The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
As you embark upon the path to becoming an architect, selecting the right firm for employment is a critically important decision. You may be thinking, “Haven’t you seen the employment statistics for graduating architects? I can’t afford to be picky."
You have a point. But if you accept an employment opportunity simply because it’s available, then you better have a strategic plan in place to ensure you reach your career goals—and you must be disciplined enough to follow it. Otherwise, you may find yourself dusting off this article years from now, only to discover that your career progress hasn’t changed much.
To prevent that from happening, here are a few questions you can ask during your interview to gauge how a prospective firm matches up with your career expectations. Check to see if your prospective firm has won the Outstanding IDP Firm Award or IDP Firm Award before. And always remember that you are interviewing a firm just as much as the firm is interviewing you.
Can you elaborate on how your firm supports licensure?
This question will open up a dialogue on the licensure support vehicles the firm supplies emerging professionals. If the firm offers financial support for the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) and/or ARE preparation, then it will likely come up here. Support may include a stipend to cover preparation course fees and reference materials. Some firms may offer partial or full reimbursement of ARE divisions upon successful completion. Other benefits that may be available include time off with pay for sitting for the ARE.
How does your firm celebrate licensure?
This is supposed to be a fun question. The response could range from, “We throw a party with cake and ice cream!” to “We provide a salary increase and your opportunities for career advancement are widened.” The answer you receive may shed some light on the firm’s culture. Hopefully, you will glean insight on the firm’s position on career advancement. This question will also serve as a gateway to begin a dialogue about career advancement opportunities. Chances are that if a firm supports licensure then they will celebrate the achievement.
Please share how your firm participates or supports professional organizations such as AIA or NCARB.
The response here will tell you how engaged the firm is outside of its own walls. You need to gauge how important of a factor this is to you. Some firms subsidize or cover the costs of American Institute of Architects (AIA) dues and/or NCARB fees.
Does your firm have an IDP auxiliary coordinator?
Some firms have an IDP auxiliary coordinator. The coordinator acts as a resource for interns within the firm for licensure-related questions and is the firm’s liaison to the IDP state coordinator.
How does the firm ensure that a variety of training opportunities are available to achieve the credits required for successful completion of the IDP?
When you study the IDP Guidelines, you will see that there are credit requirements spread over a diverse group of categories. Undoubtedly, some credit hours will be easier to obtain than others. The point of this question is to find out how the firm supports achieving the credits that are often deemed more difficult for interns to obtain.
Hopefully the aforementioned questions will generate a fruitful dialogue on your interview to help you decide if the prospective firm is the right place for you. Be confident and conduct research on the firm before your interview. It is up to you to put yourself in the best position to succeed in the profession. That starts with selecting the right firm that will help you navigate through the IDP and the ARE processes. Remember, NCARB and the AIA are your allies in your career journey.
R. Corey Clayborne, AIA, LEED APBD+C, is a project manager for Wiley|Wilson and has been with the firm since 2004. Wiley|Wilson received the 2012-2015 Outstanding IDP Firm Award. Corey has served as Virginia’s IDP State Coordinator since 2011 and currently volunteers on NCARB’s Education Committee. He also served as the chairman of NCARB’s 2013 Intern Think Tank.