Entry Level Architecture Job - Advice Anyone?

Matthew J. Mott

Hello all.

I'm hoping that somebody could offer some advice on getting an entry level job in today's economy.

Here's my situation:

I spent 4 years and $80,000 to get my bachelors degree in architecture from a New York college called Alfred State. I did very well and have a good resume and portfolio to show for my time there. Unfortunately I have no work experience in the field which seems to be holding me back, even for the "entry level jobs".

I graduated in May and since then I have sent out hundreds of resumes and applications. I hear back from about 3% of these jobs and most of the time they say "thanks for your interest, but your qualifications are not good enough for us but we'll keep your information on file".

The closest city to where i live is about 50 miles north (Rochester N.Y.). I've been applying to jobs all over the country and cant seem to get any luck. Its not like I'm greedy either, I'm willing to work for 12 bucks an hour for my first few years.

Anybody is welcome to look at my portfolio here on Archinect and give me some constructive criticism (Maybe my portfolio just needs to look better).

Does anybody out there have some advice or tips for getting that "entry level job"???

Aug 20, 12 2:19 pm

Make sure you are being specific with your applications, I'm sure you've heard that and someone else will probably say it again.

If you're willing to do 12 an hour, I'd say get a construction job, get your hands dirty, learn how a building really goes together, save on those gym fee's, and then add that to your resume. 

Aug 20, 12 2:28 pm

The best advice for getting an entry-level job is that there is no advice. It's a combination of timing and dumb luck.

There's factors that definitely help but they are more qualitative than quantitative:

  • A "good" portfolio helps but also hurts equally. If your portfolio presents a lot of sound technical drawings and bland-but-market-ready designs, a firm leaning towards iconic architecture and hype will not be interested. Likewise, if your portfolio is filled with a lot of flashy graphics, decent art and grandiose designs, a more formal firm will not consider it.
  • Networking is a good start to learn about the community around you and the firms operating in a specific area. But everyone is networking right now— it's one thing to start up a conversation or inquire about a firm's operation for the sake of knowledge exchange but that sort of activity quickly puts people on the defensive and can make you look needy and desperate.
  • Education can mean dozens of things to dozens of people. Like portfolios, educational background and quality is highly subjective. Some people might respect a theory heavy education while others will dismiss it as a fool's errand. However, a technical and science based education might forever label you as someone who follows rules and protocol with little ability to "think outside the box."

If you're starting to notice a duality here, it's because it exists as the giant white elephant in the room. No one wants to acknowledge it exists but it is clearly visible. Really, all you can do is apply and apply early.

You might be able to gain some experience working on a proposal or competition, trying your luck getting some experience with a not-for-profit or a professional organization or inquiring about short-term internships. But hundreds, if not thousands, of people are doing this as well.

Aug 20, 12 2:35 pm

Welcome to the club. 09' graduate here. Network is probably your best bet or luck. As others have already said. Do you have a professional degree?

Aug 20, 12 2:53 pm

About your portfolio, I checked it out. Your work is good, but I think you can make the portfolio look a lot more interesting with a different, more clean modern look. The current background that you have is kind of distracting and not very "fresh". I would make changes to the layout and get feedback. Maybe show some white background, and try to tell a story. Hope this helps.

Aug 20, 12 3:13 pm

And I don't think you need the sketchy lines to frame each image. You can let white space frame the images with something simple that conects all the pages (like a line or a certain color font). Look up the latest colors that are used in graphics these days. Simple and clean is the key.

Aug 20, 12 3:17 pm
Matthew J. Mott

Ahhh So much blue text ! ! !

Aug 20, 12 6:22 pm

Nope no arch job. I have had 2 interviews past 2 weeks, they both were promising. One is $14,000 paycut from my non-arch job. But I might have to take it just to get my foot in the door. Just sucks since I'll have to live a very modest life for a while as my friends excel in their careers and it's like I'm just starting out. Sucks sucks.

