Focus on: The Process to Registration – An Architect’s Insight
Becoming a registered architect in Australia is no simple path, it takes days – and nights – of study and dedication to reach a level of professional independence. However, this level of independence is required if one is wanting to manage their own projects from inception to completion. So, what exactly does this process look like? Architectural Graduate, Mahreen Mahmud, shares with us her experience and how the Taylors team came together as one to assist.
What is the process that you have to go through to get your registration with the Architecture Registration Board?
Basically, in Australia to be working as an Architect you are required to have a Bachelors degree in Architecture which is a three year course followed by a two year Masters. From there you work with a registered Architect for 3,300 hours, which is equivalent to two and a half years.
Whilst working under the Architect you are required to complete a logbook – kind of like logging all the works you’ve done under the architect – and then you present it to the Architects Registration Board. If they’re happy with the scope of projects completed, they will then ask you to sit for a written exam, and then if you pass then you have another round of interviews with registered architects, if you pass that, only then can you register as an architect in Australia.
And how did your individual process differ from this?
In my case, I completed my Bachelors degree in my home country of Bangladesh where any Bachelors in architecture is five years long so, I was capable of registering as an architect in Bangladesh at that point. When I came to Australia, I still did a two-year Masters so I spent seven years in university getting an Architecture degree. After my years of Architecture study, I’ve worked at Taylors since August 2015, and in the three years I’ve worked under Tamara, she has helped me with the registration process as my registered Architect mentor. The hours that I’ve worked have been recorded in my logbook which was approved and then I got to sit for the exam and then the interview.
She also helped me run through all the projects, because within three years, you’re supposed to know every single project phase – sometimes it goes through town planning, sometimes it goes through working drawings, sometimes it goes to construction, but over the last three years we have dealt with projects more in town planning and construction phase and not tender phase. So, that was a lacking that I had, but Tamara took out extra time and ran me through projects that she handled as part of Taylors when they were being tendered, she did a run-down of those processes with me which helped me in the interview.
Was there any extra help offered to get you through everything you needed to know?
In Australia – especially in Victoria – to prepare you for this written exam and interview process, there is a special class where they train you on more contract administration, because there’s all this legislation that you need to know to work as an Architect and it’s all there in the Australian Registration Boards documents called Acumen. The purpose of that course is to not feel so overwhelmed by the requirements. I’ve gone through that course once a week for two hours in the city, and I used to go there after work from 6 – 8pm in the city, and that’s the course that helped me understand what you do in offices, why do we need a contract, how do you administer a contract between a builder and an Architect. All this time, I’ve known those things, but I didn’t know the significance of them. Plus, it’s a networking situation because all the other students like me are coming in to the exam and are as confused as me, so you feel like you’re not the only whose lost, there are others going through the same feeling.
What needs to be mentioned throughout this entire process, is that Tamara and William were already registered here, and they thought it would be a great opportunity for me to share my learnings from the course among my colleagues here. So, I would go to that course every Tuesday night, and Wednesday lunch hour everyone from my team would assemble and have lunch together and I would share whatever I have learnt with them. It was kind of like a revision session as well, so, that really helped me because whatever was in my head I kind of gave it out to them and I would ask them questions and that made me learn more. After, the written exam was done, Tamara arranged for mock interview sessions for me as part of Taylors. She herself has gone through this so she thought that it would be a clever idea to run through projects inhouse and have a mock interview for me, which helped in boosting my confidence for the true interview.
I think everyone shared their experiences during those lunch break sessions and it helped me so much. Even Justin who has been working here for eleven years has handled projects in different phases, and he shared his knowledge which was helpful. It was like everyone helping me out during that process.
Let’s talk about the legality of the registration, does this provide you with opportunities to be in charge of more tasks?
The difference between a registered architect and an unregistered practitioner is, once you’re registered with the board, you can call yourself an Architect. My role right now is Architectural Graduate, so where in other professions – Engineers or Planners – the moment they complete their degree, they can be referred to as Engineers or Planners, but for us we can’t call ourselves Architects until we get registered. As an Architect, you’re kind of like a project manager, you’re with the projects from the start to the end, managing the budget of the client, to having a tender process, to doing inspections during construction, to seeing if the drawings marry up. As an Architect you wear different hats at different points; one point you’re a designer, one point where there is a conflict between the builder and the designer you’re resolving the problems.
Therefore, you have more liabilities as well, therefore it’s important to be registered, and to have insurance, because you’re taking all this responsibility. The Architect is the person who liaises with all the consultants and makes sure the project is being completed in line with all the information provided. Builders have their risks too, they’re building the property, but Architects communicate between all the professionals and consultants. This registration process helped me understand what my responsibilities and how you safeguard yourself in the process within your rights.
Right now, Tamara is a registered architect and she handles all the client liaisons and all the consultant liaisons as well. By having more registered architects in the team, it makes each of us more responsible of a project. It’s about helping out and taking part of the responsibilities from the manager if you are registered to do so. Being registered, I can run things more independently, whereas in the past, everything needs to go through her. From the moment you’re registered you can run those independent decisions yourself.
So now that you’ve gone through this process, what does this mean for your career?
Professionally, this is the most I needed to do to be accredited, now moving forward I can see myself running projects independently and go more toward the management side, whereas design and drafting you can do without being registered. It will help me gain management experience, as I can go to site inspections, and write my own reports. I hope I can help Taylors by being more independent and running things on my own. From a career point of view, I’ll have to become independent and manage stakeholders and clients which will in the long run will only further my expertise.
I had to study so much, I had to go back to classes, and I think it has inspired my team because two of them have decided to go back to doing classes, they want to sit the exam in the coming year. So, what I tell them is, following up on all that we do in the office, you should do classes and network, so you can learn from others as well, because there are different offices managing different projects.
Any final words for fellow architectural graduates who want to move further in their career?
There’s no substitute to working hard I think, I’ve done seven years of school and I’ve gone back to study recently and I study four to five days of the week, 20 hours per week. So, my weekends, I would study. You must be mentally prepared to take this on and people have to be ready to accept this challenge. If you’re a graduate, if you’ve done the course, you should get yourself registered because it helps you become more independent, it helps you move up the ladder and someday you might be able to have your own office if that’s what you want.
For me, being the first to get the ball rolling and get someone registered at this office, I had to explain to the directors how this process works and the help I would need, and they were very helpful throughout the process. If you’re the first one, you must do things differently, but for others who go through the process there is now an example for them to follow. I think, it was an interesting journey, it was challenging but I have learned so much, and I think those learnings are something I really value.