Q: What do I do if I get a job?
Q: Will Practice place me in a job? How do I know which firms employ BAC students?
Q: What will my first semester be like?
Q: What is Independent Practice?
Q: What requirements do I have to complete for Practice and how much time will I have to complete those requirements?
Q: How long will it take me to find a job?
Q: Once I get a job, what do I need to do?
Q: What is the hourly wage for an entry-level position?
Q: I don't want to wait to start looking for a job. Can I start now, before my first semester?
Q: I'm going to be a new student. What can I do before my first semester to best prepare for Practice?
A: Any students employed in design firms or related fields, or who are engaged in projects or activities for which they expect to receive Practice credit, should make sure they do the following:
- Any time your employment status changes, please complete and submit a Practice Registration Form to our office.
- Track the hours you work based on the categories and course areas listed on the Practice Report for your degree program. We recommend creating and regularly updating an Excel spreadsheet that lists all of the categories and course areas for your degree program. This makes reporting at the end of the semester much easier and much more accurate!
- Document your experience. Any time you are petitioning for Practice credit, you must maintain documentation of your work and learning. This includes but is not limited to: photographs, drawings, sketches, graphic work, research, and correspondence with clients and/or vendors. You'll have to compile this work into a portfolio that you'll present during your Practice Assessment (and which you also include in your Segment I and Segment II Portfolios). Based on the evidence you present at that meeting, your Skill Level will be updated accordingly.
A: Practice does not place students in jobs, although we do offer ways for students to get involved in design projects through the school (see Gateway Projects). Part of a student's learning experience at the BAC is conducting a job search and deciding how best to proceed with that search. It is a challenging and demanding program, but we'll help and support you in any way that we can! There is no formal list of firms or companies that we recommend to BAC students or where students have to work. Our students work at hundreds of different firms and companies in New England, and BAC alumni & faculty are scattered all over the world, and are prevalent in the Boston architectural community. If you're looking for more information and local job listings, check out the the Boston Society of Architects.
A: That will depend on which program you to choose to enroll in. There are separate tracks in Segment I for students who begin in the Academic Only Program (AOP) and for those who begin in the concurrent program. Ask your Admissions counselor for more information about the AOP versus the concurrent program. AOP students will only focus on academics for the first two semesters and will transition into concurrency at the end of their first year.
Concurrent students, however, should plan to begin looking for employment during their first semester. We understand that your first semester is a time to adjust and acclimate to a new place, routine, and to new ideas, but we do advise you to begin thinking about incorporating Practice into your schedule as soon as possible, especially because you will be looking for work in a challenging economic climate. There's also a direct correlation between how well a student does academically and whether or not they are engaged in Practice. The requirements of the program are structured so that you do not have to be working full-time every semester in order to fulfill Practice requirements, but we recommend students go after as much experience as possible, as soon as possible (see question below about requirements).
During your first semester, you will begin utilizing BAC resources. Additionally, you'll meet with a Practice faculty member for a Practice Assessment so you know what skills and experience we want you to acquire in Segment I. (You'll schedule this appointment during New Student Orientation or after the start of your first semester.) You will also have the opportunity to learn more about and consider pursuing a Practice Gateway Project, which gives you an opportunity to get involved in design projects that are organized by the school.
A: All students will be required to work a certain number of hours and have acquired a certain set of professional skills (Skill Level) over the course of each Segment. Requirements for each degree program vary; please refer to your degree program for specific information regarding Practice hours requirements. There are separate requirements in Segment I for students who begin in the Academic Only Program (AOP) as opposed to those who begin as concurrent students. Ask your Admissions counselor for more information about the AOP versus the concurrent program.
Please note that the time to complete Practice hours will vary from student to student, and that any student transferring in with prior academic credit will have a shortened amount of time in which to earn Practice hours.
A: The amount of time students are engaged in a job search varies greatly, and depends on skill set and experience, how successful and organized your job search is, and how lucky you are. Because the job market has slowed, it is taking longer to find work in every field, and design is certainly included. We recommend students consider Gateway Projects and part-time work as a way to remain engaged and have the opportunity to earn Practice credit in the short-term while they are looking for full-time employment. We also recommend making an appointment with the Learning Resource Center to review your resume and cover letter, making an appointment with someone from the Practice Department to review your skills and job options, signing up for a mentor through the BAC's mentoring program, and continuing to build a quality portfolio through your studio work at the BAC.
A: You should be in contact with our office after your first semester. We require that all students actively engaged in Practice-working out in the field-track the number of hours they work, and that they maintain thorough documentation of their work. All students who file for Practice credit will be required to validate their experience and learning at a Practice Assessment, which occurs at the end of each Segment of the program (this is when your Skill Level, or the level of your professional skills, is evaluated). You should also complete a Practice Registration Form and file that with our office.
A: This varies greatly as it depends upon a student's previous experience, skill set, the position, and the company offering the position. Most salaries and wages are less competitive in this market than they had been when the economy was growing. Because of this, we've seen great variability in hourly wages, but we estimate that students finding entry-level design work can expect to make $12-15/hour. More advanced students who are nearing graduation may make approximately $20-25/hour.
If a student is relying upon a certain monthly income to help them pay expenses, we recommend they look for any job, related or non-related, to better their chances of finding work quickly; upon securing a position, the student is better able to focus on a long-term search for a design position or get involved in Gateway Projects or other methods for earning Practice credit. You can also discuss loans and financial options with the Financial Aid Department.
