Monday, August 29, 2011

Lulu's Mailbag: following up on some comments

I've gotten some new readers recently who posted some good questions on old blog posts.  Being that they were good questions, and being that I'm about to go on vacation and am not feeling particularly motivated to say anything fresh or new, I thought it might be helpful to post responses to these questions.  First, a question from Anthony, on this post about whether or not to go to grad school:

I have a B.Arch already, is there any need to get an M.Arch besides 20% salary boost? Just curious for an outside and well experienced view. Especially from one that has an M.Arch. 

Good question.  The short answer is no, the M.Arch probably isn't worth your time in the eyes of an employer.  If you have a B.Arch, then you already have a professional degree--you'll be required to work for the same number of hours to complete IDP as someone with an M.Arch.  The longer answer is that more than just education gets you a boost in salary.  For example, you and Intern X might work at the same firm with the same amount of experience, but you make a dollar less an hour than Intern X because he has an M.Arch.  But let's say you get licensed a year before Intern X--you keep on top of your IDP hours, make sure you get them, and don't drag your feet when it comes to signing up for and taking the exams.  In general, bam, you get a raise over Intern X.  Let's say you then decide a year or so later that you're ready to move on and you change firms.  Again, in general, bam, you get another raise over Intern X.  Suddenly, you've closed the pay gap and passed Intern X without having to add another degree.  (Also, I think there's a rule against having more than one professional degree in architecture, unless you go from a B.Arch to a Ph.D. Arch.)  Bottom line: there's more than one way to increase your pay in architecture, and an M. Arch is only one of those ways.

Next question is from Drob26, who commented on a post about being underpaid.  When I mentioned that up until about three years of being out of school, interns are mostly interchangeable, Drob26 asked:

Why is it three years of experience? Is that because that's, normally, how long it takes to get licensed or finish the IDP?

Not at all.  Technically, it's supposed to take three years to complete the IDP if all goes according to plan, but it's more about experience.  After three years in a firm, it's highly likely that you've experienced all the phases of a project at least once (or at least have passing knowledge of the phases), know how to act professionally in a firm, and are skillful with multiple types of software.  Three years of experience has given you a chance to figure out where your skills lie--planning, CA, software, rendering, code research, etc.  Also, if you've spent all three of those years at the same firm, it means you have a great deal of firm understanding--you know what the standards are, what typical details the firm uses, how the firm's drawings look, and so on.  Having those skills makes you more valuable, especially when a lot of work needs to be done quickly in a short amount of time--you know what you're doing, and no one has to train you on the majority of typical tasks for the project.

Got a question you'd like to ask or a topic you'd like to see discussed here?  Drop me a line in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  Thanks!

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