You can learn a great deal about becoming an architect in college, but you can enhance your education by working in the field. An architecture internship will give you practical experience, expose you to how the business works and offer you a head start on a job search. Also, most states require an internship for professional registration in architecture.
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Learn about nationwide programs. Many professional groups encourage architecture internship opportunities. The American Institute of Architects and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards are involved in the Intern Development Program to make sure students get the help they need.
Think about what kind of architecture internship you want. Consider whether you are willing to relocate for that time (whether domestically or overseas), or want to stay close to home. Decide whether you'd be happier at a big firm, or working for a small boutique operation. Contemplate whether you want to intern in your strongest area of architecture, or use your time to explore possible new aspects instead.
Get moving early. Most industry leaders suggest looking into architecture internship programs as soon as your school allows. Waiting until close to graduation only limits your choices.
Treat your pursuit of an architecture internship just as you would a job search. Talk to your college advisor about opportunities, and search the web for possibilities. Look at the websites of firms where you might like to intern, and turn to other sources like Craigslist for postings.
Examine any opportunity carefully. Talk to others who have interned with this particular firm to learn about their experience. Ask questions about what your duties will be, and how much hands-on experience you will get.
Select a mentor. The Internship Development Program makes this a formal step in the process, but it's good for everyone to have a person in the field taking a long-term interest in your development. Meet with them regularly.
Use an internship to see if architecture is right for you. It can be valuable for high school students trying to decide on a possible career. Talk to firms in your area about possibilities, and contact the local chapter of professional groups like the American Institute of Architects about an internship. Many high schools offer programs to students to spend an extended time "on the job" to learn about a particular field.
Tips and warnings
- Be sure to understand up front if the internship is paid or not. Many employers offer a wage or stipend to the architecture intern, but not all.