A: You can begin looking for jobs and applying before your first semester if you feel comfortable doing so, especially if you have previous experience working in the field of design. We highly recommend that students with little or no previous experience, or who are not confident in the strength of their resume and/or cover letter, wait to begin applying for jobs until their first semester, when we have the resources in place to support them.
A: The most important thing is for you to prepare for a busy first semester! We also recommend looking through and considering the following:
- Consider Prior Practice Credit and gather relevant materials if you are eligible and plan to apply for credit.
- Create or update your professional resume. List all previous professional and academic achievements, including: work experience, extracurricular activities, interests, independent projects, volunteer work, skills, artistic pursuits, awards, etc.
- Draft a cover letter: pretend you're applying for an entry-level job, or better yet, find a job online and write a cover letter for that position.
- Compile a list of 3-5 professional and personal references. Confirm that these people are willing to be listed as your references and collect their contact information.
- Begin talking to family, friends, and acquaintances about your plans and goals, and explain that you'll be looking for work in the field of design; always be open to suggestions and the names of people they can recommend you be in contact with. This will be your basis for developing a professional network.
Above & Beyond:
- If you have examples of graphic skills you want to showcase, consider arranging your work into a simple portfolio. This can be a starting point for the portfolio you develop later on.
- Read magazines, books, articles, and anything else you can find about design: what are some of the trends and key issues you're seeing? What topics interest you?
- Examine the BSA website and begin researching design firms in Boston.
- Get in the habit of keeping a sketchbook, which is a visual and narrative series of reflections about things you see, hear, read about, think about-whatever inspires or interests you. This is something you'll be encouraged to do throughout your time at the BAC to help you develop and document your design thinking, and impresses upon employers that you are serious about becoming a designer.
A: Gateway Projects give students the opportunity to acquire professional skills and experience working on design projects that help make them more marketable in the field, to develop portfolio-quality work, and to engage in meaningful work with non-profits and community organizations. Students can earn Practice hours for their work on Gateway projects.
At the beginning of each semester, the Practice Department launches new Gateway projects, which take several forms. Most projects involve direct engagement between twams of students and community organization, for whom students are designing something, doing a feasibility study, or doing research. Some Gateway projects are Design Competitions, in which teams of students form mock-firms to respond to and develop entries for design competitions. All of these activities are supervised by design professionals or Practice faculty members. In some cases, students may also earn Practice hours for volunteer work.
These activities are open to all students and are structured to allow both advanced and inexperienced students the opportunity for unique and exciting Practice-based learning. The time commitments and individual projects offered each semester vary; students who are interested should watch for announcements at the beginning of the semester for the Gateway Open House, or contact the Practice Department directly.
Independent Practice projects are projects in which students can earn Practice hours for securing and completing freelance projects (renovations, remodeling, developing plans/design ideas for various individuals or companies, etc.). These projects must be overseen by a Practice faculty member, or other qualified design professional, and must be approved by the Practice Department. For more information, contact David Eccleston.
The launch of Gateway projects occurs twice a year at the Gateway Open House: at the beginning of the fall semester (August) and at the beginning of the spring semester (January).Students will be notified of the location, date, and timing of the Open House via BAC email.
The Open House provides students with the opportunity to learn about the semester's Community Projects and Design Competitions; they may also meet and speak with client representatives from nonprofit organizations involved in Community Projects and faculty who have expressed an interest in serving as supervisors on the projects. Students who are interested in becoming involved in a Gateway project during the semester must attend so that they can learn as much as possible about available projects. The Open House also provides a public forum for outstanding work from the previous round of Gateway ventures to be displayed and presented to attendees. During the evening, each student submits an application in which they outline the projects they're interested in pursuing.
Following the Open House, Practice staff review student applications and consider each student's preferred projects along with their experience, expertise, Skill Level, and needs/requests of the client, and form project teams. These teams often blend students from different disciplines and varied skill sets so that students learn from each other as well as from faculty.
Teams are announced at the Gateway Orientation, which happens a week or two after the Open House. Here, students learn who is on their team, meet their instructors, and conduct their first team meeting.
Gateway students are working on real projects for real clients. The clients have signed a Letter of Understanding with the BAC, outlining what the deliverables are for the project, and students must deliver those items at the end of the semester.Because the Practice Department, our community clients, and our instructors are committed to student learning, students' personal learning goals and goals for acquiring new skills are included in the deliverables of the semester. Students must work collaboratively on a team both to deliver the client's requested deliverables and to further their own learning, just as if they were working in a design firm.
Therefore, students learn everything from time management to group dynamics to project delivery and scheduling to design concepts to community process to how to advocate for their own learning. We expect, and support, student learning in the following areas:
Develop critical thinking, design, and collaborative leadership skillsLearn about the phases of a typical design project: planning, design, and implementation
- Understand and appreciate the operational side of architecture and project management
- Learn and hone technical skills that are needed to work in today's design firms
- Gain a cross-cultural perspective and cultivate a sensitivity to interpersonal dynamics that are vital in developing effective working relationships between designers and clients
- Learn about the human and economic impacts of alternative design solutions that are environmentally progressive and sustainable
The Practice Department considers a wide variety of factors in determining who gets placed on which team. All students, in all degree programs, and regardless of skill level, are encouraged to apply! Generally first semester undergraduate students are not accepted into the program, to allow them to get acclimated to the school.
Please see our Gateway pages for more information.