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).
Aspiring architects often wonder, how will having an internship while in school benefit me? Not only will you get a head start on the Intern Development Program (IDP), but an internship also demonstrates to firms that you are a motivated individual who’s actively willing to seek professional challenges. These experiences help set a foundation for future jobs and pave a path toward your career after graduation.
Finding the Right Firm
When seeking an internship while in school, it is important to determine your tastes and desires in the field. On the other hand, it is equally important to hone a diverse skillset. While you may aspire to become a professional who specializes in a certain area of architecture, such as retail or hospitality, it is important to demonstrate expertise and knowledge in a variety of different design disciplines. Well-rounded individuals are highly sought after by many architecture firms.
We've all heard that school alone does not prepare students for professional practice. That is why it’s crucial to work at a firm while in school—to provide yourself with a transition stage from academia to professional work, and to experience the scope of work needed in a professional practice setting. Internships provide the opportunity to directly apply concepts learned in school, as well as apply knowledge and professional experience to your studio projects.
Making the Most of Your Internship
Do not be discouraged if the work you do in a firm does not meet your expectations. Depending on your program, the projects you've become accustomed to in studio courses do not always provide an accurate picture of professional practice. But during an internship, you have the opportunity to apply your creative thinking and aptitude you have gained in school in return for real-world experience.
As a student, an internship should be reciprocal: You provide valuable contributions to the firm (whether it’s your Revit experience or familiarity with SketchUp), and in turn, the firm provides you with a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience. It’s in a firm’s best interest to support and mentor the next generation of architects. And it’s in your best interest to put your best foot forward and learn all that you can. You’ll gain confidence in the work that you do, and that’s a recipe for success.