Some other advice/tips
- Make sure your resume is on point, have several look over it
- Become LEED GA, it can help
- Not only search Craigslist, but post your resume on there too
- Visit local AIA events

You'll be ok . May wasn't that long ago, trust me as the months turn into years then it's time to worry. Hence why I'm stressed out half the time.

Aug 20, 12 7:01 pm

I will only comment on one aspect of your search, the portfolio.


Consider sending firms a tightly composed page or two of images from really well done projects of yours with a cover letter and resume. They can't criticize what they can't see and looking through all the submissions becomes a real chore. You will definitely stand out with just two pages of work samples, and by the time they are asking for a full portfolio, they already want to hire you and don't even know it yet. 


I also know I had a hard time with a cover letter. The stuff you get advised to send by HR consultants doesn't work in the architecture world, so if you need examples, ask.

Aug 20, 12 7:55 pm

Hey Mathew, 

I grew up in Binghamton and went to UB for architecture. I know the upstate well although I've moved south. I would think you would have better luck in some smaller cities like the Corning Elmira Horseheads area. Have you tried looking there? I knew some people at Keystone Associates in Binghamton that were Alfred St graduates, you could contact them. You're dealing with a really small community in upstate NY especially outside of Buffalo and Rochester, so I would say your best bet would be networking in these smaller cities like Elmira, Jamestown, Binghamton. Go to AIA events, CSI, anything you hear of, and really press your professors for help since I believe a lot of them are practicing or have recently been practicing. I would also say these smaller firms would not mind if you popped in with your resume and portfolio. 

Aug 21, 12 11:08 am
Matthew J. Mott

Quentin - Thanks man and good luck getting the job! seriously if i could send you some luck in the mail i would cos i know what its like to try getting in.

Nicholas - Great idea dude!!! I shaved my portfolio down to the 4 best projects and I really think this might help. Thanks man!

HeavyMetalArchitecture - Hey man, its nick talking to a somewhat local on here. yes I've been trying the Elmira/Corning/Bighamton areas but no luck yet. I'm actually going to go back through and check again though and maybe I'll be in luck this time around. Handing in my resume and portfolio in person is a good idea too man. Thank You.

Aug 21, 12 1:38 pm


I think using one image per slide might make you lose the focus on the overall project. I think it's more effective, for sample pages, to try to limit the amount of pages, because I feel like sample pages have to send the message across quickly.

I created a new post with a link to my sample pages, I could also use some feedback from anyone who has a minute. Thank you! Here is the link to the post:

Aug 23, 12 12:01 pm

I've had quite a bit of luck with Nick's suggestion. The "portfolio" I send out initially is 3 pages + cover letter and resume. 1 project per page, just to get them hooked and responding, plus they haven't seen the entire portfolio when I go in for an interview so I'm not repeating what they've already seen. It is getting a good response rate and I've been on some interviews in Chicago the past two weeks. Craft it so it hooks them within a minute or so, because realistically that is about the amount of time they will initially look at it.

I also have a portfolio website set up if they want to dig deeper into my work. 

Sep 1, 12 10:47 pm

Hey Matthew J. Mott,

I am almost in same dilemma as you were, can i have a chat with you on any of the social networking website, please do send me a mail at


Nov 18, 12 12:10 pm

Since this thread got bumped, did you find a job Matthew? I had 3 interviews in August in got none.    (weeps in corner). Recently relcoated, but no bites here either. FML.

Nov 19, 12 12:13 am
I would greatly support the recommendation of of sending a condensed portfolio with your résumé. I just started the job search here in NYC and NJ and have done just that.

Out of curiosity though, do your school/faculty not teach you this. In my school (the savannah college of art and design) we called it the "portfolio teaser" and the idea was driven into our brains. As several others already mention, and I think it becomes pretty obvious after you think about it, you don't want them seeing your full portfolio before meeting you. If they see the full thing they can make a decision without ever speaking to you. You want to leave them wanting more.

Think of it this way, the process is 2 steps. 1 you send them your résumé cover letter and "teaser" the goal of this is not to get a job or get hired, the goal is to get an interview. Then 2. The goal of the interview is to sell you, and convince them to hire you.
Nov 24, 12 9:28 am
I would greatly support the recommendation of of sending a condensed portfolio with your résumé. I just started the job search here in NYC and NJ and have done just that.

