Did a firm ever ask to see your university diploma?


I recently heard a working architect (with more than 25 years of experience across various countries in Western Europe) state that never in his life has any of the architectural firms he's worked at asked to see his diploma (that's even before he got his license). And the only institution to ever care about that document was the university itself.

I am still in architecture school myself. And until this baffling statement I imagined every firm that has decided to hire you (post-grad) would like to see your actual diplomas to make sure you have the qualifications alleged on your resume (I also believed they would be interested in your grades). Is this not the case? I'm asking not out of temptation to lie on my resume or drop out xD, but simply because I want to get a better idea of how academia relates to practice, generally.

Apr 27, 13 11:14 am

Have never been asked.  Neither has anyone I know.  Not only that, they never ask about grades, though I list the degree with honors.  They don't care about grades, either.

Generally, portfolios are sequenced by studio and other coursework, including a thesis or terminal studio, such that the interviewer knows whether or not you graduated, or whether you are blowing smoke up his or her ass.  In an interview fresh out of school, the interview focuses largely on schooling, so sitting there and lying about it for 20 minutes would be hard to do.  If you can do that, you should probably be a "professional" safe cracker instead, and make more money.  Just kidding, of course.

As for grades, they would matter somewhat to me.  If two identical twins from the same university came in looking for employment, with similar portfolios, and one showed a 3.1 and the other a 3.6, I'd take the 3.6.  It means they paid more attention more of the time.

Apr 27, 13 1:29 pm

I was never asked for it, but what I did in school was a very large portion of what was talked about in interviews. Plus you need to submit it as proof to join the AIA, if you want to be licensed, so on and so forth. 

Apr 27, 13 2:20 pm

when i got my first job i was asked for my diploma, i told them i didn't have one. then they asked me how did i design Ronchamp, if i didn't  attend design school? i simply explained, that while i didn't attend some fancy design school, i did however stay at a Holiday Inn Express. that, and some back room negotiations, got me a sweet 80k job with benefits!

works every time i hear.

Apr 27, 13 8:32 pm

i think your grades and diploma are like an icing to the cake if you want to include it.  I personally wouldn't think a firm would even bother ask to see your diploma.  In the end, it doesn't matter if you got perfect A's in your diploma.  What matters is your portfolio and work that counts.  Sure your marks can give them a hint of the type of student/worker you are, but as we all know, marks don't usually represent the quality of work you do. 

Also, it is very unlikely that you're going to get hired for a high or well paid position right off the bat.  If you do, its probably because you're already known to the firm or have had prior experience working for them.

Apr 27, 13 10:45 pm


Generally speaking, I saw high grades, along with things such as finishing on time and a few other indicators, as being indicative of someone who was well-rounded and "generally" did well in design.  I'd say it's about 70:30 with high grade students being good at design and everything else : being ok at design and everything else.  I definitely see a correlation between high grades and licensing, at least among my classmates.  I have rarely seen the A students be crappy workers, but I suppose it can happen.

Apr 27, 13 11:46 pm

Thank you for the replies.
It's good to hear firms don't generally judge by grades, mainly because, as accesskb said, grades rarely indicate the quality of the work. At least in some schools; I guess it's down to school. I have quite a few classmates who frequently get high marks by simply meeting the basic academic criteria, without pushing for anything original or worth wasting time on. As a result they often produce work that wouldn't be glanced at twice. This is not to say it's bad, just utterly unremarkable. Yet it takes less time, while I get slowed down by the challenges I try to create for myself, as I believe if there ever is a time to challenge myself, this is it. Oh well, they probably work smart while I work hard.

Apr 28, 13 5:50 am

A lot of firms these days are using E-Verify to see whether or not your credentials are legit.


I know these days that bigger firms like HOK, Gensler, P+W, etc do that as it is tied into whether or not they can be audited.

May 1, 13 11:01 am

Nobody cares. Universities would love to have you think you need to carry your diploma as a license to exist, but it ain't so. Alumni of prestigious (i.e. expensive) schools care a little bit in a self-justification sort of way, but not enough be all that serious about it. Degrees are proxies for IQ and personality tests (which are generally outlawed for employment purposes), but that's pretty much it.

Employers do regularly run credit checks on prospective employees, though. So be aware of that.

May 1, 13 12:08 pm

Parsons Brinckerhoff will check for a diploma, at least for unlicensed designers

May 1, 13 12:45 pm

Employers hire people, not diplomas.

May 1, 13 2:04 pm

yup. couldn't care less about grades or diploma.

excuses about working harder while others work smarter is a pretty big turn off though.  just be awesome and don't worry about anyone else. it'll all come out in the portfolio either way.  impossible to bullshit that stuff... 

May 1, 13 8:37 pm

excuses about working harder while others work smarter is a pretty big turn off though.

