3-5 Years of Experience?


...How do you even get that as a recent graduate? Most jobs require that so how can you possibly break into the market?

Feb 11, 13 1:00 pm

As an unpaid intern?

Feb 11, 13 1:17 pm

Fuck it. Just lie about it and hope that you can catch up with whatever the hell 3-5 years entails.

Feb 11, 13 1:23 pm

don't do an unpaid internship! 

Feb 11, 13 1:24 pm

Don't do an unpaid internship. Don't lie--it's easy to tell in the interview (not to mention illegal to put another office's work in your portfolio for which you did nothing).

I've recently noticed that there isn't a standard language used to describe roles/titles across all firms.  For 3-5 years, some call it an intern architect, some call it a designer, junior architect, recent graduate, etc.

I would suggest doing an (paying) internship.  No way around it.

Feb 11, 13 2:06 pm

You get 3-5 years experience by not messing up once you've gotten your foot in the door. It's that first step (getting your foot in the door) that differs for everyone. If a traditional internship is hard to come by you could try volunteering your time at a non-profit you respect while looking for work as a way of keeping busy. It all comes down to meeting the right people, in the right place at the right time. So do everything you can to put yourself in that position. It's not luck, it kind of comes down to hustle. 

Feb 11, 13 2:26 pm

you can get in through other ways - try to find an admin or field job with a contractor, developer, etc...  experience working for a GC or on the owner side will give you a leg up and better contacts within your local market.  although, I think once you realize that the pay is better on the other side you might not want to go back to architecture...


good luck!

Feb 11, 13 2:30 pm

Yes good point, how do you get experience in the first place if you were never given the opportunity to start off with no experience. You either need to;

1. Be lucky that you know someone in the field who can get you in. Or your parents have connections with friends etc.

2. As starrchitect mentioned. Lie about it and hoping you can pick up and learn everything you said you have experience in before they find out. This is actually what I did because I got to a point where I have to take risk and asked myself "what's the worse that could happen"? they find out and I get sacked, so what? at least I can say I've tried.

3. Work for free... but this is not recommended, they will treat you like a joke and not take you seriously if you offer to work for free. You might end up doing filing out in the back or clean up their files. I'd rather have them paid me to work, that way they'll give you real responsibilities and tasks because afterall they are 'paying' you to work.

4. Maybe if you're a girl and are very attractive to the director who happen to be an old single man, then he might consider employing you.

5. Have sex with the director or something? LOL

Feb 11, 13 8:36 pm

make sure you know your shit, and lie.. and get professional people in the field that you are close with.. (if any).. to back you as references 

if you've been networking throughout your whole time in school then this should not be too hard... people understand how it is out there... and in my experience more than willing to help give a competent person a chance...

Feb 15, 13 4:56 am
vado retro

therein lies the rub...

Feb 15, 13 8:24 am

It is somewhat shocking to see folks suggest lying about career experience. I hope this is tongue and cheek; it speaks volumes to your moral character and maturity.

Beyond the character issues, getting caught in a lie would tarnish your reputation. The architectural community is tight-knit in even the biggest cities. There is a world of difference between someone fresh out of school and someone with 3-5 years experience. Even the best liars would have a tough time getting away with this.

Feb 15, 13 9:00 am

Ur right Ladd 3-5 is alittle tough to pull, but if you have nothing and want entry level which commands 1-3 I think if ppl are having a hard time getting in because of this catch-22 lieing is an option... I know very few in my grad class who did punt have a few white lies in their resume.. But it dosnt matter bc they got the job, they can do what's expected of them,..and that's all that really matters... Telling not the whole truth is a sign of immaturity ... ?? Ok, well its a cold cruel world out there, ( esp in architecture ) and you gotta do what you gotta do .... I don't know about you but living at home with your parents or eating ramen everyday, bc u wanna stay 100% honest is for the birds... Or the Amish .....

Feb 15, 13 9:36 am

3-5 years exp. lets see (4 years exp - (1.5years employment gap)) = 2.5 years exp according to one office I interviewed at - needless to say, I did not get the job either.

