RIBA Professional Education and Development Record (PEDR)

Guidance on working in architectural practice

The purpose of this guide is to answer some frequently asked questions about working in architectural practice.


What is the prime purpose of professional experience?

Stage 1
(experience undertaken any time between the start of a Part 1 course and the start of a Part 2 course)

Stage 2
(experience undertaken any time from the start of a Part 2 course up until taking Part 3)

Above all, remember that professional experience is intended to be practical and technical rather than purely creative. It is intended to supply graduates with skills that they will need as architects to realise their designs.

Stage 1 - to determine if architecture is the right career; to apply some theory to practice, to then take back to theory for Part 2.

Stage 2 - to apply all theory from Part 2 to practice; to prepare for Part 3 exam. As the Part 3 qualification entitles architects to set up in practice and run client's projects, then, by the end of the Stage 2 experience, graduates ought to be able to run a small project with minimal supervision.

What kind of practice should I apply to?

A small practice may be more likely to offer "hands on" experience at both Stages 1& 2. However, projects likely to be smaller/ simpler and graduates may be asked to take on responsibility for which they are inadequately prepared.

Medium to large practices may offer better experience of office-based systems/ procedures. Check to see whether the large office is divided into small design teams.

Large practices may offer experience on larger projects but of smaller scope. Graduates' roles may be more observational as they will be part of a larger team.

What experience can a specialised practice offer me?

A specialised practice may be able to offer a more in-depth experience, with observation and participation in that specialisation.

Graduates should check whether the experience will be suitable for Part 3, e.g. practice specialising in overseas work is unlikely to offer overseas travel to graduates, and they may have problems gaining the necessary on-site experience.

Will I have the chance to design? There is a need for graduates to understand that they are unlikely to be unleashed on a major design in the office. However, they will learn that there is an element of design in detailing - which will be offered. Graduates may be asked to design small components of a project - furniture, railings, etc. Remember - design in an office has to be produced according to a resources programme - there may not be as much time as graduates are used to from university! Graduates should look to participate in development of concept sketches and detailing.
Which conditions of employment apply? Conditions should be the same as other employees plus study leave as outlined by PEDR.
The RIBA provides a model/ template employment contract for use by employers at Stage 1&2.
Salary as RIBA recommendations at Stage 1 and as defined in the Chartered Practice Requirements.
Will I be able to take Part 3 with just 24 months experience? It is possible, depending on the experience gained, and whether graduates have previously worked in the sector. However, it is very common to take two or more Stage 2 years prior to sitting the exam. This is because often the most useful source of experience can be gained from following a project through the entire production information and construction phases. However, many students find it useful to take two or more years of Stage 2 experience in order to fully prepare for the Part 3 exam.
What sort of project should I be working on to gain the most valuable experience?

A project which is likely to provide best overall spread of types of experience.

Ideally see a project through all RIBA work stages, although this is likely that you will only be involved in some of the stages. It is important to gain experience in the latter stages.

Some schools advise on the kinds of projects that are most suitable for production of a Part 3 case study, and you could discuss this further with your PSA.

Part 3 courses tend to concentrate on JCT contracts as a model for understanding how building contracts operate. Graduates are likely to encounter a number of alternative contracts in use. To work on a project using other contracts may broaden graduates' experience, and in any case, graduates will have to study a contract in more depth for the exam than they would be able to simply through the project experience.

Will a design-build project offer suitable experience for Part 3? Many projects now take the design build procurement route. This would be valid for the case study, but the school course content should supplement the professional experience. In addition, practices may offer additional experience in the form of an observing role on another project in the office. Graduates should consult their PSA.