Toward 5600: Let’s Do Lunch

The first in an occasional series on earning Supplemental Experience toward the minimum 5,600 hours required to complete IDP.

When it comes to earning supplemental experience, it doesn’t get much simpler than this.  Interns can earn up to 40 hours toward their Elective Hours by attending AIA-approved Continuing Education courses, many of which are offered as “lunch and learns” right in your own office.

This one is a no-brainer.  Lunch and learns are somewhat ubiquitous in our industry, and many educational seminars and outreach events offer at least one CEU for attending.  Even better, most facilitators of these events will record your participation and report it to the AIA directly, and your transcript will be updated automatically.  You’ll earn CEUs toward your AIA membership and experience hours toward your IDP at the same time — no fuss, no muss.  Best of all, this is a completely independent way of earning time; other than the AIA’s verification of your attendance, no oversight by a supervisor or mentor is required.  (Note: even though the provider is reporting attendance to the AIA, an intern will still need to self-report their participation to NCARB in order to earn credit.)

You could potentially earn these 40 hours pretty quickly — most offices host lunch and learns on a monthly basis, and sometimes even weekly — but it’s surprising to me that many people don’t take advantage of the opportunity.  I get it — the lunch hour is sacred; why spend it listening to a product rep giving a canned presentation?  I can give you a few good reasons:

One, you can earn credit — even if you attend only two such sessions a month, that adds up to 24 additional hours toward your IDP (or, in other words, and additional three days’ worth of time, in those same 47 working weeks).

Two, some of the more technical presentations can help to reinforce concepts that are helpful in everyday practice… and that you might see again in the licensing exam.  In the past six months, our office has hosted presentations on copper in architecture, which included some pretty handy information on the galvanic series (which I can virtually guarantee will show up on the Building Design and Construction Systems exam) and roof copings (which dealt with uplift and suction at the roof edge due to wind forces, a major lateral forces topic on the Structural Systems exam).

Three, more often than not, you get a free lunch.  Who says there’s no such thing?

Reminder: You will still need to include these courses in your next Experience Report, which, of course, is subject to the reporting requirements (including the Six-Month Rule.)   Not an AIA member?  NCARB won’t hold that against you — you can still earn credit for attending.  You will, however, have to request a temporary transcript from the AIA — visit the “Free Transcripts for Interns” page on the AIA website.  You’ll receive an unique 8-digit number that will be used to report your participation in the event to the AIA.  This transcript has a shelf life — it will only be valid for three years — but that should be plenty of time to earn the available credit.

5600 or Bust!

5,600 hours.  That’s the minimum amount of time required to complete IDP.  But what does that mean, exactly?  (Warning: there be math ahead.)

If a typical work week is 40 hours, that means that IDP requires (at a minimum) 140 weeks to complete (5,600/ 40 = 140).

If there are 47 work weeks in a given year (52 weeks, minus 3 weeks for the standard amount of time off, minus another 2 weeks for holidays), that means that IDP requires just under 3 years to complete (140/ 47 = 2.97).  Again, at a minimum.

I hate to break it to you, but it’s going to take you a little longer than that.

The three-year rule of thumb for internship has become something of a staple of our profession (harkening all the way back to the days before a formal IDP process was established — you had to earn three years’ worth of experience before you could sit for the exam), but of course, it assumes that every hour spent during those three years is worthwhile experience, counting toward each of the 17 distinct Experience Areas defined in the IDP Guidelines.

I’m sure that it’s possible, but the reality is that it will likely take a little longer to complete IDP.  Exactly how long depends on you, your supervisor, and your employment setting, as well as a whole host of other things that are beyond your control (economic downturns, projects being placed on indefinite hold, a lack of any current projects under construction, etc).  (NCARB by the Numbers has shown the average amount of time required to be 5 years.  Counting a summer internship during college, it took me well over 4 years to finish.)

That’s where Supplemental Experience comes into play.  There’s no way around earning the required 5,600 hours, but Supplemental Experience can help you to earn them faster than you would in the traditional 40-hours-per-week work setting.  For example, working with a mentor (or mentors!), an intern could visit a construction site or perform tasks in the Emerging Professionals Companion, which, when added to the time already spent in the office, can in turn help to complete your internship in less time.  Even better, Supplemental Experience can be earned in both major categories — the minimum 3,740 Core Hours, which every intern needs to earn in the same quantities, as well as the 1,860 Elective Hours, which allows an internship to be tailored to a paticular set of skills, interests, and professional goals.

Over the course of a semi-regular series called Toward 5600, we’ll look a little more closely at IDP’s Supplemental Experience categories.  Look for posts tagged 5600 for great opportunities to earn credit beyond the traditional work setting… and accelerate your internship.