Choosing the Right Architecture Firm For You

Choosing the Right Architecture Firm for You

Are you someone who sends out resumes to all architecture firms you can contact? Or are you someone who likes to research on each architecture firm you’re likely to email?

When I was still an architecture student, I would always here from our professors and upperclassmen that it is better to work in small firms if you’re still trying to gain experience. This is because your work in a small architecture firm will likely be more diverse. It will be less likely that you’re only role is a draftsman.

As I was looking for firms to apply for my on-the-job training, I had a few criteria in mind. Though I was not able to meet all of them, having met some has been fulfilling enough. So, how do you know which firm is for you?

1| Do you go big or go home small?

Do you go for big firms or small firms? I would assume top firms are generally the bigger firms as they handle bigger projects but as I’ve mentioned, it’s usually recommended that you go for smaller firms if you want a more diverse experience. Diverse experience means more learnings which is especially needed for apprenticeship.

I initially thought of trying out small firms first then doing the same for big firms, but later on I realized that it’s better to work for an architecture firm I truly believe in for a long period of time. I don’t think it seems ideal to keep switching firms the moment you realize “it’s not for you”. This is why I think it’s essential to study first where you’ll apply for to avoid these circumstances.

As a starting architecture graduate, I see myself working for small firms to maximize what I can learn before the board exams. Where do you see yourself working for at least two years?

2| What’s Your Philosophy as a Designer?

I ask this because I personally take into consideration the firm’s vision mission. It matters to me what the firm identifies itself with. I think it’ll make you happier to work in firms you share beliefs or values with, and if you share the same vision in the field.

As a future architect, our clients’ best interest should be our priority. Is the firm you’re going to apply for living up to that? Unfortunately, there are firms out there that does not do well ethically. I think it matters to keep our values or ethics intact so that we’ll be able to serve our best to our future clients.

Related: 10 Design Philosophy Ideas for Architecture Students

3| Which Firms are Accessible?

Practically speaking, the firms we should apply to are those accessible to us. Consider the location, transportation, etc.

There are overseas firms that hire from different countries and you might be able to work from the comfort of your home. This is another thing to consider if you’re interested in having connections abroad.

Tip: If you’re not yet particular with a certain architecture firm, you can use Google Search to see which firms are closest to you by searching “architecture firms near me“!

4| Design or Construction?

Before my on-the-job training experience, I thought I wanted to apply at construction firms. I thought building technology was my weakness and working for construction firms might help me learn more about it.

Unfortunately, due to some sexual harassment I experienced in a construction firm, I decided to apply somewhere else and ended up in a design firm instead. It was a good thing as there I learned to practice more my design. It was a small firm and so I was able to expose myself with things more than drafting works.

There are pros and cons for both. I was also advised that construction firms will help you learn about applications (which is a massive plus) of your designs which is another reason why I wanted to go for it in the first place. Design firms, on the other hand, will help you put into practice more of what you learned in architecture school as you get to design real life projects.

What type of work do you want to focus on? If you want to experience both, it might help applying for design-build firms which offer both services.

Note

Of course, we have to take note of the fact that not every firm we’d like to apply to will accept us. But I think it matters to know what are we getting ourselves into – what family are we asking to belong to?

Take note that since every firm is different, it is not always recommended to use the same resume for all. Back in architecture school, we were taught to pattern our resumes/letters to the firm we’re applying to as it makes it more personal and sincere.

At the end of the day, as an unemployed, what matters is we get a job. However if presented with a choice, what do you want to get yourself into? I personally like to be mindful of my choices and so these are the things I considered (and will consider) when I applied (and will apply) to different architecture firms.

Do you have any other personal criteria? Share them down in the comments below!

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