What does it take to become an architect? For those with access to the web, answering this question used to mean visiting and searching, at the very least, the sites of the five groups involved in the governance of the profession: the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the National Architectural Accrediting Board, and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. That's a lot of clicking.
No longer. The AIA and the AIAS—with the participation of the other three groups and the work of Lee Waldrep, associate dean of the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at the University of Maryland—have recently relaunched ARCHcareers.org, which aims to be a one-stop source of information for budding architects (and their parents). The site's content covers the “Three E's” of architecture (education, experience, and examination), describing the basics of each and providing links to relevant pages on the five groups' websites. Created in 1999 by Waldrep—who has a master's in architecture and a Ph.D. in counseling and development and has served as the site's “Dr. Architecture” since the beginning —ARCHcareers.org underwent a total reworking when Waldrep approached the AIAS a couple of years ago about taking the site on. As both the AIAS and the AIA were dealing with questions related to promoting the profession, both to future college students and to those already on the path to being an architect, the partnership was a natural one: Waldrep had an active website, and the various architecture groups had the necessary information.
The revamped site went live, quietly, in late September. The final week in December, postcards describing ARCHcareers.org were sent to several thousand high school guidance counselors and principals across the nation. The resource was also officially announced at Forum 2006, the annual meeting of the AIAS.
Now that the basic site is up, it will slowly be augmented with more-robust information, which will likely include frequently asked questions and more links to other sources of information. Looking farther ahead, Waldrep and others involved in maintaining ARCHcareers.org believe that it could eventually address the needs of architects in the college, internship, prelicensure, and young professional stages.
But however it evolves, don't expect anything too flashy. Catherine Lux, AIAS director of membership services, says the plan is to keep the site as user-friendly as possible, so that everyone—including those with older computers or only the most basic internet connection—can take advantage of the information. And this is one of the unspoken goals of ARCHcareers.org: To be a resource for not just the community of architects, but the greater world.
“The public, in general, understands what it takes to be a lawyer or doctor, even a CPA,” says architect Suzanna Wight, emerging professionals director at the AIA. “But it's really mysterious what it takes to become an architect.” With the new ARCHcareers.org, that's about to change.