Out of curiosity though, do your school/faculty not teach you this. In my school (the savannah college of art and design) we called it the "portfolio teaser" and the idea was driven into our brains. As several others already mention, and I think it becomes pretty obvious after you think about it, you don't want them seeing your full portfolio before meeting you. If they see the full thing they can make a decision without ever speaking to you. You want to leave them wanting more.

Think of it this way, the process is 2 steps. 1 you send them your résumé cover letter and "teaser" the goal of this is not to get a job or get hired, the goal is to get an interview. Then 2. The goal of the interview is to sell you, and convince them to hire you.
Nov 24, 12 9:28 am

Hey, cool idea, so it is a success for you ! ?

Nov 24, 12 10:15 am
I'm just going to leave this here
Nov 24, 12 11:25 am
I didnt read thru everyones posts but as someone who has been very successful in the last 4 years with jobs I offer you this:
1. Be very professional. This includes all internet content (facebook, twitter, arcinect, linkedin, etc.) Delete your profiles if you must.
2. Craft. Your email and cover letter should scream quality, professionalism, competence, and willingness to work hard and especially to learn.
3. Be the first to send your resume to the email address they provided. When I was unemployed I use to rush home to check the job boards.
4. Be persistent and dont give up.

Good Luck
Nov 24, 12 6:37 pm

Hi all,

I've also been job hunting(while working on my thesis...or procrastinating with my thesis!) I've send at least 150 resumes in the past 2 months (admittedly my portfolio is still a work in progress so i just send small design samples attached to my CV), I am very reasonable with my expectations as an entry level applicant, even as an architect's assistant....gotta pay your dues right? So far no luck whatsoever and its extremely discouraging! But i guess perseverance  is key right? ALL THE BEST TO MY FELLOW JOB HUNTERS OUT THERE!

Nov 25, 12 8:46 am

I graduated from Hampton University with a 3.5 GPA with honors, May 2011 obtaining my master's degree in Architecture and still looking for an entry-level Architect position. 

It is very frustrating.  I owe $150k in private loans which my parents are struggling to pay.  I have done short-term volunteer work  with no pay.  I do not mind working without pay to gain quality experience but that is even hard to find.

This career was my dream since the age of 14, and I was determined to get a master's degree.  I cannot believe that entry-level jobs are asking for 2-3 years experience.  I finally have to realize that I picked the wrong career.

This is depressing and I do not know why architecture degrees are offered if there are no jobs.  The schools should reimburse everyone because this is a career that does not seem to have a future.

I can't afford to go back to school and now have to try to find another field that I am passionate about.  Those of you who have managed to get employment, you are blessed.

Feb 17, 13 5:42 pm
Jesus I Escobedo

I really don't see how many people are struggling. The best thing you can do to get a job is make connections. Join professional associations with a large membership base. I joined ASCE, ASAE, and NSHE. There are so many companies that are ready to hire but just aren't too open to hiring anyone. You have to put the work in and show up at their door and let them know who you are. You should apply for positions before you receive your degree. I am only a junior but I have made more than a few relationships here a Syracuse U that are willing to put a good word in for me. Its all about making the right connections and showing your worth.

Feb 20, 13 3:22 pm

can we see your portfolio?   some people 'think' they have good work to show when it plain sucks.  Just being frank.  I've done about half a dozen paid internships, have sent out about 2 dozen emails looking for work at most and got a response of offer for 90% of the emails.

Feb 20, 13 4:42 pm
ever consider applying to firms here in NYC.. theres a lot more activity here than anywhere else.. a lot of my college friends did that after graduating
Feb 20, 13 4:54 pm

Jesus I agree with making connections but sometimes connections only go so far. Up to this point all of my positions have been acquired without ever interviewing simply because I "knew" people. The problem is that when the recession hit not only were some of our contacts hit, their connections were too. I'm only now starting to see some of my connections point out open positions at different firms, mostly large firms but an opening is an opening. 

