Toward 5600: A Trip to the Moon

The latest in a recurring series on earning Supplemental Experience toward the minimum 5,600 hours required to complete IDP.

Each of the various ways of earning Supplemental Experience that we’ve looked at so far have one thing in common — they’re all ways of cramming more eligible hours into a set timeframe, those 47 working weeks in any given year. Another way to do that is to simply work more hours.

If this photo means nothing to you, go out right now and rent Martin Scorsese's delightful film "Hugo."

If this photo means nothing to you, go out right now and rent Martin Scorcese’s delightful film “Hugo.”

Many a young architect turns to side work, aka moonlighting, as a way of making a little extra money, as well as spreading one’s wings outside of the daily grind of the office (where a typical day might consist of picking up someone else’s redlines and not much else). This work can be easy to come by — you’ve probably already had a friend or family member ask for your help with a small master bathroom renovation, or maybe a coworker has some side work and needs some assistance — and its hard to say no. We’ve all been there — the idea of a project that can completely be your own is sometimes too tempting to pass up. It’s also easy to find yourself in over your head, if the demands of the project become more than your experience can handle. Buyer beware.

If this work is performed under the supervision of a licensed architect or another member of the design and construction industry (ie, you drafted for this individual on your own time, outside of the office setting), it could be eligible for up to a maximum of 930 core hours under Design or Construction Related Employment. The work has to adhere to the Duration Requirements (which shouldn’t be a problem, since you’re already getting a 40-hour week in on top of it) and, of course, must be reported according to the Reporting Requirements (that basement family room you did for Uncle Albert two summers ago wouldn’t qualify). Also, since your supervisor needs to approve your Experience Reports, it would be a good idea to be up-front about this work with them. Your office might have a specific policy regarding moonlighting, or could forbid you from doing it altogether. Best to know that before you get 100 hours deep into the project…

The flip side: any moonlighting that you might do solely on your own isn’t eligible for IDP credit — you can’t self-supervise, and even if you could, your supervisor isn’t registered. (Zing!)

Words to the wise: moonlighting isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be (check out Bob Borson’s excellent post on The Life of an Architect for some of the many reasons why). As a younger architect, I’ve done more than my fair share, in both capacities (supporting another’s projects, as well as taking on my own), and I can tell you that the extra work, added stress, and late nights often aren’t worth the fee. As time went on, I’ve gotten better at valuing my work and negotiating a fair price for it… but I’ve also earned an awful lot of other responsibility along the way. At this point in my life, as a project manager/ blogger/ homeowner/ husband/ dad, I’ve all but given up on side work — there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, and there are too many other things that I’d rather be doing with my time. (Case in point: I have a guitar, sans one string, that’s become a slightly dusty piece of sculpture, a monument to forgotten hobbies… what I wouldn’t give for an hour or so a week where I could just sit and play. That hour would be worth more to me than what any side job could earn.)

I will say, though, that I learned a great deal from some of that moonlighting, which supplemented what I was doing in my full-time job and my ARE prep, and made me a better professional in the process. (Didn’t earn any IDP credit off of it, though. If only I had known…) So, if you find yourself with an opportunity for some side work, ask yourself objectively if you feel comfortable with the scope and can handle the added workload. Shoot for the moon… just be careful that you don’t crash right into the face of it.

Security Blanket

On Friday, NCARB announced some new security procedures at Prometric testing centers, which will take effect after the Blackout ends in late August. Here’s a video preview…

Actually, I’m only kidding. You can’t take a guest with you into the testing center! They have to stay in the waiting room! Sheesh…

But seriously, folks, NCARB has announced that Prometric will be instituting a biometrically-enabled security system for their testing centers, which will have a small effect on ARE candidates. According to NCARB’s official press release, during your the first exam appointment after the blackout, candidates should expect to have their photo ID scanned, provide six digital fingertip swipes (three from each hand), and take a test-day photo (which wil be used to create a database of exam candidate identification information). Every subsequent appointment will involve a single finger swipe and photo session, for comparison to the record data. (I imagine that many of you have a great deal of practice in giving NCARB the finger, so this should be easy for you.) This is part of standard procedures at all Prometric facilities for any exam that they administer (for more information, check out their official video announcement. ); in our context, it will also help NCARB to ensure that the same person is actually taking each of the seven divisions.

