Below are replies to the above question from professional colleagues; they address the question as to what you might wish to do as you desire to become an architect.

While these replies are from a few years ago, the position titles listed with each individual has been updated.



Build, build, build at whatever scale you can because it informs how assemblies come together which will give one a better understanding when designing.

Mary Kay Lanzillotta, FAIA, Partner, Hartman-Cox Architects

I  would suggest a period of self-reflection. It is a challenging and competitive career that one cannot enter half-heartedly. If the desire and determination are there, then I would encourage the person to pursue it.

Kathy Denise Dixon, AIA, NOMA, Principal, K. Dixon Architecture, PLLC; Assistant Professor, University of the District of Columbia.

Do not let them talk you out of it—most importantly, a strong skill set in math does not matter.

John W. Myefski, AIA, Principal, Myefski Architects, Inc.

Do not let them talk you out of it.


Pursue art classes before starting architecture.  I did not have good guidance early on to what architecture was about or what the different aspects of the practice were.  I realized my passion was designing and creating.  I am inspired by the artistic and romantic side of the profession.

Sean M. Stadler, FAIA, LEED AP, Managing Principal, WDG Architecture, PLLC

Choose a path in which you are extremely passionate. The design profession has many facets. Architectural education offers a broad set of skills that can be applied in diverse ways. Find your niche in the design world (which goes beyond just architecture) and stay true to yourself making your work more imaginative. The best artists are agile in the way they work and find inspiration in the overlapping of experiences.

Rosannah B. (Sandoval) Harding, AIA, Senior Project Architect,  CAL

We are a profession of generalists; you have to know a little about a lot of different things. You cannot be egotistical and think you know how to design without the involvement and successful collaboration with a variety of experts. You need to make sure that you ask the right questions. Schools need to be involving more and different disciplines. The traditional way of thinking about design is dead.

Robert D. Fox, AIA, IIDA, Principal, FOX Architects

Gain experience in an architecture office to gain a better idea of what the profession is really all about. An architectural intern may find that perception and reality are very different in terms of what actually occurs in an architect’s office on a daily basis.

Robert D. Roubik, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Antunovich Associates Architects and Planners

Be passionate! You must feel in your heart that you want architecture to be a part of your life. Learn to be creative and to challenge linear thinking. Expand your world through travel, reading, drawing, conversation, music, and every other way possible. Learn to enjoy and be rewarded by the challenges of discovery and risk.

Clark E. Llewellyn, FAIA, Director of Global Track, University of Hawaii

Shadow an architect before deciding to pursue architecture; several shadowing experiences are ideal. Take all classes available in freehand drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, furniture making, and related arts and crafts. Invest in a sketchbook. Explore a new part of your city or take a trip to a different city. Participate in the summer high school programs offered by many architecture programs.

Beth Kalin, Project Architect, Senior Associate, HGA Architects and Engineers

Architects come in many forms. Some are public architects working for communities and city governments; others design skyscrapers, schools, hospitals, churches, houses, and everything in between. Reach out to architects and ask questions. Develop a feel for the challenging and rewarding world that lies before you.

As you follow your dreams, reach out to an architect in your community. Even if you do not know one, pick up the phone book and look some up, give them a call, and simply ask to tour the office. Ask lots of questions—what they like and dislike, what school they went to, what type of projects they work on. Stay in touch with them as you go through your education.

Last, be a heads-up professional. While the profession emphasizes mentorship, know that you must be responsible for your own development by being aware of what you are working on and how it fits in with the overall process, and by asking questions. When you seek increased responsibilities in the office and exercise your judgment when needed, you will find your opportunities to grow are limitless.

Shannon Kraus, FAIA, MBA, Principal and Senior Vice-President, HKS Architects

Work hard and be patient—the process of becoming an architect is one of the most rewarding AND demanding experiences you will have in your life. Also do not be afraid to pursue an alternate career in architecture. Having an architecture degree and being a licensed architect prepares you for a number of related and careers beyond architecture.

Jessica L. Leonard, AIA, LEED AP BD + C, Principal, Ayers Saint Gross Architects and Planners

Discover more about what architects do beyond the naïve things you hear. Take as many drawing, painting, and sculpture courses as you can. Learn software applications that expand your ability to tell a compelling story about what you are trying to do. Even though the ability to write well is not usually emphasized, it, along with the ability to speak well, is of great importance. A clear narrative, whether written or oral, has the most impact.

Thomas Fowler IV, AIA, NCARB, DPACSA Professor and Director of Graduate Program, California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo

Take the time during school and your work experiences to understand the disciplines that influence the built environment that will ultimately inform the work that you plan on developing as an architect. Finding a parallel, alternative and subversive education from general contractors, engineers, mayors, community leaders and editors will greatly enhance your understanding of the machinations behind a building.

Katherine Darnstadt, AIA LEED AP BD+C, Founder and Principal Architect, Latent Design

Seek out as much information about the profession as you can find. Design education will give you a solid foundation in the skills and abilities you need as a design thinker, but it often omits some of the professional capacities that make or break a career, such as the importance of networking, building relationships and communicating your brand. Early involvement in professional organizations provides an overview of the issues and trends in the industry and helps you to create an informed point of view on how to construct your career within this context.

Andrew Caruso, AIA, LEED AP BD&C, CDT, Director, Strategy & Operation — Urban Solutions, Hatch

Architecture school is a wonderful and dynamic education, but it gets interesting when you enter the workforce. Not unlike many other professions, what you learn in school and how it is applied in a position are not well aligned, and this lends itself to dissatisfaction. Spending time with architects in their work environment to learn more about what the day-to-day is like would be beneficial to many who are considering becoming one.

Ashley Wood Clark, Associate AIA, LEED AP, SMPS, Principal, The FWA Group Architects

A solid liberal educational foundation is essential for all would-be architects.  Even if you select a five-year BArch program make sure you understand how the required general education courses can contribute to your overall education.  Do not just select courses because they are easy, rather you should select courses that challenge your preconceptions building knowledge and skills that are outside a strictly architectural curriculum.

Learn to write and speak effectively.  Make sure that you have an opportunity to develop your sills of reasoning and critical thinking. Pay as close attention to history, theory, media, professional practice, and technology courses as you do to design studio.  There is nothing worse than a talented designer who fails to develop the array of knowledge and skills needed to successfully implement her or his designs.

Brian Kelly, AIA, Associate Professor and Director, Architecture Program, University of Maryland

Intern, intern, intern. Do whatever it takes to gain a summer position in an architecture firm and discover what professional practice is really like. Find out as much as you can about the profession and the career paths you can pursue but be open to all sorts of experiences. Stay flexible and open to new challenges. Realize that, even after college, your education in architecture has hardly begun; your career path can be a rewarding adventure.

Carolyn G. Jones, AIA, Sr. Development Manager, Trammell Crow Company

Start sketching your observations and ideas whenever you can. I am always sketching, whether it is a ten second sketch of a building or scene, or a random thought or creative idea. It is a great way to not only document your thought process, but to learn and analyze where an idea came from, what you captured in the sketch or script, and how you can apply that to your future work.

Anna A. Kissell, AIA, Summit Architecture


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