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How achievable is it to open up my own architecture firm?

Asked Cottage Grove, Minnesota

I am a woman who plans on being a licensed architect with a Master's degree, and also plans to have a home and children. How difficult would it be to open my own firm? How will debt come in to the equation, and how long would it take? #architecture #architect #architecture-and-planning #math #physics #mathematical-physics

1 answer

Catherine’s Answer

Updated California, California

It is quite achievable. It also depends on what kind of architecture you plan on doing. For single family residential and up to 5 units, you do not need a license. If you plan on doing more than 5 unit housing and commercial work, you will need your license. What state are you in? There are a few states that require additional testing for the area. California is one of them. There is also something called the intern development program where you track areas you need to work in to be able to start taking your exams. Its been over 10 years since I started my journey, so you will need to check to see how much school and work is required before you are eligible to start taking your exams. The intern development program will have you exposed to a firm and the process of getting a project from design to construction. You are taught the project management required for this. BUT owning your own firm has business related to it. Being business savvy is a HUGE plus because schools don't really teach this at all. I worked for a coworker who went out on his own after working in firms for 7+ years or so. A lot of time and late nights were definitely a part of his work day. I left his firm after 5 years and its been almost 8 and he is up to 5-7 people in his firm now. It is achievable!

Catherine recommends the following next steps:

  • Think about what kind of architecture you would like to do. Like I said, if you only want to do single family residential and up to 5 housing units, you can do this without a license.
  • If you plan on getting your license, find firms that resonate with your design style and keep track of them to see if they have openings for people at your experience level. AIA is a great website to find jobs.
  • Take business classes! Like I said, architecture school is not heavy in the business side. You will need to know how to run it. Marketing, profit and loss etc.
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