All jokes aside, this is a significant improvement to security at Prometric’s facilities. Exam security is serious business, worthy of some pretty incredible measures… or, at least, some measures worthy of The Incredibles.

Some words to the wise — what this means to me is that you should arrive a little earlier for that first appointment, especially after a three-month break where everyone will be anxious to resume testing, so plan accordingly. Good luck, and remember – no capes! (You’ll just have to leave it in the locker with your other belongings, anyway…)

New Beginnings

Graduation will quickly be upon us… to the graduates about to enter the workforce, I wish you heartfelt congratulations and my best wishes (and a reminder that this is a great opportunity to establish your NCARB record and begin IDP, if you haven’t already… but I digress…).  To the rest of us, its the beginning of another summer.


In my role as the IDP coordinator, I’ve talked to quite a few students in the last year or so, and many of them have asked me the same question: “Where should I look to find an internship.” (Funny how their first — and therefore most important — question is the one that I’m the LEAST qualified to answer.) While I sincerely wish that I could give everyone the “silver bullet” that would guarantee them a position this summer, I simply can’t do that. Even if you leave the economic climate out of the equation; because of the short duration (and the fact that students are in school and aren’t really able to “pound the pavement” looking for a job), summer internships are particularly difficult to come by.

If you held an internship last summer, that’s obviously a good start. Here are a few questions:
1. Is there any chance that your previous employer would take you back this summer? (Have you checked with them, or are you only assuming that this isn’t an option?)
2. If not, are you friendly enough with anyone in that office (especially someone in their late-20s/ early 30s) that could suggest other offices that you could contact?
3. If so, would that person be willing to make an introduction/ put in a good word or two, so that you’re not making a cold phone call?

I would also suggest making contact with the local AIA chapter in the area where you’re looking for a potential internship — they might have job postings for firms in the area, or could at least take your name and contact information in case a firm would happen to call them looking for potential interns. Another avenue would be to get in touch with the Associate Director (i.e., the representative young architect) for that chapter. They might be able to steer you in the right direction, or at least start putting you in touch with people who could lead to opportunities down the road. (Those of you in Pennsylvania looking for your local AD should click here.)

If none of this is bearing any fruit, I’d suggest broadening your horizons beyond architectural offices, like an engineering firm or a construction office. Remember that IDP allows you to earn credit in non-traditional settings (Experience Setting “O”), and you can also earn Supplemental Experience in “Design or Construction-Related Employment”… as long as you’re meeting the guidelines, you can still earn IDP credit.

To be perfectly honest, volunteering in the architectural community is a fantastic way to spend your time and “immerse” yourself. There are plenty of avenues available to you — certainly the AIA (through the National Associates Committee (NAC) and the Young Architects Forum (YAF)) is one that immediately comes to mind, but there are several other like-minded organizations (such as Architecture for Humanity and the Green Building Alliance) that would offer good opportunities to volunteer/ network, as well. You could also look into non-profit organizations (two Pittsburgh-based examples would be the Design Center ( and the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (, both of which produce several architecturally-oriented programs throughout the year). PHLF in particular reaches out to local high schools with career fairs and an annual Design Challenge. There is also ACE Mentoring, which is another opportunity for design professionals to mentor high school students interested in our profession. All of these avenues are also opportunities for further networking with professionals in the industry, which might lead to an job offer somewhere down the line.

If you haven’t noticed, the suggestions above fall under the same basic category – networking. You need to spread your wings and get your name into the field, get to know people (and allow them to get to know you) and start to be recognized as part of the community. (Generally, this is good career advice, but not necessarily for an internship *this* summer. At the most, it might help lead to an internship — or a full-time position! — for *next* summer.)

Congratulations on finishing another year of school. I hope that you’ll find at least some of this to be helpful… Either way, leave me your thoughts in the comments. And enjoy your summer.