Skip to Header Skip to main content Skip to footer

The Boston Architectural College is Building Careers

Students are accelerating their careers through The Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) program—allowing them to jump directly from graduation to work as a licensed architect.


Date Posted

May 18, 2022

For More Info

communications@the-bac.edu

Categories

NewsCampus and CommunityPractice FirmsStudent Life

Source

Michael Blanding

Fulfilling a dream to become a licensed architect can be an arduous process. First, students must earn a degree from an accredited school; then, they have to complete 3,740 hours practicing under a licensed architect; and finally, they are required to pass exams in six different practice areas. “All of that is very hard on people,” says Mark Rukamathu, faculty and Director of Special Projects at The Boston Architectural School (BAC). “On average it takes 12.8 years from the time somebody starts school to when they become a licensed architect.”

Mark Rukamathu speaks in front of a class
Full-time faculty member Mark Rukamathu speaking about IPAL and the architectural licenser process.

Making matters worse, Mark adds, in most cases, the state licensing laws do not allow students to take exams while earning their degree, but require them to figure out how to complete them on their own after graduation. “Especially if they have special circumstances, such as a family, achieving all of these requirements within a timely fashion can be very difficult.”

To respond to those demands, the BAC has implemented the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL), an accelerated program that allows students to earn their practice hours and take their exams while attending school, so they can apply for their architecture license upon graduation. The BAC joined the program in 2015, one of a small number of schools initially accepted by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), and still only one of a limited number of schools nationwide to offer the program. Since launching it seven years ago, the BAC has graduated nine IPAL students—more than any other architecture school in the country.

The reason for its success, says Mark, is the BAC’s structure as a concurrent education institution, which allows students to work professionally at the same time they take classes and studios. “We want you to work while you are going to school, and we provide the support to do that,” he says. “So students get the experience they need and are able to take exams much sooner.” The IPAL graduates come from all walks of life and types of work, but they are united by a desire to work hard while at school so they can start building their careers more quickly.

Joshua Thompson

M.Arch'21 Online | IPAL Graduate


When Joshua Thompson was growing up in rural Tennessee, he used to go to Walmart all the time to get graph-paper pads, and then start sketching designs for houses. “Even in third grade, I would draw house plans for my family, and my friends, and their families—everyone had a house design,” he remembers. “I was just so interested in creating spaces for people to inhabit.”

Joshua Thompson profile
Joshua Thompson, M.Arch'21

Joshua continued to draft houses in high school and in college while he earned a construction management degree at Eastern Tennessee State; after graduation, he became a drafter and project manager for St. John Engineering in rural Coffee County, not far from his hometown. But Joshua still dreamed of being the person who designed buildings, not just helping to build them.

After working there for nine years, the firm’s owner approached him about possibly taking over the firm, and Joshua jumped at the chance—but there was only one problem. There were no programs where he could get licensed as an architect anywhere near where he lived. “Where I live is really rural—there are like 10,000 people,” he says. “There are only about three certified programs in Tennessee, and they are all really far away.” Then Joshua heard about The Boston Architectural College’s online program, where he could both earn a degree and become licensed through the IPAL program. “The program just stuck out from all the others,” he says. Joshua began visiting Boston for 10-day intensive programs during each semester, and took classes the rest of the time online, while continuing to work for the engineering firm.

He developed a schedule to work four 10-hour days at the company, and then study and work on studio projects for the other three days. “It was not uncommon for me to be working on something in my office as a project manager—like some kind of contractual or payment issues—and then go to class and learn about the same thing,” he says. “I was able to take that experience and apply it the next morning.” Halfway through the program, the intensives moved online due to COVID-19 pandemic, but Joshua says the BAC did a good job of keeping the studio culture alive in an online environment. “In reality, some of the relationships I've built among my peers will be lifelong,” he says.

Joshua's student work depicting the outer view of a building he designed
Joshua Thompson, M.Arch'21, Thesis project

Joshua admits it wasn’t easy to work a full-time job, complete projects for his classes, and study for exams all during the same time. At one point, he remembers, he had to perform an upgrade on his computer, and it gave him an estimate on when his computer was active during the day. “It was 6am to 12am, and I was like, yeah, that’s about right,” he says with a laugh. “But I had wanted to be an architect for so long, and now for whatever reason the stars aligned, so it was just a pure drive to get it done.”

For his thesis, Joshua focused on his love for animals and nature. He had grown up visiting his grandparents on their farm, and now has three dogs at home himself. When his grandmother recently moved into a condo association without a yard, he took in her dog as well, an event that got him thinking about a possible new kind of animal shelter. “I created a new typology that allowed animals to roam the space as they pleased, and partnered it with a retirement home,” he explains. “So the people who were living there were able to interact with the dogs, and benefit emotionally, physically, and spiritually.”

Joshua Thompson, M.Arch'21, Thesis project

After graduating last fall, he was able to pass his exams and gain his architecture license in Tennessee, playing a leading role in designing new projects at his firm as he moved into a position of ownership. “It has definitely elevated my position and given me a ton of confidence to be able to walk into a meeting and say, I am an architect, I deserve to be at this table,” he says.

A community-minded spirit infuses much of the company’s work, which includes recent and ongoing projects for daycare centers, religious facilities, and a library expansion. “I’m excited to be able to offer my community professional design services that were not necessarily available before,” Joshua says. “I’m now one of only three architects in the county I grew up in. It feels great that I didn’t have to move away, but that I can continue working in my hometown and better the community.”

Date Posted

May 18, 2022

For More Info

communications@the-bac.edu

Categories

NewsCampus and CommunityPractice FirmsStudent Life

Source

Michael Blanding