Becoming an Architect by Lee Waldrep

Book Review by Jackie Craven

Becoming an Architect, book cover of Lee W. Waldrep's first edition book
Becoming an Architect (2006) by Lee Waldrep. Image courtesy

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(Book Review of First Edition, 2006.)

What if you have an interest in building things, but you have no idea about the process? Or what if your favorite tool to carry with you is a sketchbook? Maybe you're the parent of a youngster with an intense interest in architecture, but you know nothing about how one becomes an architect? Becoming an Architect by Lee W. Waldrep is the perfect, no-nonense, in-depth book that will answer all of your questions.

In this helpful and readable guide, Dr. Waldrep channels wisdom gleaned from many years of teaching at major architecture schools in the US. "From my experiences in architecture," he writes in the Preface, "I realized I wanted to help others in their pursuit of becoming an architect." It is this personal appeal that makes the book such a success.

Topics Covered:

  • What is an architect?
  • What skills do architects need?
  • How to prepare for a career in architecture.
  • How to select a school and a program.
  • How to get the most from architecture school.
  • How to gain work experience.
  • How to prepare for licensing exams.
  • How to design a career path.
  • The future of the architecture profession.

The author updates and amends this book as needed. For example, the third edition covers changes to the Intern Development Program (IDP).

Format of Book:

Written in a lively question and answer format, the book is a compendium of interviews with 50 architects, design professionals, teachers of architecture, and students.

So, you don't have to take the author's advice by itself; there are plenty of opinions on every page.

Some of the answers are short responses to questions like What is architecture? Answers are more enlightening when the questions are practical: What are the most important skills an architect needs to be successful?  What do you look for in hiring a new designer?

It turns out that listening, communication, and problem-solving are desirable skills in the profession, but probably not formally taught in an architect's schooling.

Longer interviews with practicing architects can be all-too-real, as in this exchange with Carol Ross Barney, FAIA:

What has been your greatest challenge as an architect/principal?
Finding work.

What are your primary responsibilities and duties?
Finding work.

What is the least satisfying part of your job?
Not finding work.


More than a hundred drawings and black and white photos illustrate architectural models, plans, and completed projects from the personal files of the interviewed professionals. Although only the book's cover is in color, the page layout is interesting and attractive.


The Appendix includes listings for:

  • Professional Associations
  • Architecture Institutions
  • Community Service Organizations for Architecture
  • Recommended Reading
  • Architecture Web Sites
  • Accredited Architecture Programs in the USA and Canada

Publication History:

  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
  • First Edition: 2006
  • Second Edition: 2009
  • Third Edition: 2014

About the Author

Lee W. Waldrep, PhD, is a teacher of architecture, a career counselor, a coordinator of internships, assistant director of undergraduate student services, the original author of, and dean.

Waldrep was associate dean at the University of Maryland when the first edition of Becoming an Architect was published. Before that he had been assistant dean at the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology. Since 2009, Waldrep has been on the faculty at the Illinois School of Architecture, Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Waldrep has the credentials and expertise to help you make that difficult decision of dedicating a life to design.

More Guides to Careers in Design—Books in the Wiley Series:

  • Becoming a Landscape Architect by Kelleann Foster, 2009
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  • Becoming a Graphic Designer by Steven Heller and Teresa Fernandes, 2010
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  • Becoming an Interior Designer by Christine Piotrowski, 2008
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  • Becoming a Green Building Professional by Holley Henderson, 2012
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  • Becoming an Architect (Guide to Careers in Design) 3rd Edition by Lee Waldrep
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