October 23, 2013

Architecture School Shopping - Part 1

This week's entry is for those kids that were like me - high school students that are really eager to become Architects. Those people that had that dream about becoming Architects since they were little and are starting to research what school to apply to for college. So, for those students that are in their senior year in High School, this post is for you.

I will talk briefly about the things you need to consider when choosing an Architecture Program. Particularly, within the confines of looking for schools in North America; Canada and a bit of US since we have similar structures and requirements to enter the profession.
So here are some factors to consider when hunting for Architecture Schools:
    • You want to ensure that you are going for accredited architecture program approved by the NAAB (US) or the CACB (Canada). An accredited school will have to go through visits every few years to ensure curriculum standards and program delivery is up to par.
    • Usually accredited programs will have an accredited 5-year B.Arch Degree or an accredited M.Arch Graduate Degree (years vary to program) which allows you to be on your way to becoming licensed after graduation. You can register with your licensing board and begin hacking away at your hours.
    • In Canada, realize that there are no accredited B.Arch programs offered (Those got flushed out in the 1990s). There are many undergraduate programs that will deliver an Architecture program that is 4 years in length. These undergraduate architecture schools offer a 2 year M.Arch degree to accompany their program. Only when acquired or in the process of obtaining an M.Arch degree, you can begin tackling your internship hours and joining professional organizations like the AIA (US) or the RAIC w/ respective Province's Architecture association. (Canada)

      TIP:  you need to research what programs you want to apply to and if it will lead you to your career plans in the architecture industry. how fast do you want to become a licensed professional after high school?

    • Realize that every school has a particular focus and approach to architecture.  These issues should be taken into consideration as all architecture schools have different views and philosophies on how you should be taught and trained in Architecture. Some are arts focused, while others are technical. Some are abstract while others are focused on real-world application.

      TIP: For those of you who are serious and are committed to working in the Architecture field, an undergraduate degree focused on an intensive Architectural education can ready you for the field much more quickly. This is probably the best route for those of you who have wanted to be an architect since they were young or are strongly passionate. If you are still wondering what to do, not fully committed, or have other interests to pursue, you may want to consider studying at schools that offer a Architecture major within a Bachelors of Arts or Science or whatever might be for your liking. You won`t necessarily land a job in a firm upon graduation, but it may well inform you if you want to pursue a career in Architecture by taking an M.Arch degree.
    • You definitely want to find out from people in the Architecture industry how graduates of your prospective school fair out after graduation. What’s the employment rate? How are alumni perceived in the workplace? Does the school prepare them for working in the field or not? Some schools may have a compulsory co-op program, while others may select students for co-op, and others do not offer co-op opportunities for their students at all.  Programs with co-op opportunities can help you get job experience while being a student to help you become marketable upon graduation.
You might want to check your personal network and see if there are people in the Architecture field that you know (relatives, neighbours, friends) and ask what schools do they prefer hiring graduates from or what school may provide you with good career opportunities. School`s may offer statistics of employment rates, but then again - working as a cafe barista full-time after studying in college may count in those stats! So numbers can fool. Check out if a school offers internship or co-op placements for their students as well as if it's based on grades or portfolio or if it's a mandatory credit for all their students (the better of the options if you want a higher chance to graduate with some work experience)
*cough* good grades in design does not necessarily a good designer make *cough*

These are just some things to consider when you select an Architecture School.  There are a lot of aspects you need to consider when trying to look for a college and university that are beyond the scope of this post (living expenses, commuting, location). But these are some things to consider if you are one of those teens that have not thought of any other career path except Architecture.

Should I Stay or Should I go? (Part I)
M.Arch - Dive in or wait a little? (Part I)
Architecture School Shopping (Part II)

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