Feb 15, 13 1:08 pm
wurdan freo

What?  Your school didn't teach you how to get a job?  Matter of fact, if it was anything like mine, they probably discouraged working while you were in school. Other than the student loan lie, biggest disservice ever. At a minimum, archie students need to be working in ae office or construction office over every summer that they are in school. If you can swing it work while you're in school as well. Then you graduate with experience!!!!

You don't need a job wiith 3-5 year experience. You need an entry level job. Bottom line, if you don't know Revit and Cad you're SOL.Take any job to get experience as fast as you can. And frankly... if you're starting at the beginning, might as well start over. 

Was recently talking to some students of mine and one of them told me they wanted to go into architecture. I told them to do whatever they wanted, but I couldn't recommend it. I could however recommend, healthcare, agriculture, water and energy. Many jobs available there around the world. If you're under 30, go to grad school and get a degree in one of those fields. Go get rich doing a job in one of those fields. Then you can get your architecture fix by building your own house. then sell it. Rinse and repeat.  

Feb 15, 13 2:01 pm

It's sad but true, people do lie about their experience to be ahead of their competitors. Of course no body is silly enough to lie about 5 years experience, but 1-2 years it's worth a try. For example if someone has 2 years experience then they can sure exaggerate it to 3 years experience which fits in the criteria, but if someone else with 3 years experience and exaggerate it to 5 years experience then there is a greater chance of succeeding. I don't see a problem with that as it benefit both the employees and the employer,  most employer like to pay peanuts for maximum value, let's say they get what they paid for. 

The only ones who don't have to lie are the successful lucky ones who got into jobs where it requires no experience. These jobs gets advertised once every blue moon and we all know there's not enough of these kind of opportunity out there for all those hungry graduates. Hungry for experience that is, never mind pay. Simply put if one is creative about their port folio and learn how to beat their competitors then one will succeed. By creative I don't just mean lies. 

Feb 16, 13 9:49 pm

I agree 100% with what you are saying however there's no guarantee that one will get rich doing healthcare, agriculture, water and energy. Even if they do build their own house and sell it won't be architectural unless they go back to study and understand architecture. But when someone's already rich doing whatever they are doing beside architecture why would they go backwards? If they employ an architect do the design for them then it's called development not architecture.

Feb 16, 13 9:50 pm

There is a code of ethics in this profession. A lie to a firm to get a job and get ahead is not a part of that. Network and find out what makes you stand apart. I'm relatively sure half of what got my foot in the door at the firm I work at was where I was born (2/3 principals are from Ball State, which always does a study trip to my hometown Columbus, IN). 

Feb 17, 13 9:50 am
vado retro


Feb 17, 13 2:00 pm


I echo Nick Ladd. Don't lie about your experience level.

Every year of experience is important in the first years. If your employer is good, they will also know how to evaluate the quality of those years by asking very direct questions regarding your specific role and responsibilities, the type of project, the budget, the size of the project team, the timeline for how fast things were moving and getting turned around...

The architecture community is so small and reputation is so important. Respect your own reputation early on and don't get caught in a lie.

Given how much experience inflation does sadly happen out there, good employers will take the time to check previous employment claims. And like xenakis states, they will take time to add up dates.

Feb 17, 13 3:49 pm

Don't lie and don't work for free!  Why would anyone compromise their integrity for a job.  I know the system sucks, but people that lie and cheat only make it worse because they perpetuate the idea that grads are not worthy of respect and licensure. 

Feb 19, 13 10:42 am

There is probably a good chance you might know more than someone who has 3-5 years of experience.  You'd be surprised of the BS out there.

Feb 19, 13 11:32 am
On the fence

Well if you can lie about 0-1 years experience is equal to 3-5 and then if you have 3 years experience and can lie to 5-7, Why not just lie that your B Arch is an M. Arch?

Who the hell will be able to tell anyways? Right?

Feb 19, 13 11:33 am

I agree that lying on your resume will get you into major trouble eventually.  So just don't do it.

