Renowned/Starchitect Firm internship VS Full time Job


Hi guys! 

Would really love to hear some opinions about this issue if you’re willing to spare me some of your time! I’ve just graduated from my bachelors and am hunting for a full time job in architecture. 

But I’ve recently been offered an internship at a renowned firm (Not sure if it’s starchitect level yet. But they do have notable works and are known for their style.) and I’m just wondering if it would be worth it to take that up VS a full time job. Like...

1. Will an internship at an international firm affect my prospects in the future? (I.e. make me more employable)

2. Is it worth it to forgo Full time pay for intern pay given that I’ve graduated  

3. This could spell relocation for me (Higher living costs as compared to staying locally to get a job)

Thanks in advance!

Jun 14, 19 5:42 pm

Put me down as a vote for the full-time, grown-up job.

Jun 14, 19 5:53 pm

Updating the tally as we speak. Hahha.

atelier nobody

Can you afford to live on what the starchitect pays?

Jun 14, 19 6:09 pm

To be honest, if I wanted to be more comfortable i’d probably have to tap on my savings.


how good is their style?

Jun 14, 19 7:00 pm

I think to put it into words, there aren’t much studios that are doing built projects of these sort/forms?


We hired a BIG person. She is great. We also hired a non BIG Person. She is also great. Having worked for BIG didn't make a whit of a difference. 

Jun 14, 19 9:54 pm

Thanks for the response Pete! This has been a great help. I guess it’s up to me to constantly develope myself and my skill sets to be the best that I can be at where I’ve decided to be. It’s me that matters and not where. Hahha. Thanks for the insight.


1. no

2. no

3. no

look at the job ads for firms you admire, especially mid career positions. they want the same things as anyone else: architects who know how to manage and how to get things built. only full time jobs provide that experience.

if after a few years you still have that yearning to work with a high profile office (and that's good!) you can always apply for a mid level job with them based on the real skills you have.

Jun 14, 19 10:30 pm

Thanks midlander! I appreciate this. (: I guess I worry too much about losing such opportunities to see clearly now. And what you’ve said resonates. I can always go back when I’m more competent and ready. But really, thank you for these insights. I really appreciate it. (:


If you have to ask the internet you’re clearly not ready to work in the real world, therefore take the internship. You’re welcome.

Jun 15, 19 5:10 am

Hahahha. I’d still definitely would like to go back to finish my M.ARCH but reality beckons me to the real world whether I’m ready or not.


Thank you for taking the time to put in your two cents though. Appreciate it. (:

If you take a low ball pay at the stupid starchitect firm, you are doing all of us a disservice. Fuck em.
Jun 15, 19 12:34 pm

It is much more difficult to transition into and experience a starchitect firm the older you get. If you are curious about it, I'd do it now. It would be a great experience and if it involves moving to a larger city that sets you up to move on to a full time job that pays more than full time local and probably has better design opportunities. 

Is this prominent firm in a city that you would go to grad school in? 

Jun 15, 19 4:49 pm

what archonymous said.

It is very hard to get into a starchitect firm at mid-career level unless you have worked at another starchitect office. The experience is different than in a normal office. I know a lot of people here think its all bullshit, and that is an understandable point of view, and partially true, I suppose. But it doesnt change things that starchitects want to hire people who know the process and get the drill. Unless you are hot shit and working for world class corporate office doing something like high end envelope design or similar you probably will not be interesting to the star-architect place. They want professionals, but they want professionals who also know how to focus on getting the building built according to goals that go beyond simply being competently put together.  That is not something you learn at an office that thinks architecture is about construction and pure service to a client.

Jun 16, 19 8:33 am


*your name

Take the starchitect job. Contrary to what people are saying, starchitect offices are not places you do fruitcake jobs. You do a lot of hard work and exposure to beyond putting a set of drawings for a convenience store or a fast food joint.
Be careful about your first job. Especially now, the seven eleven designing offices are dime a dozen.
If you are a creative young person interested in creative office culture and projects, take the opportunity and work for the people who do that kind of work.

Jun 16, 19 1:03 pm

I've always wondered where the line between starchitect and not is drawn. Good to know starchitects do everything except convenience stores and fast food joints.

