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What Does it Take to Become a Designer

Lately, I have received a number of calls from people wanting to enter the home design industry, so I have provided this brief description of the process.

The first step is finding out if you really have passion and skill for the architectural industry.  Personally, I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not want to explore every hallway of every home and building I entered.  I had an insatiable desire to know how all the spaces connected to each other.  This curiosity for space planning is a good sign that you will persevere in the architecture industry.

If the desire is there, it will lead you to education.  A bachelor’s degree in architecture from an accredited university usually takes a minimum of 5 years.  I earned by bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cal Poly, and while I am not a licensed architect, the education of an architect has been invaluable in my career as a residential designer.  If you want to pursue an architectural license, the next step is approximately 3 years of full time, paid internships working under other licensed architects.  Simultaneously, you can take the ARE exams which are a series of seven exams covering the structural engineering knowledge needed as a commercial or home architect.  After passing the ARE’s, you can take the architectural licensing exam.  Upon passing, you will be licensed to practice commercial and residential architecture in the state in which you took those exams.

This is where I took a different route from the licensed architect.  In many states, an architectural license in not needed for designing homes.  Drafters can design homes, builders can design homes, just about any can  design a home under 4 stories tall.  After earning my bachelor’s degree and working in various positions for other architectural firms, I decided that home design was where my passion really lies.  I decided not continue down the path of commercial architecture and licensure but instead focus on residential architecture, and I could not be happier.  (On a quick side note, having AIA after your name does not indicate whether or not you are licensed.  It is not like a doctor’s MD or an engineer’s PE.  AIA is the American Institute of Architects, and it is essentially a nation wide club for architects.)  The process is long, but the education and work experience are set up to give you more than enough exposure and skills to find where your design strength lies.

Best of luck on your journey!

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