Work vs. School

Part of MPA’s philosophy is to encourage the ongoing education and training of its employees. To that end, the firm is extremely supportive of its many Boston Architectural College (BAC) students. Going to school and working full time is quite a challenging feat. Vivienne and Saul discuss below the pros and cons, benefits and challenges.

Working and going to school at the same time is challenging, but exciting. I won’t lie, sometimes I feel like I’m in quick sand and have to design something to get myself out. But the pros far outweigh the cons.

I started at the Boston Architectural College at age 18, right out of high school. Getting a full time job at 19 years old in an architectural firm was a massive wake up call for me. Now, I’ve been at the BAC almost 6 years. I have 2 internships and the experience of working in 2 architectural firms under my belt. I have a great job at MPA and can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel (for school).

There are a ton of pros and cons to working full time while going to school full time. I love that I can bring my work experience to school, and bring the things I learn in school to work.  With all this experience, I am missing the typical “college life.”  While my college friends party all night, I sit staring at a model I started 12 hours ago. But like anything else, you have to learn how to handle it.  I do see myself as being a little more mature then some of my friends, and I am definitely in a better financial situation than most.  I have been able to move out and pay my own bills without my parents help. It has taught me a lot of life skills that many college students won’t figure it out until they are older.

Another downside is the day to day stress: there is never enough time in a day. Aside from the typical 40-hour work week (not including a daily 2-hour commute), I have 9 hours of school time, 27 hours of homework, and about 56 hours of sleep (that’s IF I get 8 hours each night). This leaves me with 21 hours of free time, to make plans with my family, try and eat when I can, try and live a healthy life style, and have a miniscule social life (I don’t have time to get sick or injured). I don’t get much time to concentrate on myself. But I work around it and keep my head up, looking forward. I know it will be worth it in the long run!!

Wherever you go, architecture school isn’t easy. But it is greatly beneficial to work and go to school at the same time because (A.) students have more experience in the work force at a younger age and (B.) students have many more work hours under their belt to get there architectural license, which I am excited to conquer.

Designing, creativity and imagination has always been a big part of my life growing up, and although I have so many priorities in my life right now, in a year and a half I will be able to look past that and, at 25, be able to travel and start exploring new things. At the end of the day, I enjoy what I do. Like everything else in life, working and going to school simultaneously has its ups and downs, but “success is a journey not a destination,” and I am learning every step of the way!!

Working full-time during the day and going to school full-time during the evening has its benefits and challenges no matter what field is being studied.  Living in Boston affords the unique opportunity to allow this form of education for the field of Architecture through the BAC.  For the past :mumble: years I have been slowly working my way through a professional Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) at the BAC.  The B.Arch is officially 7 ½ years long, though the school’s own statistics show that the majority of students complete it in 8-10 years, and it requires a combination of tenacity and determination to complete.

The traditional Architecture student will spend five years in school and graduate with only limited practical experience.  Traditional students are also required to have an additional three years of work experience before being able to complete their licensing exams.  The BAC’s concurrent work/practice program not only assists students in gaining the critical first 3-5 years of experience but also allows them to sit for the exams soon after graduation, having already completed 7 or more years of architectural practice.

I was lucky to find a position at MPA in 2005 and have been able to move my way up through the company as my skills increased through the classes I’ve taken and the work I’ve been given in the job. MPA is an amazing environment in which to work while completing my education at the BAC because part of its philosophy is to encourage the growth and development of its employees.  I’ve also been lucky to find a number of BAC graduates here who have been able to offer supportive advice and understanding ears when the inevitable stresses of work and school occur.

The tradeoffs of the concurrent program are not easy.  During a school semester there is limited time to socialize or do much that isn’t work or school related.  However for a non-traditional college student, someone with a family or someone who is returning to school after many years away, the ability to work and go to school at the same time is often a requirement.  The BAC is still the only architectural program that not only acknowledges the importance of both academics and practice but actually requires them for successful completion of the program.

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