We live in a day in age where many firms do background checks especially using e-verify (including my firm).  I knew someone who never actually completed his b-arch and it came back to haunt him when another firm discovered it with a simple e-verify background check (he had 5 years of previous experience and was really good).

Feb 19, 13 11:48 am

There is probably a good chance you might know more than someone who has 3-5 years of experience.  You'd be surprised of the BS out there.

Job hunting is now more difficult thanks to all of the dishonesty - BS results from people who want something but won't take the time or effort to become truly qualified - this is the same mindset that caused the mortgage downturn that resulted in the loss of our jobs.

If you are not qualified for the job - don't apply for it

If you can't afford the house,car or MacBookPro - don't buy it


It really makes things hard for the rest of us

Feb 19, 13 11:58 am

We are in agreement here.  I was just calling out how many BS-ers there are.  I've worked at quite a few firms and you'd be shocked at how woe-fully unqualified people are and how (because of politics) they are kept in place while more tallented and useful people are completely cut off.

Didn't you say you once worked at AECOM?  So did I.  Perfect example.   I've seen clients litterally in shock when a person was introduced as a PM or Principal.

Feb 19, 13 12:51 pm

AECOM? sure(San Francisco Office) worked on Kaiser West Portland Hospital and MOB - 

what has to happen is that schools - all of them really need to focus as more on production + Construction and less on esoteric design - 

Feb 19, 13 1:00 pm

i would agree with Xenakis, my school stressed design, and there were a few classes on production and construction but whenever we asked why it wasnt more of a focus, the answer was always, you will learn all of this in a firm... , but they will not teach you how to design.. *shrugs*

Feb 19, 13 1:38 pm

Lol foolish. Arch School don't teach construction. They don't even know construction that's why they choose to teach.

Feb 19, 13 2:58 pm
don't be a goat

Dear Aspiring 3-5ers,

Let me just start by saying, I hear your gripes. I would agree some of the job postings seem to have lost touch with reality but embellishing your experience or skills, or flat out lying, is going to further the gap between employers expectations and what is actually reasonable - in relation to a title/position and pay scale. I've seen some postings for 3-5, must be licensed and manage multiple projects. I can only hope a real 3-5er tells them to stick it, go pay for someone with 8+ because that is what their description is really asking for, they just said 3-5 so they can pay less. The only way to restore some balance here is to stick together and be honest. You guys are hurting each other by embellishing/lying not to mentioned lowering the pay grade for a real 3-5er. Check out the Prisoner's Dilemma, best outcome is when no one defects.

If you guys are really stuck I would suggest finding some ways to self-educate, if you can team up with a friend all the better. There are so many great folks posting software tutorials and teaching online. Take a project from school and figure out a wall sections in detail, or expand the documentation of the project in whatever aspect you are most interested in, keep designing. Challenge yourselves to consider some of the technical aspects that you never had time to in studio. Plenty of resource online, manufacturers websites typically have detail drawings - print them out, sketch over them and learn how stuff gets put together. Do not stick them in your portfolio and say you drew it, it will graphically be a dead give away but more importantly you want to actually learn it. You will see how quickly an exercise like this teaches you how to think about assembly. Even if you don't nail it the attempt is there. Use a new software that you learned to further document the effort. You have some advantageous the older guys didn't with the technology available today, modeling a construction detail is immensely informative. I hope it goes without saying, you can't count this time as "professional experience", however, you should let it be known that you put in the effort and this is what you learned on your own. It shows initiative and a good employer will respect that. I kind of hate to promote this but, learn to render if that interests you, just make sure you look into what its worth if you get good at it - marketing/PR on the clients side pay top dollar per image. Unless you think an employer is your most favorite architect in the world, and even then its questionable, do not work for free. You can work for free on your own time.

