Depending on your viewpoint, you may look upon an architecture internship with eagerness as a fulfilling milestone or as a dreaded obstacle that stands between you and your goal of unfettered practice as a licensed architect.
Hopefully, you fall among the former and acknowledge that an internship provides unmatched value to a budding architect.
The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) renamed the intern Development Program (IDP) to Architectural Experience Program (AXP) in 2016, and as you can see, they dropped the term “intern.”
Calling yourself an intern can be misleading as you are working in an architecture firm, as any paid employee in the field would, as part of fulfilling the licensure requirements – hence the reason for retiring the term.
For this post, we will still refer to it as an intern architect or architecture internship. This covers your time working as an intern after graduating with a professional degree in architecture and in between semesters completing one.
Either way, architecture internships are incredibly beneficial to your career development as an architect, beyond merely earning a salary.
1. Allows You to Get Licensed
The benefits of getting licensed are ample enough to deserve their own article; they generally include a higher salary, a more significant number of job opportunities, a hard-hitting resume bullet point, and legal permission to call yourself an “architect.”
Getting licensed should be a priority if you desire to keep up and stand out among the growing competition. The only way you will be allowed to do this is by completing a paid internship and passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE – source).
Budding architects outside the US face similar requirements for licensure in their jurisdictions.
2. Eases You into the Field
There is a stark contrast between the day in the life of an architect and an architecture student. For those who never took advantage of internships either during semester breaks or as a transitory phase between graduation and working for a firm, the novelty can be overwhelming.
It would be best if you learned how to face the realities quickly, such as the rigidity of contracts, the inflexibility of specific project designs, and the extensive demands of clients.
While certainly demanding in its ways, a paid internship as an architecture student places significantly less pressure on you. It allows you to learn and become acquainted with the challenges at a pace you can handle without the brutal expectations of a full-fledged architecture hitting you at once.
It is a position of luxury that an internship affords you.
3. Establishes Valuable Connections
In any industry, connections matter. Architecture is no exception in the rule – but how does an internship help?
If you work for a reputable firm, you might easily find that your mentors can be your most valuable references. Those architects you interact with already have their heads in the game.
If you are able to prove your worth to the firm through hard work, creativity, and more hard work, they might recommend your services to some of their clients in the future when you start your new firm.
They may be overwhelmed with projects at the time and cannot take on new and smaller ones; nonetheless, it is your gain.
Just be sure that you don’t forget to maintain these connections when you move on from your internship.
4. Increases Likelihood of Being Hired
It is tough to land an architecture job, especially when you are an inexperienced graduate architect.
It seems impossibly cruel that to acquire experience, you must first have experience. But you could argue that this is one of the many things that internships exist to address.
Thanks to summer internships, you don’t have to jump into the fierce and competitive wildlands with a purely-academic resume and blank portfolio. Most of the time, firms would not prefer to hire baby-faced applicants who they need to teach how to survive.
They would prefer to hire someone who has already attended the closest thing in existence to architecture boot camp.
If you genuinely want to hit the ground running, an internship is the best way to build your resume and portfolio and give yourself a head start over competing graduates.
5. Provides Valuable Project & Practice Experiences
Sure, the fact that an internship is compulsory for getting licensed in the United States is valuable enough. But there are hidden benefits to internships that do more than explicitly satisfying a prerequisite.
The truth is that an architecture school simply cannot adequately emulate the things a young architect learns on the job.
Working as an intern for a firm enables you to work with experienced architects and get a sense of the logistics of the job.
The knowledge you gain includes effective ways to address clients’ needs, produce creative but practical designs within real-world constraints, and some tried-and-true recommendations from a firm’s most accomplished architects on how to get ahead.
6. Exposes You to Different Firms
To get the knowledge of an insider, you must first get inside the profession. A firm is a “nation” in a globalized world, and at some point during your internship, you will have run-ins with others.
This is how firms strive – by understanding how competing firms operate so they can fortify their niche or try to overtake another firm through brute-strength. However, not all interactions are based on competition, and in many cases, these interactions can help everybody.
As an intern, you will get great exposure to the different firms, what type of architecture they do, how they operate, and the kinds of roles they hire. Through this inside knowledge, you might discover the firm in which you will best be able to strive.
7. A Supportive Pursuit
For intern architects, there is a general understanding that you are on a path for growth; thus, it is implied that you will need guidance along the way.
Working with established firms and reputable architects can build both your confidence and competence, as altruistic people do exist within the industry who want to see you succeed.
Internships provide a unique situation that you can’t get elsewhere; they give you opportunities to thrive and prove your creative abilities while simultaneously keeping you upright during the times you need guidance.
8. Lets You Discover Your Strengths
Architecture school might have given you a glimpse of your strengths and weaknesses, but an internship helps paint the full picture.
You will receive on-the-job training that goes beyond drafting and design into the realm of conflict management, compromise, and maintaining relationships with clientele. When you work as an intern, you get first-hand exposure to nearly all of the field’s components, which extend beyond what you learned in school.
When all is said and done, you will have a better understanding of what makes an exceptional architect. You will also prove these things to your employer through tangible ways you could better the firm.
Interning in an architecture firm presents many benefits. You need to make the most of it, not just to gain the license but also to discover yourself professionally and build your way to a fulfilling career.