It probably affected me more since I've focused on small firms, under 10 employees. (not a fan of huge firms if you couldn't tell by the prior comment.) 

Feb 20, 13 9:37 pm

I just graduated in May 2013 with my Masters of Architecture.  I have the same problem, some entry level architect position want a min. of 3 years experience.  Where are we suppose to get our start from?

Aug 13, 13 11:49 pm

you apparently missed a glorious thread about a week ago.  as long as you don't have a criminal record you should be just fine!

the way i got my job:  i had interned for free in college.  i know there's a lot of people who are very adamant about NOT doing free stuff, but the way i see it is that experience was key to me getting a job after graduating.  i had the option of doing some stupid class in place of my recession-year co-op, or working for free.  no regrets.

the last thing you want to do is sit around for months (or years! as some people have) not working in your field.  if you're financially stable, or have the option to live with your parents while working for free:  do it. never stop looking for a job, and don't expect them to give you a paid job after you said you'd work for free.  use it as experience, as a reference, as a NETWORK with connections, and then the opportunities will start to present themselves, and you'll actually have experience when you go for the interview.

i know that after graduating with a masters degree you're going to be disappointed doing this, but nothing in life-- including the promise of work after college-- is guaranteed.  whatever you do, DO NOT take an extended summer vacation.  work as much as you can at a paid job like a restaurant at night-- maybe do half days at the architecture office, or half weeks.  DO NOT work at TGI Fridays as your day-job  Get some experience in any way you possibly can.  Its more important that having a nice apartment and going out for booze 3 times a week with your friends. 

i know people that have done this, so no excuses!

Aug 14, 13 12:14 am

First off, don’t think of you rejections as not good enough, this is a hard economy and many very good people are out of work, you were not the best but probably would have been just fine working there. HR managers have to look out for the best interest of the company they work for so they tend to choose the best candidates and or the ones they trust and know. 

So please don’t beat your selves up over the rejections, you were not number one of 200+ nothing to be ashamed of.

How does one get known? This is what you need to ask.  You need to become a DYI NSA and gather intell on your target firms and or markets, and then get involved.

Chicago is blessed with a Young Architect’s Forum, are you charismatic enough to start one where you are? Firms take notice when you are doing things to help others in the profession good deeds get attention.

People love to give advice, they love it so much that they give away their time they would be billing to a client at $60-400 per hour away for free. No other type of professional loves to give advice more than architects, but everyone hates to say no to someone. So let me tell you about Informational interviewing. In a nutshell you ask for advice and state in the first sentence of your email or postcard or other non-intrusive way of communicating that you are not asking for a job just advice. Then you get a chance to meet face to face, ask the questions about how they think you can get into the type of job you want to do. Pay attention to what they say and take their advice and follow up. People will think you are smart, trustworthy and a decent person if you listen to and act on their advice.

Think of who is getting to the top of the pile of resumes when a job opening happens, it is someone they know, someone who they feel respects them enough to seek their advice, someone who is smart, experience may be important but not as important as trust and a personal connection.

What you also need to do is to stay busy. Always have a now project to be working on. Maybe you are designing a dog park in your town or neighborhood or your elderly neighbors are in need of some gismo to lift heavy bags of groceries up to their back door, there are always design projects out there. Everyone can make a zine make one that promotes a walking tour or biking tour in your area local merchants can help pay for it and bingo you are the head of an economic development agency, for real if you get results.

You need to invent a reason for you to be doing something design related so that you can put on your resume top billing you are designing something. I listed my community garden and interiors work as my current freelance work. Eventually I got an interview and much of the time was discussing what I am doing now.

Self-motivated people who find constructive things to do and get them done are a manager’s dream candidate. Don’t let a gap in time misguide an HR person to thinking you need a babysitter instead of a boss.

We all deserve jobs that are meaningful challenging and rewarding, but to get those jobs we have to be creative, your lack of a design related job is your new design job. Be creative and try.

Rejections are not a reflection of your inabilities you probably are capable you just need to keep trying and changing up your game.