Don't know what this means, but what's wrong with working long hours, getting good grades, and turning out design work that satisfies the student and the professor?  In grad school, one is not there to party, so good performance across the board is not that unrealistic.  Undergrad was for partying, if one was even interested in that, since it generally implies alcohol consumption.

May 1, 13 9:37 pm

@will galloway, I realize how that may read to some. But I wasn't really going for an excuse. I'm happy with the way I work; I just wanted to point out how little grades can actually mean - and yes, that's precisely the point, the portfolio should be what you're judged by.
And, as observant says, in grad school it's not unrealistic to get good grades across the board. That's usually what happens in my school (I'm not US based and my course is a joint B.Arch. + M.Arch degree, except B.Arch is not awarded, so you go straight into the grad school phase in the last two years), because by then the student has some experience, a better idea of who he is and what he wants to do in particular and that makes for better results.

P.S. It's too bad I can't edit the thread title to correct the typo. It bugs me every time I look at it.

May 2, 13 3:16 am
Ah. Well then please disregard my comment.
May 2, 13 4:19 am

It could actually be argued that anyone who claims to work hard is a complete and utter phony. The human body, like almost any other biological entity, is hard-wired to do as little work as possible to stay alive. Calories in versus calories out — expending excessive amount of caloric energy for an undeterminable amount of benefit generally leads to illness, injury and starvation. 

It's primarily the reason why almost all apex predators either spend most of their time sleeping or have the ability to modulate their metabolisms. Humans are probably the only animal that consumes energy without regard to any actual benefit they may receive.

A huge portion of our entire economy is based solely on consuming energy for no real justifiable reason other than the fact that wasting energy continues the economic cycle.

May 3, 13 11:40 am

That being said...

Many automated HR systems have built in systems to automatically verify and vet employees based on a number of factors from keywords to reading comprehension to your credentials.

May 3, 13 11:41 am

It could actually be argued that anyone who claims to work hard is a complete and utter phony. The human body, like almost any other biological entity, is hard-wired to do as little work as possible to stay alive.

There could be some reasons for working harder, or longer:  difficult material, wheel spinning, constant editing, and other quirks.  For quantitative courses such as structures, I would take notes that were so sloppy that I could never use them for the open-book tests.  I would recopy these notes in neat block printing after every lecture.  It made all the difference in the world on tests, not to mention absorbing the material while recopying.  The other thing is that, if you're in grad school and not in the partying loop, why not study ... or draw ... or cut up museum board?

May 3, 13 11:55 am

"[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. ...The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think." — Albert Einstein

May 3, 13 11:58 am

I've never been asked for a diploma/grades, nor do I know of anybody that has been asked. That would seem crazy to me, and a sign that the employer is un-trusting. 

May 6, 13 5:01 pm

I never had a I was always up front it wasn't there but I did not forget to mention I had over 150 hour of University Credits...but they were not all in Architecture and they were from different Schools and well I had my foot in an Architectural Office since I was 18 years old.  So not having a degree didn't seem to bother them that much....cause I had figured out computers  when people were working with 286's  and I understood pin bar drafting and could actually draw in ink and sketch....So why would I need a diploma, once they took a look at the projects I had worked on and could explain my role in the specific project.

May 6, 13 9:19 pm

Employers do regularly run credit checks on prospective employees, though. So be aware of that.


in the US it's already illegal to use credit check/scores to discriminate against potential employees in 8 states, and looks like it will be illegal in most states by the end of the decade.


I really don't understand why this would matter unless you're entering into a partnership with someone - or they are managing office or project finances...

May 7, 13 11:24 am

The credit check thing is weird.  I'm wondering if it gives them the credit score, or just a green/amber/red reading.  I had an employer who went through the whole background/credit suite of checks.  I almost didn't want to consent to the credit score, not because of its content, but because of the principle.  That's just too personal.  Whether or not you're a whack job is relevant, though.  They also gave an intelligence test of sorts.  That wasn't a problem.

But, all of this points to a douchey firm, right?  They loved multiple interviews, to the point of being ridiculous.  For the head of interior design, they brought her back SIX times.  Ridiculous.  She looked like Katie Couric, was poised and well-spoken, had good experience, and went to one of the more prominent local universities.  And then, she did a good job.  So, what was all the fuss about?  After numerous years, they got to be even bigger jerks, and she left.

Even funnier:  the owner was a stickler about this intelligence test.  He then hired a few guys for some lower end positions who were below the desired test threshold, and it was obvious they were hired based on their looks.  Hmmm.  He reasoned that "they didn't do well on the test, but they had good personalities that would be a good fit with the office" ... after they had to be fired.  Sure ...

So many telltale signs about when an employer is going to be douchey - red flags all over the place.  I got treated to three interviews and they were looking for a fourth.  I told them I couldn't carve out that time from my schedule and work.  They then made me an offer.  Really interesting work.  Really fucked up management - read: entitled scion of founder type problem.

May 7, 13 12:49 pm

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