Good luck to you all, if anyone would like some more suggestions I'd be happy to try and offer some advice. Maybe some other experienced people out there can chime in as well. It seems the AIA is busy rearranging their filing cabinets again, lot of work to be done making sure all their dues are up to date :)

Feb 20, 13 12:56 pm

Don't be a goat,
Just wondering, besides the teaching advise, does any of your suggestion help pays the bills? Employers lie too. I hope you know that :)

Feb 20, 13 3:39 pm


Feb 20, 13 3:40 pm
don't be a goat

My suggestions do not pay the bills in the short term but are towards investing in yourself for long term gains. I'm not saying technology is going to save the day but there are some powerful tools out there becoming more integral to the practice and creating new opportunities. It could be more beneficial to get a start on learning these vs getting tossed in a corner with some chipboard and a lunch stipend. You may gain a higher exchange value with someone who has more experience. For instance, you do a rendering of their project and in the process of working together they are hopefully teaching you how it all technically comes together. Working for a contractor might be an option as well if you are inclined to work with your hands at all. Very helpful in so many ways.

I did mention I agree there is an abundance of job postings that seem to be ambitious to say the least, I also agree with med. above about the dead weight in offices.

I'm assuming most people on here operate in the NY area (?) Maybe check outside of archinect for some smaller offices elsewhere if you can manage to move. Working in NYC is kind of its own beast, you might get a better apprenticeship experience in a less hostile environment.

Feb 20, 13 5:05 pm

Here's the dirty secret in my experience: When employers ask for 3-5, they really mean 5-10 and will hire a good 5-10 if they come in.  3-5 years of experience means nothing aside from you know drafting but have no clue on construction, project management or much of anything else.  By the same token, they will take a 0-1 if they feel that individual has a brain and wants to work and learn.  So a 3-5 will be competing with both ends of the scale.  If you are really a 3-5 your best advantage is a license because it shows your commitment to the profession and an ability to be disciplined about studying.  

Feb 21, 13 4:15 pm

 So a 3-5 will be competing with both ends of the scale.  If you are really a 3-5 your best advantage is a license because it shows your commitment to the profession and an ability to be disciplined about studying.  

I am @ 4 years of post grad exp. and what you say is totally true - every interview they ask about IDP progress - since I am 1099 for last 2.8 years, I can't get sign off - nor get a new job as a direct hire to do IDP. 

Feb 21, 13 4:46 pm

We had a recent Grad that just walked into our office, I happen to be there, so I interviewed her!, she said she wants to work as an UNPAID Intern for 3 months.  I agreed.  She started work and really impressed us, after the 3 months was over, she said now she needs to get paid.  We saw her contribution as being indispensable so we offered her a job, she has now been with us for 2 years!..maybe this is one way to get experience!

Feb 21, 13 5:15 pm

Atelier, fuck you and your shitty firm.

Feb 21, 13 5:21 pm

atelier v, I don't know what's worse - the dumbass who actually agreed to work for a loser like you or the fact that you agreed to such an appalling practice.

Feb 21, 13 5:24 pm

atelier V

Don't listen to med - I had to do the same thing for 3 months after being laid off during the recession from a major firm - Worked for a high school architecture classmate of mine -gotta do what you have to - when you get 200-300 candidates?

Feb 21, 13 5:25 pm

Zenakis, I paid big bucks for my education and on the planet that I live on, I have to pay for survival for me and my family - food, medical bills, mortgage, gas, etc.  If you are independently wealthy, then kudos to you.  Many of us are not.

Given my educational investment and knowledge in the profession that i contribute, I expect to be well-paid from the get-go.  Why would I have to prove myself to some clown who is too big of a cheapskate to pay people.

Feb 21, 13 5:29 pm

Guys, We did not want to hire a free intern at atelier V, in fact we were not even hiring!  This is a person that just walked into the office and offered his services for 3 months free of charge and believe it or not we taught him a lot of things in those 3 months, so in effect we did not derive any value out of him.  IN fact, he occupied a station  and a computer and cost us overhead!  all for a person we never wanted or needed to begin with, but this was a way for him to prove his worth to us and it worked..I am just trying to give you an example..I dont agree with FREE Internship either..but in a really bad economy with no jobs..sometimes people find creative ways of showing their skills to a potential employer!  You should see his portfolio now..he has participated in two major competitions, assisted in working drawings of a major mixed use project and done a variety of other tasks!  so all and all it has been a good experience for him..


