new project I dig into every scrap of digital paper related to that project to better understand all components of what I’m doing. Even the smallest buildings can be extremely complicated with tons of details and personnel involved with whom you have to coordinate. I enjoy that complexity. That’s why I do what I do.

Whatever you wind up doing learn to take same criticism, that goes for any field, especially as a fresh grad who doesn’t know shit about shit. If people are stern (not the same as mean) it’s because there are real deadlines/consequences/requirements for the job that extend far beyond your precious neophyte ego which holds zero value. They’re trying to teach you so that you can be useful and eventually moderately independent, so try listening. Unless you’re a trustafarian with deep pockets you’re going to wind up on the (meager) gov dole/your parents basement real fast.
Jun 12, 18 7:28 pm
Non Sequitur

Testify sister!


While I appreciate the response, I did ask the question in my original post "I get it, a student intern isn't the most productive person in the office and i'm super appreciative of any opportunity, so I get that things will change as I progress and finish school and move up in the profession, but are there other professionals that felt similarly and found other outlets?" It ends in a question mark hence the question. Is it the most profound sentence thats ever been written? no. It IS an internet blog post. You could even respond with yes or no. You know absolutely nothing about me other than what I write in these posts. You don't know how long i've been in school, how many degrees I have. You don't know how long i've been in the profession and you don't even know my age. I feel pretty accomplished to be where I am in my life, and to be an architect and believe it or not i'm very close to doing just that. I haven't been spoon-fed anything in this world, and probably had to work harder than you to get there. I’ve learned a lot of things in architecture school, communication being one of them and I don’t need strangers on the internet to tell me what I have and haven’t learned. (why i put for people not to respond if they just want to troll the internet looking for ways to put others down and be the stereotypical, egotistical architects who probably are the most uninteresting people and failed somewhere early in life and want to take it out on others) and I actually do find that a lot of the detail oriented things that aren’t the artsy projects to be the most fun in the profession. I take criticism often and have literally my entire life. I actually like it because it makes my work better and makes me a better designer. But this is an internet forum. I’m not interested in hearing peoples critique on my life or what I’m doing wrong. You don’t have to respond if you don’t have an answer or you don’t think i’m worth anything to you. Big deal. I don’t think people with criticism are mean either this is just one time that I don’t care what others think in regards to things that aren’t related to my question. My “neophyte ego” might hold zero value but so does yours and the rest of the people on here, clearly. Whether i’m independent or not or whether I have work to do or not, means nothing. I like the nitty gritty of what being an architect involves and I’ve been beyond committed to achieving this path. If you are in architecture yourself then clearly you must realize thats theres many facets of the profession. Residential, commercial, non-profit, high-rises, skyscrapers, urban planning, urban design, landscape architecture, education, whatever it is the list goes on. I don’t have all the answers and I haven’t figured which direction of architecture studies i’m gonna go in. My ideas of not being bored in architecture might be unrealistic but they might not. I’ve met lots different kinds of people in the architecture world that don’t all fit in the same category of commercial architects who hate their jobs and lives and I wanted to know if there were people out there who feel that way or made a switch. I don’t think architecture is boring, nor do i think that architecture practice is boring. What i’m currently doing is boring and I do have the power to make changes to my future profession. Now that I just used my time off writing a novel for all on the internet to read. Please all of you people who are unhappy in your lives go find someone else’s post to plow down. Good day


a foreshadow of a depress / suicidal architect to be.


virtually all offices are poorly run, with overburdened junior staff, owners who refuse to invest in the business, and clueless interns.  either the lack of structure creates freedom in which you grow, or it sets you adrift.  

Jun 12, 18 10:08 pm

you'll be more useful and happier once you get to a place where you can develop a CD set on your own.  when you know what details to draw and how to draw them.  how to identify the things you need to learn, and how to learn them.  how to self-direct yourself instead of waiting for someone else to hold your hand and draw redlines for you to trace.

you should focus the free 7 hours on getting there.  as has been mentioned, you do that by digging through past projects and seeing how they're set up.  

Jun 12, 18 10:15 pm

shit. i forgot to add snark. sorry archinect, i have failed you :(


Beginning architects do a lot of drawing. Mid-level still draw but also do a lot of reading, writing, and negotiating. Everyone does lots of visualizing and problem-solving. Pretty cerebral which might be interpreted as boring. Not sure what it’s like as a senior architect - more social and more negotiating I guess, not so much drawing. Make no mistake, even simple buildings take a lot of hard work. I think the typical snark directed at your type is because we tell you, architecture isn’t probably what you think it is, then you come in and say exactly that same thing and then ask us to tell you it isn’t true.

