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Can a Felon Become an Architect?

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When it comes to finding a job after their release from prison, felons find it challenging.  Jobs they once had are lost and careers may be gone.

Felons may think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

They will have to be creative and willing to learn a new trade or start a different career.

This is the opportunity for felons to begin a new profession.

This blog post will address the issue of whether a felon can become an architect.

  • What is an Architect?
  • What Education/Training Does an Architect Need?
  • How Much Does an Architect Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Supporting a Felon in Becoming an Architect


What is an Architect?

An architect is a person that is qualified to design and give advice about structures built on public and private landscapes.

They design construction plans for a room, house, building, or complex.  Their drawings typically include air conditioning, heating, ventilation, electrical, plumbing, and often the landscape.

The duties of an architect include:

  • Meeting with clients to determine requirements for a structure
  • Providing estimates on cost and construction time
  • Prepare scaled drawings by computer and/or hand
  • Prepare contract documents for building contractors
  • Visit worksites to ensure construction follows architectural plans

Certain skills are required to be successful as an architect:

  • Analytical skills to understand the content of a design and how each structural system fits together
  • Visualization/spatial skills to see how a structure will look after completion
  • Creativity to design a functional, safe structure
  • Communications and interpersonal skills to explain their ideas and work with clients and various trades
  • Organizational skills to keep track of materials, costs, and time on a project
  • Time management ability to maintain a strict schedule to complete a project on time


What Education/Training Does an Architect Need?

An individual who wants to become an architect must complete a professional degree in architecture, serve an internship, and pass the Architect Registration Exam.

In most states, an applicant earns a professional degree in a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program.  Many also complete a Master’s degree, which requires an additional one to five years of study.

Courses required in an architectural program include architectural history and theory, building design with an emphasis on computer-aided design (CAD), construction methods, math, and physical sciences.

In 34 states, a professional degree in architecture from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.  In the states without this regulation, someone can become licensed with 8 to 13 years of related work experience after graduating from high school.

State licensing requirements vary slightly and can be found through the National Council of Architectural Registration Board.

How Much Does an Architect Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately 113,000 licensed architects in the U.S.

This occupation is expected to show a 7% growth by 2024.

The median salary of an architect in 2015 was $76,000 annually.  This is the salary at which half of architects earned more than this and half earned less than this.  The lowest 10% earned less than $44,000 and the highest 10% earned more than $112,000.

Experience will make a difference in how much an architect earns annually.

The area of the country in which an architect works also makes a difference in their earnings.  Those on the East or West coast typically earn more than an architect that works elsewhere.

The top states for an architect’s salary are California and New York.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felon can pursue any degree they want.  While as many as 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, there is no standard policy regarding a background check in place.

Any felon wanting to get a degree can find a college that will accept them.  The challenge is in obtaining a license and a job after graduating.

A felony record will not necessarily prevent licensure as an architect.

Typically, registration for the licensing exam in most states will be disallowed for anyone convicted of a felony following completion of an architectural program.

A check with the National Council of Architectural Registration Board in the state in which a felon wants to work as an architect is recommended for specific information.

An individual sent to prison for failure to complete parole or community supervision, will be disqualified from the licensing exam.  No one who is currently in prison may register for the exam.

An individual may be disqualified from the exam for committing a felony considered to be related to the practice of architecture, including:

  • Criminal negligence
  • Soliciting, offering, giving, or receiving a bribe
  • Unauthorized use of property, funds, or information of a client or employer
  • Any act related to malicious acquisition or releasing of confidential information involved in rendering professional services
  • Any act of fraud or deceptive business practices

A conviction for any offense unrelated to the practice of architecture during the five-year period immediately prior to registering for the exam can result in disqualification from taking it.

A conviction for any of the following serious, violent offenses regardless of when they were committed will prevent a felon from taking the exam:

  • Murder
  • Capital murder
  • Indecency with a child
  • Sexual performance by a child
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Offenses related to controlled substances committed in or near a school, school bus, playground, or youth center
  • Felony injury to a child
  • Use of a deadly weapon during a felony offense
  • Burglary committed with the intent to commit a felony sexual offense

A provisional license may be granted to an individual who is otherwise qualified for registration for the exam through education and experience.  Anyone who has been convicted of an offense unrelated to the practice of architecture more than five years prior to the date of application for the exam and not included as a serious or violent offense as listed above can obtain a provisional license.

If criminal charges were dismissed or under deferred adjudication, the Board will not consider the offense as a conviction unless the Board determines the person poses a threat to public safety or registration would provide an opportunity to repeat the offense.

It is important to be honest in filling out an application for licensing.  If a felony isn’t disclosed but found on doing a background check, this constitutes fraud and is a punishable crime.

For anyone considering not being honest about their felony, it is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in their pursuit of an architectural license, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. Lying about their conviction will prevent them from becoming an architect.

They are already working with the often negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

There are many success stories, as the Guide to Being Employed, reveals, showing how having a goal, commitment, dedication, and perseverance can assist felons in achieving their dream.

There are re-entry programs, such as drug treatment, and educational opportunities.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming an architect.

Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Felons have been shown to make good employees.

Supporting a Felon in Becoming an Architect

For families of felons wanting to pursue a dream of becoming an architect, encourage your loved one and support their efforts to live an honest life, change their lifestyle, and keep their dreams alive.

They have made mistakes and been incarcerated, but they have paid the consequences for their past actions.  They are not defined by their crime.

It is time for them to move forward and live an honest life.

Encourage them to find out if they qualify to have their record expunged.  Having their record expunged will qualify a felon to be able to take the architect licensing exam.

Your family member is worth making the effort for, if they are sincere in their desire to become an architect.

Help them realize their ambition no matter how difficult the road might be.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become an architect with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

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