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.

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