Just remember we never advertised for an Intern position..he just walked in and offered the services..we were reluctant but took him up on the offer!

Feb 21, 13 5:41 pm
don't be a goat

cr8ve. are you just making a point or telling a real account? Apologies in advance if this person is a transsexual.

Feb 21, 13 7:02 pm

yeah seems like it was a "she" at first then it became a "he" wtf?

Feb 21, 13 7:41 pm

I am telling you a real story to make a point..I am sorry it was a he

MED: I am dead against FREE work too!  however, 2008-13 economy has not been easy for anyone..we use to get 10-12 resumes per day in our e mail box ! you can just imagine  When there is too much supply , people will resort to various means to be noticed amongst hundreds of applicants !  Its the laws of economics !  Its better than sitting at home and not getting any experience.

Feb 21, 13 8:07 pm

I think it's more than fair when a firm never advertised to employ anyone and someone happen to offer to work for free and the firm accept. This is a generous acceptance for those who really want experience in a real office. I don't see anything wrong with that. It's not forced slave labour. The intern offered to work for free and the employer offered to teach for free. It's a mutual agreement. It's those blood sucking employers who intensionally try to convince an employee to work for free that really f'd up the industry. Because then they will have lower over heads therefore afford to charge lower fees to win jobs.

Feb 22, 13 1:31 am

I tell you, this industry has changed over the years...I remember when we used to charge 6 to 7% of construction cost on commercial projects, now with the new breed of clients and architects walking over each other to land a job, the fees are as low as 1 to 2% if that much...this affects everyone from the firm owners down to the intern in terms of compensation. As soon as you stand by your fee, the clients turn around and go to someone cheaper because the is always another architect out there who is willing to undercut others ! It would be nice for AIA to educate the clients on proper fees, so the range for negotiations becomes limited! What has happened over time, as fees have gotten lower, the quality of buildings has gone down...less detailing, crazier buildings. This is why we never see great mid scale buildings in US..most of it happens in Europe or Japan! We find this new breed of clients to be the newcomers to the game and mostly bottom feeders that picked up foreclosed properties on the cheap from the banks during the last 5 years!

Feb 22, 13 2:33 am
don't be a goat

. . . and as for the bottom feeder architects who are just making catalog selections and undercutting the guys who still believe in "design" ? We can only establish a greater value by respecting our own work, our colleagues, and interns! If you are in a client interface position you have responsibility to present the case for good design and explain why that is expensive. Explain how many people are involved and explain how long it takes to figure it all out. We should not be passing the advantages of new tools like REVIT, just as one example, that increase our production onto the client for free. It seems architects keep working harder, we keep getting smarter internally, new tools, new types of practices ie getting more involved with fabrication, etc. and the fees on the whole remain the same or as mentioned above on the decline. The AIA should be educating more architects on this as well, how to stand behind your fee! 

I agree, developers education also needs to transcend the bottom line. I have literally spoken with some who say they have a minimal factor for "design", just in case the architect happens to add value.


I mentioned it above, Prisoner's Dilemma.  

Feb 22, 13 12:39 pm

Cr8ve, having said all that, it is still a pretty bone-headed idea to have agreed to allow this individual to work for you for free.  You realize that you had all the power to walk away like the guys do at REX?  How does a person who just comes into the office and gets no pay or benefits cost you overhead anyway?  Do you really think we are a bunch of idiots here and this whole story was fine and dandy?  You stated that you didn't make them do anything yet at the same time this same person was able to prove his "worthiness" to a God-like creature as yourself and therefore was able to put him/her on your payroll (are you not merciful).  Proving ones "worthiness" in this profession would require that person to do quite a bit of work for you - and invariably you were getting at absolutely no cost.  Oh I'm sorry that overhead must have included the coffee expenses and cable internet connection - the humanity.

Don't lose sight of the fact that we all professionals and we expect to get PAID for our services at ALL times.

Get real, asshole.  And don't come gloating about your bullshit practice on archinect.

Feb 22, 13 12:57 pm

The recession is over - "fairness" is no longer on hold

Feb 22, 13 1:03 pm

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