To directly respond to one of your q’s, yes, I think there are plenty who left architecture because it is boring (cerebral). 

Jun 13, 18 9:56 am

Nope I don't mind the drawing and the business negotiating or "cerebral" parts of architecture at all. I just really enjoy other parts more and was looking for people with a similar mindset! But thanks for the response!


The first few years of my working life I was pretty damn bored.  I picked up CAD redlines like nobody's business.  Even when my project moved into CA, I rarely had an opportunity to visit the site - partially because the project required a week-long trip to visit and as the most junior member of the team, it wasn't crucial that I go.  (Invest in a library card to get those free audiobooks.  Download some podcasts.  Helps cruise through the redlining.) 

But as more senior members of the firm become confident in your abilities, you get more responsibilities and you get to do more 'fun' stuff like coming up with concepts for details, floor plan layouts, code reports, reviewing submittals.  And you're not just picking up redlines constantly.  Yes, you'll still have to do that kind of stuff because it's part of the job, but it becomes a little bit less.  So yes, it's really boring in the beginning, but you just have to pay your dues, fight your way through, prove yourself, and things will move forward.

Jun 13, 18 9:57 am

Thanks for the legit answer I really appreciate your feedback


No problem! :) I was in a similar mental head space when I started. I almost quit to go back to school and do something else. If you are interested in licensure, that can sometimes help act as an incentive for the person overseeing you to do more different types of tasks. (If you're in a decent office that wants to legit help you learn.) Now that I'm a bit more experienced, I've been able to take on some project management duties, talking directly to clients, going on site almost weekly, and oversee some younger staff.  All that to say, it does get better. 


You know what's exciting? Having 3 self-employment gigs and switching between them. 

Jun 13, 18 10:42 am

as soon as they sideline you, pack your tools and leave - keep moving, job to job, is how to gain experience

Jun 13, 18 1:40 pm

This is not the best sign. Good interns are kept busy because they are actually useful. An intern that shows incompetence early on will not be given additional tasks. Just not even worth it. And you are not going to fire them from a 3 month position because it can only lead to bad publicity via word of mouth. 

Not saying this is 100% true for OP, but OP does show some attitude problems here that are probably not an isolated trait. 

Jun 13, 18 1:43 pm

I only have attitude problems when I get on this forum and people think its okay to hide behind their computers to be unnecessarily rude for no reason. Just answer or don't answer to the best of your ability and its all grand.

Jun 13, 18 1:59 pm
Non Sequitur

Somehow, I doubt this is true. All signs point to an attitude problem outside of this forum.


Too bad you know nothing about me ;)​

Non Sequitur

The rest of my comment was cut off... and I got busy so I missed the edit comment window. I was working on a black kettle pot joke. It'll come back, maybe.

“probably had to work harder than you to get there” sums up the ego issue right there
Jun 13, 18 2:42 pm

You don't know my life either ;) and if you assume that everyone takes a walk in the park to get to the same finish line then wake up its america in 2018. 

Jun 13, 18 2:53 pm

I don't know what all the snark is about, eastcoast, what you're describing is exactly what all my internships were like while I was still in school. A bit under ten years later I am now a reasonably successful senior project architect, so I don't think that my internship boredom was indicative of either my potential ability or my enjoyment of architecture in practice.

I also don't really know what to suggest that other haven't. Review all the documentation on projects you're on, try to understand why decisions get made they way they do, so on and so forth. I would debate the suggestions to 'make yourself useful' - in my experience, interns do not have enough experience to know what constitutes useful, and often in their enthusiasm to contribute just eff things up more than they fix them. What people are saying about interns being a time suck is true - which is why you often get stuck not doing much. Try not to take it personally. I know I do this to interns sometimes, and it's not that I think your work sucks (although sometimes I it's more I don't have the bandwidth to figure out what tasks I can hand off to you that are appropriate to your skill level and won't screw up everything else if you mess up. When I'm trying to triage urgent work, your feelings and productivity are not especially high on my list. And it really doesn't cost me anything for you to not be doing anything, interns are not expected to generate real billable hours. 

