Training to be an architect, getting qualified and getting established is a long long journey. Most students enter the degree – known as the part one – with little background in professional practice. Some come straight from school with A levels and an interest in the field and quite a few come from other professions. You see artists, photographers, people from all kinds of backgrounds – but few from the construction industry. Why is this? Simple. When you sign up to be an architect you are looking at seven to ten years of hard work and low wages. People in the trade with the need to pay the rent become developers, project managers or quantity surveyors. The routes are quicker, the money is better and you can work and study at the same time.
Once you have a degree, good or bad, and a portfolio of design work you are not, unfortunately, an architect. You are not even a technician or student architect. You are what is known in the profession as a part one architectural assistant and your next task is to find employment. During times of growth, with busy offices and, presumably, profits, part ones can find work if they can work with the new computer programmes we seem to need and are able put in a lot of hours for low wages. For the employer, the part one provides in-house competition for Indian and Chinese 3D image rendering services. Some part ones don’t get work, some get stuck, some drop out. The work is very different to the design led investigations of study and many people leave or move elsewhere in the industry at this stage.
After a year in office, the student then returns to college and tries to balance work and study to get the part 2, the diploma in architecture. This usually takes two or three years but by now the youngest are 25, others are older. They have relationships, financial commitments and sometimes families too. With a diploma, you are a part 2 in the UK. In Holland you are an architect, but not here. You still need the part 3. This requires a minimum of two years in office experience, of which one year must be post part 2, additional exams and some experience of running a job on site. Working for someone else, as an assistant, it is hard to get the right experience – your office needs to trust you with the responsibility of running a small project. Sometimes part 2’s have to move around to find it. Some are lucky enough or talented enough to get into a practice that supports them, but for many it is a question of waiting around and working for the project leader until the opportunity comes around.
At the Moseley School, we only take in graduates – those with the degree in architecture – and we run a four year part time course that includes both the part 2 and the part 3 which are studied simultaneously. Students are not expected to work as CAD operators for other practices but to take on and run their own small projects and set themselves up as professionals working alone or in partnerships. By running their own jobs alongside their studies they get the experience that will prepare them directly for working as lone architects or as partners or project leaders. Because they have no in office supervision the professional practice tutor can provide support and assess their reports as evidence for their professional experience. By the time students get to the third year they are expected to have completed several small projects, managed their finances, marketed their business and built a client base. Of course, they work with builders and clients too. They also combine the experiences which prepare them for their future role with earning money to support themselves.
In the past there were different routes into the profession. Employees in practice were given development and could work their way to qualification. Now the school route is the exclusive one, but the right experience is required for final qualification. Working for someone else, for many people, may not be the best route to get this experience. At the Moseley School we offer another way, combining work and study to provide the opportunity to qualify directly by the student’s own efforts as an architect.
The Moseley School of Architecture is entirely fictitious