This brief introduction to the Intern Development Program (IDP) is geared to students of Cal Poly’s Bachelor of Architecture program. Some information presented here may not apply to students in other architecture programs or in other states.
To our students: The IDP guidelines are quite complex and ever changing, and so we strongly urge you to consult the NCARB website frequently for more detailed and up-to-date information. Please see the end of this webpage for the contact information for NCARB as well as other resources available to you.
The work architects do is complex. Design problems have unique circumstances and require tailor-made solutions. They also involve a lot of money and affect the lives and safety of clients and the public. So, as for doctors and lawyers, the law requires that architects receive special education and training, and that they prove their worthiness through an examination process before earning a license to practice.
For you at Cal Poly wishing to practice in California, this trio – of education, experience, and examination – translates into:
Your internship is done under the framework of the Intern Development Program (IDP), a program required by every jurisdiction in the U.S. for those wanting to become licensed architects.
The program is highly structured to ensure that you receive a broad range of experiences as an intern, are exposed to many different aspects of the profession, and become well prepared for your career as an architect.
Who runs IDP? The program is run the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), an organization based in Washington DC.
NCARB is comprised of representatives of the architectural registration boards of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the three U.S. territories. The authority to license architects is actually vested in these boards individually; there is no “American license,” and you must get a license in every jurisdiction where you want to practice. These boards serve to protect the public interest by maintaining professional standards and, if need be, disciplining architects or others who breach them. In California, the name of the board is the California Architects Board (CAB).
NCARB’s role is to create common standards for each US jurisdiction to use in its licensing requirements, including the guidelines for IDP. These common standards facilitate architects’ ability to practice in different states.
What Does IDP Require? The program requires that you accumulate 5,600 “experience hours” (equivalent to about two years, eight months of full-time work) in four broad categories of professional practice. These are further divided into subcategories with minimum numbers of hours in each one.
Where Can I Get IDP Credit? You may do your internship in any variety of possible “work settings,” with at least one year under the direct supervision of a licensed US architect.
Many other experiences may count for IDP credit: for example, doing certain types of work for a building contractor or for a city-planning agency. You may also get IDP credit for experiences outside of a traditional office: entering a design competition, volunteering for certain non-profit organizations, getting a graduate degree in architecture or a related field, and so on. Go tothe NCARB webpage, Experience Through Internship, for a description of the kinds of traditional and non-traditional work settings that are eligible for IDP credit.
Note, however, that a critical aspect of the more traditional type of internship you undertake is that it be for at least 15 hours a week for a minimum of eight weeks. It must also be a paid position, though working for free for certain non-profit organizations (such as Habitat for Humanity) is exempt from this requirement. The organizations must be pre-approved by NCARB in order for you to get the credit.
When Can I Start? You can sign up for IDP as soon as you are enrolled in Cal Poly’s architectural program. If you have been working in a firm after graduating from high school, perhaps in the summer before entering Cal Poly, you can also sign up and start accumulating hours.
How does IDP work in practice? Once you sign up with NCARB and are in an eligible work setting, you record your hours through an on-line system. To ensure the credibility of the program, these hours must be approved by someone with direct knowledge of your experience; in most cases, this will be your supervisor at the firm where you work.
How Often Do I Have To Record My Hours? NCARB has implemented a “six-month rule,” which requires that you record your hours in six-month increments with a two-month grace period. If you neglect to record your hours in a timely manner, you may lose them. There are certain exemptions to this rule – such as for a pregnancy or for military service – but they are few.
In any event, this six-month rule ensures that the information you provide NCARB is reliable. Moreover, recording hours regularly protects you from the possibility of losing hours. For example, if it turns out the kind of work you’re doing is in fact not eligible for credit, it would be better to know this sooner rather than later. That said, you can certainly record hours more frequently than every six months if you wish.
How Much Does IDP Cost? As of December 2012, the cost is $350, but for current students and recent graduates this fee may be split into two payments: $100 at sign-up and the remainder to be paid when you start taking the Architectural Record Examination (the multi-part licensing exam), presumably sometime after you graduate. If you’ve graduated from Cal Poly more than six months ago, you must pay the full $350.
In years past, private donors at Cal Poly have contributed money to help defray the initial sign-up costs to current students; look for announcements at the top of this page to see if any stipends are currently available.
This is a two-step process.
Step One. Go to the NCARB website and create your account, what NCARB calls your record, and establish a username and password. Once you have paid the initial fee, you will get your NCARB record number via return email.
Step Two. The next step depends on your status: whether you’re a current student at Cal Poly, a graduate, or an entering high-school student currently working in an office.
What’s the Advantage of Starting an Internship Now, while I’m in School? There are several advantages: You’ll reduce the overall length of your “path to practice;” you can put the experience on your resume, and thereby increase your marketability for work after graduation; and finally, you’ll be able to put your academic education into a wider context.
Can I Get IDP Credit For Participating In Cal Poly’s Off-Campus Co-Op And Professional Studios? Yes, you can get academic and IDP credit simultaneously. Again, the only requirement for the internship is that you work at least 15 hours a week for a minimum of eight weeks – and are paid.
Do I Have To Do All 5,600 Hours In One “Work Setting?” No, not at all. It’s quite usual that interns will work in several offices and locations, accruing hours in different work settings. For example, you might work 15 hours a week for a firm in San Luis Obispo during the school year, then go home to Los Angeles for the summer and get a job with a firm there. All of the hours you work in both firms would potentially count towards IDP.
If I Move To Another State After Graduation, Will I Have To Start IDP Over Again? No. NCARB serves as the central record-keeper for all of the jurisdictions in the U.S. Wherever you do your internships and however many internships you do, if you log them, NCARB will keep track of them. In this way, you will never “lose” your hours.
Who Can Advise Me During My Internship? In addition to having a supervisor (the person approving your hours), you are also encouraged to have a mentor, someone outside your work setting who can advise you separately on your internship and career path. The mentor can be anyone you trust, though the preferred candidate would be someone in the profession or close to it: a favorite teacher here, a relative who’s an architect, a former employer, and so forth.
Please see the next section for a list of other advisors and resources where you can find out more information.
On campus, four people are available to advise you: the IDP Faculty Coordinator, Mark Cabrinha; the two auxiliary coordinators, Kent Macdonald and Greg Wynn; and finally, the IDP Student Coordinator, Jessica Labac. Off-campus, you can write to the IDP¹s State Coordinator, Stephanie Silkwood, a 2008 graduate of Cal Poly.
Cal Poly’s IDP Faculty Coordinator: Mark Cabrinha
Email: email@example.com Phone: (805) 756-1316
Cal Poly’s IDP Student Coordinator: Jessica Labac (4th-year student)
State IDP Coordinator (California): Stephanie Silkwood, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP
RMW Architecture & Interiors, 40 South Market Street, Suite 4, San Jose, CA 95113
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (408) 755-3112
Following is the contact information for NCARB, the organization that runs IDP, develops other standards for licensure in the 54 jurisdictions of the U.S., and also develops the Architectural Record Examination you must take as part of the “path to practice.”
National Council of Architectural Review Boards (NCARB)
1801 K Street NW, Suite 700K Washington, DC 20006-1310
Phone: (202) 879-0520 Fax: (202) 783-0290
Following is the contact information for the California Architects Board, the government agency that is in charge of licensing architects in California. As noted earlier, every jurisdiction in the U.S. has a similar board; if you’re an out-of state student, and you intend to practice in your home state, you should contact the board in that state.