Non Architecture-Degreed Advice



For about a year and half I have been actively searching for entry-level position in my field of Urban and Regional Planning through the traditional employeers such as cities, counties, and developmental councils.  Over the last few months though I have been targetting some local architecture firms that include services like: master planning, comphrensive planning, zoning/code research, land-use development, subdivision, and etc.

While most requests of employement are met with slience, I have had one response along the lines that I was unqualified for an architectural intern (which was not my intended goal) and I have seen on one firms site that the minimum qualifications for consideration is an BA in Architecture.

I orginally intended on becoming an architect and spent 2.5 years in an accredited architecture school before I left because I couldnt afford to be at this private school.  I transfered to a local state school and discovered Planning and I was hooked, the relationship between architecture and planning attracted me and playground was much larger, ha!  While studying for my planning degree my personal focus was urban design and I became the go-to guy for my classmates when we crossed into architecture in areas like PUD and park design.

TLDR;  I love architecture, I can speak the language, I love design and the design process but my skills are highly specialized to areas that architecture crosses over NOT architecture in general.

How can I avoid getting my resume/portfolio immediately shredded because I have BS instead of a BA?  Are many architects ingnorant of what planners do? Responses from my architect buddies suggest this might be the case but they are fresh interns.  I spent 5 years studying services that architects offer and believe I can add to their firms and I am willing to go and grow that sector of business but I don't want to be immediately ostersized because I am not an architect.  I am a planner not an architect and I don't want to be mistaken as applying for an architecture internship.

Any advice would be great.  Thank you.

Dec 19, 13 10:57 am

be careful... its not a BA! its a B.Arch.... 

Dec 19, 13 12:23 pm

Why don't you do some urban design competitions to show what you are capable of? go to and choose one... chances are that if you can't produce presentation boards with your own ideas that resemble anything others submit to similar competitions then you are not worthy (yet) of working for an architectural firm. 

Dec 19, 13 12:25 pm
Non Sequitur

to the OP, how can you already have "highly-specialized skills"?

For example, my office does a great deal of urban planning and we do it all in-house with our staff architects and technologists, no planners in sight. The reality is, most architects can do planning very well but, unlike planners they also can do everything else well therefore they are much more versatile to the office's production than someone who only wears the planner's hat.

Dec 19, 13 1:14 pm

Highly-specialized in the realm of land-use, comprehensive planning, etc compared to an architectural peer with equivalent academic/professional experience.  

While architectural firm do successful urban planning I very much doubt that an intern (with my equivalent experience) would be able to identify systemic threats and provide solutions to homelessness, water resource management, navigate zoning issues, study existing compliance, conduct network analysis, perform demographic studies or operate GIS systems as efficiently as I could.  Inversely, I couldn't do their job as efficiently.  That does not mean both couldn't arrive an equal level of competence. 

If your last statement was true then ACIP certification, the APA or Planning as an academic field, wouldn't exist.

Planning and Architecture start the groups with differing skill sets, and differing amount of knowledge on the subject but the fields can and do overlap.  It is common for most cities to accept Landscape Architecture degrees in lieu of a Planning degree.  It may be more difficult for a landscape architect to get that position but it is accepted, but I wanting to apply the acceptance in the reverse.

I am asking for advice from architecture professional who do planning on what skills I should highlight, how should I introduce my purpose (which is to assist in planning, not designing specifically) so that I am not summarily discarded.

I know it may not be easy nor am I asking for it to be so, but I am interested in advice not dismissals with undertones of narcissism or Dunning-Kruger.

Dec 19, 13 8:29 pm

I'm sorry but you're probably going to be met with a lot of overt Dunning-Kruger sentiments here.  Same as if you'd have said something like Interior design.  Most architects can't even do good architecture and yet think they're the greatest IDs and city planners.  

To be honest it'd be difficult to get a stint at an architecture firm with just urban planning. The firms I've had experience with would do it all in house.  At smaller firms you have to wear different hats out of financial necessity.  You'll have to look at the bigger firms like SOM whom have planning departments and the resources.  

The landscape urbanism/ecological urbanism is popular now and so that's what LArchs can cater to to obtain employment in the planning. You're going to have to prove you can wear two hats as well.  

Good luck!

Dec 19, 13 9:59 pm
Non Sequitur

Roma, for example I've taught many 2nd year undergraduate students who had a great handle on all of the points you list. Skill set grows exponentially, depending on research, once a student leaves graduate school. The point is, planning skills are not so difficult to acquire and just like the intern-architect or the interior design fields, there is over saturation of people looking for their "in" so to speak. I've come across so many people like that over the years. Anyways, best way to get in, find a graduate program and complete a master's thesis in architecture. Most schools will allow you to take on a planning edge too... That's what I did myself and I was hired within a week following graduation because... wait for it... I had a strong planning background and knew how to design and detail a building.

Dec 19, 13 10:42 pm

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