*your name

My first job was a certain hotel chain interiors, it took me four years to gtf out of it. I spent a lot of effort to keep it at the "day job" distant and put a lot of extra hours working on things to keep myself relevant to what I ultimately wanted to do. Forgive me if I offended you what I meant with fast food and convenience was routine jobs you master quickly but don't take you where you want to go. Otherwise, not meeting your academic ambitions and professional development. If I can turn back the clock, I wouldn't take that job. Now I am grateful I was able to make some detouring and eventually go on my own.


Agreed. I took a job in 2009 and 2010 that I needed because I needed money to buy food to live. But I spent a few years digging myself out of that hole, and as you say it was only through super hard work, long hours on personal projects and dedication that could have been put into a big architecture project instead.


The majority of the built environment is small to medium projects. If young designers put as much care and effort into them as they do donating their time to big firms hoping to get on that awesome megaproject, we'd all benefit, and the skills learned would be much more useful. Instead we have a lot of people that know grasshopper and rendering, not so many who can keep the water out.


If your financial situation is such that your income amount is largely unimportant then sure, take the internship. If not, then you shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you are losing money. Is this internship only for a limited duration of time? Do you want to stay in that city if you are not kept on for a full time job? Will you still be losing money if your internship is extended into a full time job? If the internship has a chance of putting you into debt then your should be very cautious. The big name may help you later but digging yourself into a hole has a far better chance of burying you. 

Jun 16, 19 1:44 pm

Unless you have bills and financial obligations, take the starchitect job while you're young for the exposure and experience. If you're going into debt to work for a starchitect, then you're contributing to the exploitative culture within the "design" firms. 

Jun 16, 19 2:04 pm
Hm not sure it is reasonable to assume the starchitect job will be exploitation. That is a pretty efed up starting point about architects who think design is important. The people I know who work for starchitects are professional as hell and they do serious work. A typical project consumes years of your working life. It is silly to presume that level of output is anything but professional and properly compensated.

There are bound to be crappy examples but a proper job with Jeanne Gang for instance is hardly going to be a nightmare. I don’t believe she is an outlier either.
Jun 17, 19 2:58 am

It is very reasonable. The original poster said the internship could involve spending savings.

Non Sequitur

it's exploitation if it's an unpaid gig.


the only person I know their wages at a starchitect firm, they were paid below minimum wage


There are many notable "starchitects" that believe it is a privilege to work for them and they certainly take advantage of it, especially young graduates and interns. 

I'm all for pursing you a dream, but when you are paying below market rate, or offering unpaid internships, that is crossing the line and architecture or not, that is outright illegal let alone unethical. If you are condoning such practices, ask yourself this, how is that benefiting the public interest? Equal pay for equal labour. 


the star architecture staffers club is real. 

Jun 17, 19 11:50 am

In my opinion the only benefit of working in the starchitects is to list it on your CV. Frankly, if theyre not paying you, or not paying you much, they will very little interest in your professional development or productivity. Like others have said, it is exploitation, and mostly unseen here in the UK now.

Jun 17, 19 12:41 pm

Well said.


How temporary is the internship? Professionally I don't have the experience to answer but just as  another option to consider if it's only like a three month gig there's a possibility that you could do both. I would use caution with delaying your acceptance of a full time job but I know some of my peers that's graduated in may, accepted a full time job offer beginning in September while doing an internship over the summer in a new city.  There is also the possibility of full time work following the internship I supposes but if this isn't mentioned then I wouldn't expect it and would probably just assume it's a temporary as is position.

Jun 17, 19 5:13 pm

OP, it would be helpful if you clarify what is meant by 'Internship'

A lot of this discussion has descended into the various prejudices everyone has about starchitect offices. Of course they are not a homogeneous group; some are well run and while intense, give much guidance to staff. Others, not.

The real issue is, will the internship lead to real experience in the office that helps you develop as an architect. In my experience, no - interns largely perform low level help-work in a short term position. They tend to receive no training and remain unengaged from the meaningful discussions in an office. Unless it was clear this was an entry point to a professional role in their office, I wouldn't recommend moving to a new city for it.

OTOH if they are in a large city you might like to remain in long term, and this covers your cost of living while you get established there, no harm in going for it.

Jun 17, 19 11:00 pm

Remember, people who never worked for a starchitect don’t really know what it’s like, what you’ll  possibly be exposed to and what you’ll possibly learn’s simply the Ivy League of offices where you’ll be working with some of the smartest and most talented people within our profession, your future self will thank you. 

Jun 18, 19 6:36 am

so smart and talented they can't turn a profit without exploiting graduates


It doesn’t take a starchitect to exploit people...

Non Sequitur

^No, it does not... but it certainly takes one for a naive intern to believe working for no pay is acceptable.


of course not, but inferred by the OP the choice was between a non paying internship, or paid full time work. In that scenario it is exactly the starchitect doing the exploiting. There's plenty of firms that are doing great work without conning gullible grads to work for free for 'exposure'


I must have missed the non paid part...


People pay thousands of dollars and graduate not even knowing how to put a building together...but lowering your standard of living for a few months and getting paid a little less to gain career-defining experience is seen as exploitation ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Non Sequitur

^Correct. The secret is learning how to put buildings together while in school so that you're not stuck whoring yourself out to shiny for-profit star offices.


Why stuck? I think many people consciously and enthusiastically intern at starchitects.

Non Sequitur

And those people who are able to afford no pay for starchitect gigs are detrimental to everyone else. If the intern is worth anything, they will pull a salary. If they work for free, they are worth nothing and I put equal value to the experience.

Witty Banter

Non, totally agree that no one should be working for free. However we haven't established here that the starchitect offer is for zero pay, only that it's less than the other offer. It's entirely plausible that this or other starchitects are paying fair salaries even if they aren't at the high end. I'm sure all of us have chosen offers for reasons other than the highest bidder. Again, I agree that no one should work for free and I think it's important for people such as yourself to reinforce that.

Non Sequitur

^That is correct. things got derailed a little.


If they're dipping into savings to be able to take it, they aren't being paid enough. Probably a small monthly stipend is all they get, which if you have bills and/or family, might as well be nothing. Covers rent or groceries but not both. Americans get a double whammy since we get no health insurance out of those opportunities of exposure .

Non Sequitur



People dip into savings for a new car, big screen tv, holidays or university education even...but to raise your spending capacity a little from some savings for a couple of months when taking a paid internship is suddenly taboo? Ah well...


I don't think anyone here is opposed to the internship if it is indeed paying in line with the minimum wage. Of course, the highest financial gain isnt the only factor to consider. My objection , which may be be wrong , is if the internship is unpaid or only pays a stipend only; That practice is ethically wrong, and detrimental to the profession as a whole.


People dip into savings while ALSO being employed with a paycheck. 0_o


You’ll be surprised how many people live from pay check to pay check. I personally find it totally acceptable that the pay for an internship is lower than for a regular job, but maybe that’s just me...

Non Sequitur

Lower than full-time permanent staff & lower than minimum wage are 2 different things.


You misunderstand me. You're equating someone dipping into savings while employed (to buy a thing) to someone dipping into savings while unemployed (to ... get taken advantage of in hopes of gaining some nebulous edge that has yet to be proven to exist in any quantifiable measure).


Why equating internships with minimum wage, it’s part of your education/training...


Nope, they’re not unemployed when interning and do get paid some compensation...

Non Sequitur

under minimum wage = immediate shaming and addition of exploitation label.


its fairly rare here in the UK now, the RIBA have really clamped down on chartered firms that do it, thankfully. I echo the opinions of Non Sequitur and SneakyPete here ; its disgusting that that firms operate in that manner. In my opinion it offers no advantage comparable to working in an office that value you enough to actually pay you for your time, other than the illusion of prestige. If you are employed you should earn at least minimum wage, it really is that simple.


randomised, it was explained to you earlier that we were talking about unpaid internships . You feel like moving the goalposts to justify your statement then count me out, my rebuttal stands


The OP isn't talking about a completely unpaid internship - he specifically said "intern pay" in his first post - and that he'd dip into savings "to be more comfortable" - not because he wouldn't be receiving any pay at all. The question is how much intern pay?


Right, and I'd write a different opinion if THIS subthread weren't talking about unpaid. My opinion is based on the specific instance.


SneakyPete, this particular thread is not about unpaid internships, it’s not my problem some people can’t read but I’m trying to stay on topic, this subthread hangs under my post that doesn’t mention unpaid internships even, just sayin’...


Never work for free

Jun 18, 19 10:42 am



Starchitects that run real businesses will pay you and give a great learning experience. The three go hand in hand - spending long nights building endless foam models neither pays nor teaches you to be a better designer. Working on innovative facades and prestige projects with a noted design firm will teach you - and compensate too, albeit at a lower rate than, say, a purely commercial office.

Jun 18, 19 11:26 am

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