College graduation is just around the corner for many students – for some it has already happened. It is an exciting time for young adults as they enter the work force and start their careers. For those graduating hoping to become architects, there are a few more steps necessary before one can start a career as an architect.  Like the profession of architecture and design, the path to becoming an architect is unique and has many steps involved. Unlike other professional careers where you graduate and start working, becoming an architect requires three steps – education, internship, and exams.


Like many other careers in the professional world, the journey to becoming an architect starts with the proper education from an accredited university. DesignIntelligence named Cornell University the best undergraduate school for architects in 2014.  When asked what they look for in potential team members, “48.5% of firms (the highest percentage) identified design quality as the architecture profession’s premier concern. Following close behind (multiple responses were allowed) were issues of integrated design (47.2%), sustainability/climate change (45.8%), and technological change (45.8%)” (“Best Architect Schools for 2015”).  Cornell offers many of these specialties in its architect college. That being said, Cornell is not necessarily the best place to get an undergraduate degree if one wants to focus on other aspects of design such as “Construction Methods and Materials” which DesignIntelligence named California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo as the best college to attend if that sparks one’s interest.

However, not all of  the best schools are private, nor do you have to break the bank if you want to become an architect and still want a good education. University of Texas – Austin, for example, ranked 7th overall, and the undergraduate in-state tuition for UT is around $5,000. Many public universities offer an architecture program that is affordable and well-ranked.

Regardless of where one goes to school, the curriculum everywhere is fairly similar. One can pursue a five year bachelor of architecture degree. After the first 2 years you have to apply to get into Professional School. Often there are limits on the number of students because of limited studio space available. Alternatively, one can pursue the 6 year track (often referred to as the 4-2). On this track, students will get a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design and then attend Graduate school for 2 years to get a Masters of Architecture.

“School is more about expanding your mind as a designer,” says WORTHGROUP Intern Laurissa – who recently graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Architecture. “Knowing how to draw/sketch/be creative is not a necessity when you enter into arch school. Throughout school you have studio every semester which is full of projects that teach just that the technical skills of drawing as well as being creative. Therefore the “cap stone” in architecture school is really your last studio. Every Architecture student will tell you tales of their “comprehensive” studio which is when they had to take their design concept further than any other project in school, integrating structure and building systems into their project. This is really the closest you get to the “real world” in school. Typically Comprehensive studio is in your second to last year, for me it was as well. My last studio was Urban Design with two team projects. We took a class field trip to Chicago for research and the experience (architecture is all about experiencing it). Our final project was comprised of a model of a skyscraper that was as tall as I am, 5’-0”, as well as a bunch of other items.”


After college, aspiring architects do begin to work – but not as a director of architecture right away. First, they must work around 5600 hours as a paid intern working on various projects and areas of focus.  One can start accumulating hours once they have started school. WORTHGROUP proudly has three hard-working and creative  interns on our team – Nick, Laurissa, and Daniella. WORTHGROUP also has two team members – Jon and Marit – who have completed their internships and currently pursuing their licenses. One of our dedicated interns, Laurissa, says accumulating hours is easy, and WORTHGROUP has given her the opportunity to get the needed hours for her certification. As of July 1, the internship program will be streamlined and no longer require elective hours so that would-be architects can focus on pre-design, design, project management and practice management.

Architect Registration Examination

There are seven exams one must pass to become a certified architect.   These exams cover various areas of architect and design expertise such as schematic design, site planning and design, building systems, and structural systems. One can take these exams after they complete their degree at an accredited university. Most aspiring architects study for these exams while also working at their internship. However, once you have decided to start studying, you must really commit to it, and attend study sessions or seminars,  and study necessary materials as well. On average, one spends about 50 hours preparing for each exam. Different methods of preparation include prep books such as Kaplan and Ballast, study groups through AIA Colorado, and study materials provided by  firms.As of now, the pass rate for each exam is about 67%. However, with the proper studying and dedication, one can pass these exams the first try!

“Architecture is not for the faint of heart” comments Laurissa. “It requires time and dedication in school as well as the professional world because of that you can feel at ease that every architect is one because they have the passion and dedication for it.” However, when your design is picked or when you finally get to see your design built, all the sleepless nights spent working on projects, designing and re-designing every single detail, makes it all worth it.

Special thanks to WORTHGROUP’s Laurissa Gibson for contributing to this blog.