Getting your FIRST Job in Architecture | Architecture School and Beyond
Updated: Apr 28
“I thought it would be quicker, I thought it would be easier, but here I am…”
We’ve all heard this before.
We all know the architecture path isn’t always the smoothest or the easiest.
Not only is the exam process hard, but school isn’t a breeze either.
And I talk about this ALL THE TIME.
Today, Wesley McGlory shared his experiences going through architecture school, his current ARE journey, job hunting, and all the lessons he learned along the way. We talk about the realities of the whole process of becoming an architect and the difficulties along the way that can throw one off.
This conversation is especially inspiring for those who are still studying or if you’re feeling totally burned out from the exams. There is no ONE perfect way to become an architect, and we're here to encourage and teach everyone that having a "less than perfect" road to your dream is normal.
A LITTLE ABOUT WESLEY...
Wesley is an emerging professional with work experience in commercial retail, quick-serve restaurants, and financial institutions. He graduated from Texas Tech University in August 2020 with a Master of Architecture and an Urban and Community Design certificate. While in school, Wesley served as the Vice President for both AIAS and NOMAS as well as a member of the Health and Wellness Task Force for AIAS.
He is currently working at a small architecture firm in the DFW Metroplex and is studying for the ARE and the CDT. When he isn’t studying, Wesley likes to work out, watch baseball, listen to podcasts, and read a good book.
EARLY INTEREST IN ARCHITECTURE
Wesley’s curiosity about architecture started as early as 12 years old. While looking for a house with his family as a gift for his older sister, he noticed that some houses needed a lot of work. This moment inspired him to give back to the community by building better homes.
Even if he had a cousin in real estate and another cousin in construction, Wesley didn’t have anyone in his family in the architecture industry. But his love for math and houses confirmed his interest in pursuing a career in architecture. Despite his previous interests in becoming a doctor, police officer, or professional baseball player, he knew at an early age that being an architect was his dream.
Wesley studied his undergrad at Texas Tech University. He decided to focus more on general subjects in his first year and start his architecture courses in 2nd year. Despite loving architecture school and the fact that he was getting closer to his dream, a big adjustment was the workload of assignments and putting in more time than he was used to.
We also talked about the challenges and the adjustments it took to switch from traditional school, where there were right and wrong answers, to architecture school and studio, where most of the work focused on exploring, discovery, and creativity.
Wanting to work right away after graduating from undergrad, Wesley started job hunting a few months before graduating in December 2017. Despite getting a few great interviews, a lot of them required more work experience. So in May 2018, when Wesley got accepted into the Master of Architecture program at Texas Tech, he decided to go back to school and study.
In 2020, Wesley continued to apply to jobs after the career fair and was offered a job in late May of that year. Texas Tech University requires 300 hours of work experience before graduating from the Master of Architecture program. So, he planned to get a job, work to gain experience, graduate, and then start studying for the tests. After Wesley finally graduated in August 2020, there wasn't much work or clients at his job because of the pandemic, so he chose to start his ARE journey.
Like me, Wesley wasn’t active in student organizations in undergrad but started realizing how valuable they were while working in the industry. Wesley ended up joining AIAS and NOMAS and even became VP for both organizations.
Wesley and I talk about how important it is to try to join these groups because they have ties to local firms and business owners. Joining a student organization can also help your resume, especially if you're still in school. It shows your level of interest in learning and how invested you are in involving yourself.
HIS ARE JOURNEY
Wesley's goal of taking the exams and getting licensed within a year didn’t happen (just like most of us!). Wesley joined an AIA Dallas study group where everyone worked on the same tests at the same time. Wesley felt burned out after failing a few exams and chose to take a break from the AREs.
The best thing about the AREs is that they’re always available and you can choose when to take the exams. Once Wesley decided to start studying again, his study group had signed up to study for the technical exams when he wanted to focus on the pro-practice exams again so he joined the ARE boot camp in September 2022. Even though they covered a lot of topics each week, reviewing was made more fun by using videos and flashcards in addition to the traditional way of studying. Additionally, having the group for support and comradery made a huge difference. Motivated to tackle the exams again, he scheduled to take the Project Management exam again. But excess pressure along with an unfortunate event affected his performance on exam day.
"It was about setting boundaries... I went into my most recent attempt with excess pressure from everyone. After the results came back, family and friends kept asking me a bunch of questions and I felt like I needed to set boundaries" Wesley said.
He started putting a price tag on his exam dates; he charges them a crazy amount to protect his peace. Luckily, he hasn't gone that far since people have respected his new boundaries.
Wesley and I talk about how it’s important to understand that life happens and that there are events that are unavoidable during the years we study for and take the AREs: births, deaths, marriages, and so much more. So, taking a break from exams to focus on other things in life is very normal and understandable.
At the moment, Wesley is taking a break from the AREs and studying for the Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) certification, which he enjoys and is passionate about. The CFT certification is offered less frequently than the ARE as it is offered in May and November.
In 5 years, Wesley sees himself being a licensed architect. Career-wise, he’s considering exploring other jobs because he knows that exposure and work experience helped him learn a lot when studying. In the future, he wants to be true to himself and go back to what inspired him to become an architect in the first place and become a residential architect.
Wesley’s story inspires everyone to keep going despite the unpredictable humps along the way. Everyone’s architectural journey is different. Embrace the unpredictability and keep pushing forward. The path to becoming an architect is anything but a straight line. It's a winding journey full of twists, turns, and unexpected detours. But don't worry, that's all part of the adventure!
Remember, some of the greatest architects in history didn't take a conventional route to success. Who knows, your unique path might just lead you to create something truly extraordinary! Even if the path gets difficult, you're not alone - a whole community of architects have been through the same struggles and come out stronger on the other side. So keep pursuing your passion, stay creative, and never stop building your dreams!
Reach out to Wesley and let him know your biggest takeaway from his story. You can connect with him below.
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