My ideal intern would be one that *actually knows how to draw architectural drawings*. Meaning: when I tell you to draw an RCP, which things go on that drawing? What goes on a floor plan? Can you generate an accurate elevation based on the plans and RCPs?  Let me tell you, the number of people I encounter (at surprisingly high levels) that do not understand basic drawing conventions blows my mind and is constantly aggravating. An intern I could trust to draw accurately (even if they need help deciding what to draw) would be pretty much the best thing ever. 

So... I would say study your firms drawing conventions and read a bunch of the Ching books. And continue to broadcast you are available. 

Jun 13, 18 3:00 pm

"An intern I could trust to draw accurately (even if they need help deciding what to draw) would be pretty much the best thing ever." 

This is right on, spike. If even entry-level staff that could draw accurately, I'd be happy!

Non Sequitur

I just had to explain what view-port layer freeze was to our new hire.


kind of something that has been in the back of my head, but i don't think people's feelings are something that should be allowed to slip to 'not a priority.' i think this is something that maybe changed when baby boomers took over from the generation previous, and it's contributed to a lot of problems (such as our industry's reputation for eating it's own, high turn over, etc.) your project will be successful or not successful based on the work your team does. that includes your interns as well as consultants, designers, PMs, contractor, client, everyone else. leadership's primary purpose should be to make that team successful. somebody else can pick brick color or figure out how to make the 20' cantilever that's 4" thick in the sketchup model work. the interactions between those people, which is influenced in large part by the feelings of the people on that team, is ultimately going to define not only the end of this project, but will define how they work on the next project and influence whether you get repeat business from your client.


Don't disagree but by not a priority I mean if I have 4 calls before noon, getting the intern something to do isn't going to happen until after lunch. Obviously it would be better not to do that but it happens and I don't think it's the worst thing in the world.


Open a book.  Read the building code or any other hundreds of books and documents that will help you in the profession, trying putting together a CD  or something.  I can guarantee you barely know anything besides 'design' and couldn't put together a full set of documents to build a real simple house even if you career depended on it.  Don't wait around for instructions like a monkey.  Be more proactive.  Those who make it far get there because they have a mission and aren't just waiting around for instructions on what to do next.

Jun 13, 18 3:04 pm

First, do they know you have nothing to do 7 out of 8 hours? Who hired you and is your supervisor? Who is reviewing your work? Did you try talking to anyone in the office about this? 

Plan B: Just leave after you've done all your work for the day and pack up your things very loudly and tell everyone at 10 in the morning you've finished for the day and will see them again tomorrow ;)

Jun 14, 18 10:02 am

Go with plan B. be the boss.

“wake up its america in 2018” there you have it, interns really do know it all.

Make sure to hire them while they still do!

Sassy intern is sassy.
Jun 16, 18 6:12 pm
At the beginning of the summer when our interns first join us they usually end up twiddling their thumbs a bit just while we all a) figure out what exactly they're capable of and then b) marshall forces to redesign team workflows to incorporate them into projects. It takes a bit of time to work you into the strategy of deliverables, so you should be patient and understanding. If you want to hurry the process along, bring examples of work you've done before and be proactive about going around the office tooting your horn about your capabilities and how you can help. Don't just sit there waiting for us to delve into your brain and see "oh, he's done cabinetry details before! Great I'll put him on those!"

The best interns we have understand that figuring out tasks and workflow is a two way street. If you feel you have something to offer and are being wasted, then OFFER that something.
Jun 18, 18 8:38 am
won and done williams

Newsflash - the internship is generally for the intern, not the firm. The firm devotes a lot of time and resources to familiarizing a greenhorn with the basics of professional practice. The firm gets very little out of it in terms of productive work, quite the opposite in fact. The reason why the firm does this is that when the greenhorn graduates and tries to get a real job, he or she is a little less green than if he or she walked in the door never having set foot in an architecture firm. It's quite altruistic really. I know as the intern you are yearning to unleash your inner architect, but quite frankly you don't have much to offer yet. Soak up what you can and bring that experience to the next phase of your education.

Jun 18, 18 9:14 am

My first internship, I got thrown onto a project right away. I had to meet with the client alone to present too. I had the drawings in a roll with a rubber band. I was sliding the rubber band down and it flew off the end of the roll and zinged past the developer's head. Developer was easy to please though, pretended to not notice. I'm sure he knew I was as fresh as the new fallen snow but didn't comment on it at all. 

Jun 18, 18 9:43 am

My first internship - I was hired for my Revit skills, then assigned a parallel bar - it was fun

Jun 18, 18 4:29 pm

could you draft some structural plans for me in your free 7 hours?

Jun 18, 18 4:35 pm

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