Friday, January 13, 2006

The Long and Winding Road

Every profession and occupation has hoops and hurdles to jump over and through to join the club. Or should that be through and over? Nevermind. You know what I mean. Credentials are important. One doesn't simply declare oneself to be a lawyer (though the requirements of claiming the title of "Esquire" seem to be a bit more lenient these days). No, the lawyer-to-be must take the bar exam. And pass it. And before that, the LTB (lawyer-to-be -- please keep up!) must earn a bachelors degree in something else before being accepted into law school. Lots and lots of hurdles to overcome. Lots of credentials to earn.

And still we have too many lawyers! Ironic, no?

Excluding recent developments in job titling within the computer industry, not just anyone can wake up and decide they shall henceforth be known as ARCHITECT.

So what hoops and hurdles, you ask, does one jump over and through... er, through and over to become ARCHITECT? Well, first of all, before I answer the question, I would like to thank you for asking it in the first place. You see, so few of my friends and relatives seem to give a darn about any aspect of my work or profession, and it's kinda nice to...

Uh, sorry about that self-pitying cul-de-sac. It won't happen again. Where were we? Oh yeah...

There are only about 100 universities in the United States that have accredited architecture programs leading to a professional degree. A professional degree is typically a Bachelor of Architecture or a Master of Architecture degree (don't be fooled by a Bachelor of Environmental Design or Bachelor or Arts in Architecture or some such sillyness). The B. Arch and M. Arch. are good because they are the most direct path, if not the only path in most states, to becoming ARCHITECT. Most states, though not all, now require that a candidate seeking the coveted title of ARCHITECT must first earn a professional degree from an accredited university. It once was that any schmoe who had worked half his life under the supervision of a licensed architect (no more caps and bold for now) could sit for the registration exam. But that has pretty much been changed now as architects lobbied their state registration boards to limit the transformation of non-architects into architects to limit the competition or to prevent hacks from entering the club. Anyway, the Bachelor of Architecture degree takes five years or more to earn. A Master of Architecture degree takes two or three, though one needs an undergraduate degree first, preferrably in a major similar to architecture like liberal arts or lawn maintenance or broad brushstroking or basketkaboodling.

Getting into an accredited architecture programs is no piece of pie either. The school where I studied received about 450 applications for 200 slots for the first "pre-professional" year. I made that cut easily with my massively huge SAT scores. Or were they modestly acceptable ACT scores? I forget.

Anyway, the first-year students took a handful of identical courses that pre-professional year and then re-applied to the "professional" program to continue their studies. 250 applied to second year and 68 were accepted. I was ranked #4. From the top, of course. When I graduated following fifth year -- some were on the six-year plan, but not me -- I graduated sixth in my class of 65. Yup, true enuf. I be smart and vewy vewy talented. But enuf about me...

Once the professional degree is out of the way, then the potential architect must go to work as an Intern or an Architect-in-Training or as a wage slave for a number of years under the watchful gaze of a real architect. During this internship, usually lasting something like three years depending on the state requirements, the wage slave must beg and plead with his or her master to earn experience points doing various aspects of professional work such as drafting, managing consultants and engineers, drafting, construction field observation, and drafting.

When the intern / wage slave's time is up, he/she/it may now take the registration exam in his/her/its state. But don't let the singular character of the word "exam" fool you into thinking that the test lasts one day. Noooooo, we're talking seriously plural. We're talking four full days and at least eight hours and up to twelve hours each day. The architectural registration exam is the most rigorous and demanding exam going because the public's health and safety is at stake. Traditionally, the registration exam is subdivided into nine separate sections -- site design, theory, structural systems (two sections), mechanical systems, building design, etc, etc, and etc. And if you fail any of the nine sections, you get to wait up to twelve months before you can re-take that section.

This is why it took me -- your intrepid narrator/genius -- three tries before I could pass them all. I passed eight sections the first time I took them. But the longest one -- an all-day 12-hour exam on building design -- took me three tries and two extra years. In the meantime, I dutifully and grudgingly remained at my wage slave post drawing bathroom fixtures and such. Well, not really, but it sure felt like it.

When I finally passed the WHOLE exam, I became ARCHITECT and haven't looked back (I can hear my wife smirking right now!) All in all, it took me ten years from my first classroom lecture on "Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas" (Latin translation: Firmness, Function, Delight) to earning the right to pay my state board an annual registration fee to reach the promised land: The title of ARCHITECT!

It felt good.

Though that didn't last long. More to come, donchaknow.


Post a Comment

<< Home