There is an old adage – “You needs experience to obtain a job, yet how do you obtain experience if you do not have a job.”  Besides, most employers are seeking graduates with experience.

Nearly 91 percent of employers responding to NACE’s Job Outlook 2017 survey prefer that their candidates have work experience, and 65 percent of the total group indicate that they prefer their candidates to have relevant work experience.

But how do you gain experience during college?  More and more universities are strongly encouraging student to pursue “experiential learning.”  But what is experiential learning?

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing”. Hands-on learning is a form of experiential learning but does not necessarily involve students reflecting on their product. — Wikipedia

Below are a number of means by which one can gain experience as a student; seek out the appropriate office on campus who runs the appropriate program – at minimum, start with either a faculty member or the campus career center.

Internships / Career related Experience

  • Internships provide you with an opportunity to test the waters in a career field and also gain some valuable work experience.

Study abroad

  • Study abroad offer you a unique opportunity to learn in another culture; many architecture programs have well-established programs to all areas of the world for summer, semester, and or an entire academic year.

Undergraduate research

  • Undergraduate research is increasingly common at universities across all disciplines; seek out faculty engaged in research and ask to become involved.  The goal is to become involved  with actively contested questions, empirical observation, cutting-edge technologies, and the sense of excitement that comes from working to answer important questions.


  • Volunteering allows you to serve in a community primarily because they choose to do so.  Many serve through a nonprofit organization—sometimes referred to as formal volunteering—but a significant number also serve less formally, either individually or as part of a group.  A common non-profit for many architecture students is Habitat for Humanity.


  • Apprenticeships provide you an opportunity to try out a job, usually with an experienced professional in the field to act as a mentor.


  • Provide tuition or aid to support your training for a period of time. They are usually made by educational institutions, corporations, or foundations to assist individuals pursuing a course of study or research.

Practicums / Cooperative Education

  • Practicums often a required component of a course of study and place students in a supervised and often paid situation. Students develop competencies and apply previously studied theory and content.  Some programs require such a program for graduation, namely BAC and University of Cincinnati.


  • Service learning is distinguished by being mutually beneficial for both you and community.  Service-learning is growing rapidly and is considered a part of experiential education by its very nature of learning, performing a job within the community, and serious reflection by the student.  Service-learning involves tackling some of society’s complex issues such as homelessness, poverty, lack of quality education, pollution, etc.

As a college student, you have every reason to seek out experience as a student.  Besides, all that you do in studio can be considered experience that you promote to prospective employers.

Dr. Architecture

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.