Don’t be an insane job hunter be a sane one if something doesn’t work try a different approach.

Best of Luck
Peter N

Aug 29, 13 1:01 pm
Ben Palagonia

Cast a wide net; the wider your job search the better your luck might be.  Hopefully...  Just make sure you can find a job that will cover living expenses.  Best of Luck.

Mar 11, 14 9:36 pm
Non Sequitur

8 week course to find a job? Sounds like a scam.

Mar 21, 14 8:36 am

So Scam or not it is still very hard to find work, Finding work is a skill one that is not taught in school.


If you are not able to travel to a city or large town where "Professional" architects are working than maybe this online course is an option. Most professionals are open to if not eager to mentor people who are aspiring to become architects. Some have way too many request for information and advice, think anyone who is published in the glossy magazines. Others are already helping a significant number and a very few are mean and nasty probably to the point that their dog doesn't even like them.

The point is take a course, grab some books or post a question on a forum like Archinect, you have options. I am surprised someone did not come up with this sooner.


Ask for advice and ideas and that can lead you towards your next job.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Mar 21, 14 10:17 am

Searching also for a architecture job but I am trying to avoid those companies that are so detailed in their job descriptions. Then when it comes to salary it's "depends on experience" DOE and that's not FAIR! Employers know exactly what they really looking for a candidate then why not on salary....

Dec 17, 15 12:33 pm

I would argue the details are nice - you can 'score' yourself on each to see where you might be.  Salary should be DOE and their offer will tell you what your expected role is - in general they know what they pay at each experience level, but not all years are the same and they want to be able to adjust accordingly.  Bigger firms are more set (and those numbers are generally more publicly available).

Dec 17, 15 3:35 pm

I let people go this year, other small firm owners I talk to are waiting until after the holidays.  Welcome to the next recession, it's here.  My advice is find something recession proof because these cycles are getting deeper and more extreme each time.  I dont see a large demand for people power in Architecture in the future, nothing like the last 30 years.

Dec 17, 15 5:57 pm

Bundy, location and sector? We are flooded at my firm with solid pipeline well into 2017

Dec 17, 15 7:06 pm

OP why not contract drafting services part time and part time construction work? I did labor ready in school, the people you work for will be like wtf? You have a degree want to just work for us, seriously.

Dec 17, 15 7:08 pm

DOE usually benefited only one side and that's the employer. When a worker moved with their family  from other city or state to start his/her new full time employment. An employer has limited way in a short span of time to know the capability of a new employee. Most employer will pay you the least and employee will just accept whatever that is. I suggest get the documented offer before accepting and moving their family.

Dec 17, 15 10:17 pm

About to be rich as hell...just gotta choose the right consumer!

Dec 17, 15 11:10 pm

And that piece isn't even done. About to drop the H bomb on that one tomorrow

Dec 17, 15 11:25 pm

@StarchitectAlpha, Chicago area, Illinois, Indiana, SW Michigan and Eastern Iowa.  We do retail, commercial and multifamily, smaller scale.  It was a ripping two years going into 2015 but these last 2 quarters have screeched to a halt.  Maybe it's regional but Im feeling the multifamily market is way over heated and commercial still anemic - companies just dont need as much space anymore.  When I see ads on how to turn your home equity into income property and let your tenants pay your mortgage type ads on radio - it's done.  Stick a fork in it.

Dec 18, 15 10:33 am

Most of the employer in any profession these days changed in their hiring process and  are GREEDY!!! Ex. Like the ads:  0-3 years experience, with more than 30 enumerated job descriptions/qualifications (in reality it requires a person w/ 20+ yrs. of experienced), then when it comes to salary it's DOE / depends on experience. These companies ARE NOT FAIR! They know exactly what they're looking for a candidate but they're not sure how to compensate that candidate. It's a win - loss situation!!! My suggestion,  once you find a stable & fair company with your profession stick with them. No way we can find a perfect one. DO NOT PAY ATTENTION WITH THOSE COMPANIES MAKING NOISE or trying to bait you with broken promises. Goodluck!

Dec 21, 15 2:45 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: