How do you measure "experience?"

So, I've had this discussion a lot throughout the years, but there's always a mixture of views on the topic. I'm curious what you all have to say. I've always been a big believer that experience is a combination of both length of time and depth of exposure. 

Basically, if someone had 2 years of experience, an exceptional mentor, and more opportunities to work on all phases of a greater number of projects, then they would be more valuable than someone with 4 years of experience who only had experience up to, say, DD phase, for example.

I'm particularly interested in what the older (more experienced) ones among you think. I do think that age brings a certain wisdom and maturity that may not translate into tangible work, but would still prove valuable to a team. Just curious to broaden my thinking regarding this...

Nov 6, 19 2:22 pm

In the situation you describe, the person with 2 years of experience on all phases of projects might very well be "more valuable".  On the other hand, if the person with 4 years of DD experience was being considered for a job for which they'd mostly be doing SD and DD, they might be more valuable.  Either one of them might be the more useful/valuable if they were any number of things:  more extroverted, more familiar with the firm's niche market, more succinct and focused in presenting their portfolio, had the better resume for including in proposals, was a better public speaker, and a million other reasons specific to my reasons for hiring and what my firm needs right now.

As one of the "older (more experienced) ones" I don't make much distinction at all between 2 and 4 years of experience - I'd consider them both for the same types of positions.  Those are both pretty much in the experience range where I expect the person to know basic industry conventions, and to be ready to take on gradually increasing responsibilities for their own work, but I wouldn't expect to be hiring them directly into a managerial or lead designer role.  Which one I'd hire, if I had to choose just, would probably not be based primarily on 2 vs 4 years of experience, and would depend much more on which fit our current project needs, fit into the firm's current makeup best, could start when we need them, has the best references... 

If your question was the same except that your characters had 10 and 20 years of experience, respectively, then the 20-year person would have clearly defined themselves as a niche specialist, and would likely be seen as not so useful in a generalist role, and vice versa.

Nov 6, 19 2:44 pm

Thanks a lot. this is a good framing. I hadn't thought of it this way. 2 to 4 years is very close, but 10 years vs 20 years creates an entirely different set of variables to consider.


Ah- excellent question. What AXP (for example) doesn't measure is the quality of one's experience- just the longevity. Quality is difficult to define, but I would say the quality of one's experience has a lot to do with how well your experience allows you to practice on your own successfully without incurring liability. Please note that the word "successfully" means different things for different people/firms, but for the most part it is a combination of financial success, client satisfaction, technical execution, environmental stewardship, and living up to your contractual responsibilities- all the while limiting your liability by consistently applying a high standard of care.

So working just on one phase vs another, doesn't by itself make you ready to practice on your own successfully and without incurring liability. 

Nov 6, 19 4:02 pm

Disagree; You have to know a lot of stuff in a pretty broad range of roles. The IDP is also set up so you have to do more than sit drafting details. And that's all setup by the school accrediation that also requires a lot more education than just studio. Essentially, the systems in place to become a architect are setup to give you a broad range of practical experience to avoid creating architects who can only design ANSI compliant bathrooms. They try to give that quality by forcing you to be educated and have work experience outside just a drafting station. I will agree the time you spent doing something like contracts would be subjective to how in-depth that experience was... but at least we have it.


sorry- very much disagree. Are you telling me that if an intern does photoshop work on a presentation related to programming, that intern can't just log his hours under programming? He/she isn't ACTUALLY doing programming. So please: the system only works if the supervisors take it seriously, and half the time, office politics comes into play because the supervisors don't wan't to be the asshole who doesnt apprrove someone's hours.

Such a good point. BBlogger I like the bit about practicing without liability particularly. And you're spot on with AXP, depending on the individual signing off on the hours, candidates can receive credit for areas for time spent, but not necessarily an adequately robust depth of experience.


BBlogger, there is indeed some weaknesses in the AXP training hours. You are right, the AXP supervisor (I'll add also the AXP trainee) must take it seriously. When I have to do the AXP and required experience hours, I'll have to go above and beyond in documenting the experience beyond just the hours and categories. Why, pray tell? (rhetorical question) The reason being relates to NCARB Certification's "Certificate portfolio". I have to finalize the portfolio after the three years of licensure. Waiting until then to document is likely to be inadequate or not the best time to document the experience in the detail that the NCARB Certificate Portfolio would need. Best to do the 'journaling' when the experience is gained. You can look at the NCARB Certificate Guideline (current) so I don't have to repeat it. If AXP trainee documented their experience like this in addition to their AXP hours, there is a chance it will improve the quality because you aren't just coming in at 8AM and doing things on rote and leave at 5pm without thinking about what you learned.

In a long enough experience, the documented content can and very well maybe more then what will need to be submitted so you will have to be selective for the NCARB Certificate portfolio but your master journal/portfolio would be documented in more detailed and retained as long it takes be it 10 years, 15 years, or 25 years but annotated and documented. 


I'm reading through it again and even if I can't use some of the stuff from pre-licensure stuff, it can still be useful for a variety of purposes outside of NCARB Certificate Portfolio and fundamentally a practice for the post-licensure experience used for NCARB Certificate portfolio.


Can't we have a little more time to edit or delete a post? Anyway, for what it is worth, journaling the experience in more depth than a couple sentences, and the hours and category would be better than not documenting experiences. The problem is people can kind of just plug the hours but not ever think about how the experience teaches them.


From the AXP supervisor point of view: these days there isn't really any particular way for the supervisor to "take it seriously" or not. When I first started supervising people the forms were 4 pages long, with much finer break-downs of experience categories and sub-categories, and a page for the supervisor to grade the candidate in several different areas. But as of about 10 years ago we no longer get a breakdown of hours per task - it went from that 4-page report down to just one dumbed-down screen: it just provides an hours total per category for that reporting period, with no other info at all. The only thing I can really do is check it against employees' time sheets and see if it roughly jives. There are also no grades/ratings anymore - the only choices for the supervisor are: approve the form as submitted; return it to the candidate for changes; or reject the hours.  Often candidates don't even report a lot of their experience until after they're no longer working in our firm, especially when they were summer interns or 1-semester co-op students.  Often they're no longer even local, so it's not as if there's any opportunity to review it with them in-person.  Basically the NCARB system sends an automatic email, and subsequent reminders, until I push one of the three buttons.


no one (not even you it seems, since you never make any meaningful progress) cares about your epic quest for licensure, balkins.


What I want to do, when I want to do, and why I want to do it (eg. licensure) is my own matter. You don't care about my quest for licensure but don't speak for everybody and frankly no amount of license or accolades qualifies you to speak for anyone but yourself. Same with me. I speak from my perspective not someone else's. I'm perfectly fine with you not liking or giving a shit about my own decisions regarding licensure. It isn't like I am retiring at 65 or anything like that. Maybe I'll stick around longer than Master Yoda. If I get licensed and it pisses you off, that's just a little icing on the cake. You know it would require working for an architect or architectural firm. So be it. At least I can choose to work for good architects/firms.


5839, I still have the old IDP Worksheet excel spreadsheet on file still. Surprising. That was still using the training units system vs. individual hours. Recording the hours in those ways are somewhat difficult to translate over to the current system. Before, IDP/AXP, experience was unstructured. All you had to do was show that you were employed under an architect for full-time or equivalent. Mostly, a stub of hours per year worked at a particular firm for the duration of employment and what that is. At first, it may be barely validated beyond the employer indicating hours per week worked and the start and end date of employment. Show enough altogether for the 3 or more years that maybe required. Also, there was a time when the architect exam was administered once or twice a year depending on the state. The problem is, it is entirely impossible to know what the experience was and for how many hours. IDP and now AXP stipulates a prescribed minimum number of hours in various areas. This is now prescriptive which before IDP, there was nothing prescribed other then the statutory number of years of experience/education/examination. While it has its flaws, the AXP prescribes at least some level of experience requirement makeup. So the person doesn't just have 3 years of employment for an architect as a receptionist and drafter of door and window schedules. Ok. Why do we require this and what drove it. That may require some history lesson dating back to the 1960s or 70s. I agree that the hours should be reported frequently and I think there is now a reporting period for this. Maybe a disciplinary approach like reporting once a month or every pay period or something. It would be better then waiting 6 months.


It's the depth of experience - people who are good to begin with straight of a real good school will advance faster as they get tapped for more responsibility - this contrasts to average grade who take 5 - 7 years to acquire the same skill set - years of experience doesn't tell the whole story

Nov 6, 19 4:38 pm

What about people who do really well in school, but get really shitty experience? Happens all the time.


I went to an average school and then to a really good firm. Wouldn't have had it any other way.


same here, started at a top firm, definite payoff, a "state school" grad in there with the ivies

Nov 6, 19 7:43 pm

The obvious is that you can’t get depth of experience without length of time. The not so obvious is that sufficient depth of experience in one area is largely transferrable to other areas (although not necessarily technical, which is almost completely lacking in architectural education).

Nov 6, 19 8:24 pm

That's true: Depth isn't possible without time, while length of time doesn't necessarily equal depth. I hadn't dialed it in quite that far.

Happy Anarchy

If I hand you something at any phase of a project with regard to any type of project with regard to any aspect of a project with close to no explanation and receive what I'm looking for, even if I all I gave you were examples; and you executed the task in an acceptable amount of time - then you are experienced. (or really intelligent)

With each question I dock points.

With each delay I dock points.

and at some point I'll just say "forget it."

and for the kids, if you ever do a board/zoning or whatever hearing often on the board are the zoning experts for the town, the town engineer and council, the building inspector, etc...and you will - under oath - without looking like a fool need to be capable of answering questions from what Floor Area Ratio you can have to what type of sprinkler system to structural limitations and with little time.  If you look stupid, often these vultures with agendas, will tear into you quickly.  I tend to do absent minded professor first, let the agressors get their agenda out and then slowly and methodically cite  the facts and with good council (lawyers/attorneys) on my side we can often make the board look like one big fat political agenda (fake news ;)) or get them to bicker among themselves...

Nov 6, 19 8:34 pm

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