How to gain work experience for architecture careers
Updated 31 January 2023
Architects are professionals licensed to plan and design homes, offices, halls and other structures. This career requires gaining related work experience that demonstrates your theoretical knowledge and practical skills in architecture. If you're seeking an entry-level position as an architect, the best way to start your career is by obtaining work experience to help you develop your CV. In this article, we discuss work experience for architecture careers and its importance, offer steps on how to find work opportunities and provide examples of duties for entry-level roles.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
What is work experience for architecture careers?
Work experience for architecture careers involves any paid or unpaid employment in the architectural industry. This experience provides new and developing architects with opportunities to learn new skills, obtain knowledge and instil good work habits. This begins with an entry-level position to obtain relevant work experience to get a job in a reputable architectural firm.
Employers and recruitment managers often look for candidates with previous internship roles or related experience. This is why some academic institutions include mandatory internship programmes in their curricula. This way, a graduate has at least a few weeks of active experience in the general field. This gives students practical knowledge and improves their chances of getting a job.
Benefits of architecture work experience
Work experience is an ideal opportunity to learn from and work with active and experienced architects and architectural technicians. The benefits of gaining architecture work experience include the following:
Real-life industry experience
Students and fresh graduates can only have relevant architectural field knowledge if they interned or volunteered at a firm. Knowledge gained in academia alone is a less effective representation of the real-life architectural workload. With relevant work experience, you can understand the different aspects of architecture and learn more about the field.
Architectural work experience helps you become familiar with applying basic design, communication, maths, computer and business skills that help architects to be successful. You can also improve your skills while learning new ones. For example, you can practise using key software, such as computer-aided design (CAD), AutoCAD and Revit to make aesthetically pleasing and functional structures.
Industry and employer information
Volunteering or interning at an architectural firm allows you to better understand specific architectural fields. This experience helps you evaluate a job and assess whether it suits your skill set. You can also learn more about the operations of small or large architectural firms. At the end of this work experience, you can more easily decide what branch of architecture to direct your career, such as landscape, urban planning, lighting, historic preservation or industrial architecture.
Work experience helps you meet people and develop ties with architects and professionals who can support your career. You can build a strong network with active and experienced architects with ranging levels of expertise. It could also be a network for personal development. You have excellent opportunities to contact architects and professionals in related roles and begin developing meaningful relationships while you progress in your professional experience.
Where to find opportunities for architectural work experience
Architectural firms offer paid and unpaid work experience to graduates. Most of these positions encompass a variety of different responsibilities for the candidate. At this stage, it helps to work for practices that offer a wide range of projects. You can consult The Royal Institute of British Architects directory to help you search for firms that provide work experience. You can also check popular job websites such as Indeed for open architecture internships or entry-level positions.
How to gain architecture work experience
The following are some steps to increase your chances of gaining work experience with reputable architectural firms:
1. Look for graduate or internship architect positions
Small and large practices accept graduate intern placements, but the business size determines the interns' responsibilities. In small companies, you gain exposure to different areas of the architectural process and receive more responsibilities as you complete more work. For example, a firm can put you in charge of all digital renderings and 3D drawings if you have experience with AutoCAD and they don't have an architect who does.
In contrast, large firms define intern responsibilities and recruit graduates in groups. Here, you have more clearly defined roles and you get to work with a group of other graduates on specific parts of the architectural process. You can start with small architectural firms within your locality, as this can help you gain more experience and knowledge about architectural work culture.
2. Create a CV, cover letter and portfolio
As a new architect, you can describe your work process in your cover letter. Describe your progress and experience working on personal projects or group assignments in school to demonstrate your skills. Communicate through drawings, CAD and sketches to reaffirm that you're a skilled and detailed architect. It also helps to mention some concepts you have improved in your preferred niche or new ideas that can help you get noticed. When creating a CV or cover letter for a work experience placement, study the job description to include the necessary keywords and skills that the firm is looking for.
3. Keep your network current
The architectural graduate pool can be competitive. One of the easiest ways to get into a firm is through personal references. While it helps to fill out online internship and graduate work experience applications, it's better to use your network connections. You can recommend yourself to influential architects by doing the following:
becoming a member of an active architectural group online or in person
getting involved in your city's architectural community
engaging with top architects and having conversations with them on social media
4. Research potential architectural firms
Before submitting any document to an architectural firm, learn more about them. Find out about their work culture and specific field of expertise. You can also contact people who work there via social platforms for more insight into the firm's philosophy and culture. Whether you find work experience as soon as you begin your search or at a later point, your training and qualifications remain with you. Be confident and take the initiative while maintaining good character and humility during your search.
Examples of duties for entry-level architecture roles
An architect graduate is still developing a practical understanding of the industry or the specific field in which a firm operates. You can list your current skills that may assist a firm in its operations. Some of the responsibilities you may handle as a new graduate in an architecture practice include the following:
creating three-dimensional (3D) visualisations of building sketches and designs using CAD, AutoCAD, Revit and Rhinoceros 3D software
conducting on-site inspections during construction to make progress reports and ensuring that work is on schedule
assessing construction plans and drawings to confirm that they follow the building policies and codes of the region
organising contractors and engineers during construction to affirm the quality of work they completed on the current project
handling architectural administrative duties, such as creating documents, drafting and sending emails and answering and retrieving architectural drawings and files
sending reports to clients regarding budget and design changes and project status
developing structures and building drawings and models using CAD software
coordinating client relations, project management and construction activities
sorting contractor bids for senior officers to review for construction projects
working with home decorators to create and implement functional designs that are aesthetically pleasing to the client
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