Report unpaid architecture
internships, says RIBA

| 17 comments

RIBA president Angela Brady

News: the Royal Institute of British Architects has called on students to report companies offering unpaid architecture internships and said it "deplores any architects treating students this way".

RIBA president Angela Brady (above) reminded architects operating under the institute's charter that they are required to pay student interns and said all architecture companies should follow suit.

"The rest of the profession should feel honour bound to follow this example and pay architectural students for their hard work," she said. "While it is legal for employers not to pay students for up to 3 months, it is certainly not good practice and risks devaluing our profession."

RIBA chartered practices are required to pay interns who are working to complete their Professional Education and Development Record (PEDR). UK architecture students must log a minimum of 24 months' work under the direct supervision of a qualified architect before they can themselves qualify as an architect.

Brady said:  "I urge any student working unpaid towards their PEDR, within an RIBA Chartered Practice, to contact the RIBA with their concerns."

On Twitter, Brady also called for the word "intern" to be dropped. She tweeted: "Work is work and pay is pay: Lets drop this word "INTERN" it was never part of architecture. It implies exploitation to me? What you think?" The term "intern" has no legal status in the UK.

RIBA said it had received reports of architects breaking the rule. "It is disappointing and worrying to hear of reports of architectural students taking unpaid internships in architecture," said the institute in a statement.  "The RIBA deplores any architects treating students this way".

Dezeen has recently come under fire for offering unpaid editorial internships. Yesterday we announced that we are ending unpaid internships and introducing a new, paid programme.

Here is the statement from the RIBA:


It is disappointing and worrying to hear of reports of architectural students taking unpaid internships in architecture.  The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) deplores any architects treating students this way; it is a requirement for all RIBA Chartered Practices to pay interns who are working towards their Professional Education and Development Record (PEDR).

Before any architectural practice is accepted as an RIBA Chartered Practice it is required to sign a declaration stating that they will ensure that at least statutory minimum wage is paid to all architectural students employed within the practice, where the work undertaken is eligible to count towards the students PEDR. Over time, and as the economy improves the RIBA wishes to see the statutory amount paid to students rise above the national minimum wage. All RIBA Chartered Practices are required to sign this declaration each year they remain part of the scheme.

To verify this policy, the RIBA undertakes a random annual audit of 5% of its 3,200 UK Chartered Practices. In addition to the declaration and audit, if the RIBA has reason to suspect a Chartered Practice is not fulfilling the criteria they have signed up to, then it is committed to fully investigate any claims of a breach. Chartered Practice suspension is automatically evoked, pending further investigation, once a complaint is received.

  • http://architecture-apprentice.tumblr.com A.A.

    Yet Dezeen regularly advertise expenses only architectural internships on their Dezeen Jobs page.

  • kyle

    The AIA should be doing this as well. You will have many defending the practice, saying “no one forces you to work for free”. What unpaid internships do is they create an environment for the privileged and not an environment that nurtures the hardest working and brightest talent. It reduces the quality and compensation for our entire industry. Ultimately it is a race to the bottom.

  • Tom Gregory

    Well, my particular view on this subject and probably that of many other architectural students struggling to find work, let alone get paid for it, is that Angela Brady and the whole of the RIBA need to realise how difficult the situation is for students wanting to further their education and career in architecture.

    On one hand, we need a minimum of 3-6 months logged in a PEDR record before we can undertake a postgraduate masters degree. On the other hand, the industry is slowly picking up but is in a miserable state, meaning that practices are struggling to find work to keep their staff afloat and being paid. They cannot provide an intern with work as they do not have it, let alone pay them.

    So the position that people like myself are in is that we are willing to work for free to log those hours towards the 24 months and get back into education. Even prove ourselves to the company, hopefully waiting for a position to become available or use the experience towards been more attractive to employeers. Even in some cases auction of our skills to practices or clients on Ebay as people have previously done.

    What I believe the RIBA and universities need to do is provide students who are going into placement years with more information regarding becoming employed and not just throwing you out of the door with a degree. Maybe they should review the academic process of becoming an architect, because it is not going to get better any time soon and the longer we are away from the subject of architecture, the further we become enrolled in a job that most of us do not enjoy and share a similar passion with as we do architecture.

    My situation for example is I graduated in 2010. Since then I have had three interviews from applying for 100s of positions. I am currently working in a practice in Italy as I have had to look outside of the UK for work.

    Rant over!

    • Matt

      How exactly do you provide more information about getting employed? We are taught to present our work well and in some cases workshops in designing our CV. Compare this with a graduate from a more academic course and I think we are doing quite well.

  • Lisa

    The UK is particularly bad with unpaid internships. It is getting to a ridiculous point now. I have never heard any of my fellow students getting paid for their internships. The only reason they are able to undertake unpaid internships is because of their generous parents paying for their living expenses.

    Out of principle, I will never work for free. If I put my time and effort into something, naturally, I should be paid for it. As I am less experienced and skilled than fully qualified architects I do accept the fact that I would be paid less – but paid nevertheless.

    Best to leave the sinking island of Great Britain anyway. I have realised that this country is rather backwards. You can enjoy better housing, better transport means and generally a better quality of life in other parts of the world. Not to be forgotten: the non-existence of class system. Deliberating!

  • mecs

    What about young graduates who just finished their masters and get paid the salary of an intern? Who will take their part? They are not students any more, and yet they are treated as such.

  • mecs

    Still, students would only do that unpaid internship for three to six months and then they’d get back to school in order to become architects. Once they are young graduates of a masters degree they would get paid the salary of an intern. So I wonder who will take their part then? And which one of these situations is more alarming?

  • Caleb Crawford

    If the intern is working on work for which the firm is getting paid, s/he should be compensated. If the work is on research, competitions, conceptual work, the question of compensation is murkier. These pursuits which contribute to the culture of architecture are important pursuits for which there is rarely any funding. Our rule has been that if any of these pursuits ultimately pay off, we pay up.

  • leo

    The working environment for the young architect across the world is uniformly ridiculous. How did the industry come from the heights of the past to being the joke that it is today?

    ‘Interns’ should be paid for the hard work and time that they put in for an architectural practice regardless of what category of work it is, be it research, drafting or competition. it is a known risk an architectural practice takes at this stage of a project, but they take the risk not for the ‘greater good of humanity’ but ultimately for the possibility of a profit. Therefore the interns contributing should be rewarded for their efforts with MONEY, not just a free lunch or a pat on the back.

    There is absolutely no incentive to pursue a career in architecture; work/life balance is non-existent, employment rates are horrible, university education is completely ignorant of what occurs in reality and is taught by academics who live within the hefty pockets of the university. Thus graduates can make beautiful collages that express spatial qualities but fail to actually understand how to draft or understand the construction process.

    Sure, you may say ‘Do it for the passion!’, ‘It’s so rewarding!’ or ‘Every career is hard at the start.’ But I just can’t see the light at the end of the architectural tunnel. There’s no ladder to climb, no opportunities for growth, the pay is less than a waiter or a bartender, the limits it imposes on one’s personal life are laughable and ultimately I just don’t know what the reward is.

    My peers laugh at me for working for a developer by calling me a sell-out who made a lifestyle choice, and I just wonder ‘are you f**king out of your mind?’ You work to live and not the other way around. Essentially I feel it’s the root of the problem. Architects forget that it’s about the people and not the building – the architecture is only a shell to facilitate the daily interactions of life, and that is the most important thing!

    Unfortunately this is old news and I just need to rant but the architectural profession is in trouble and the problem lies with the educational system not understanding the economical and physical impracticality of theoretical paper architecture, and the national architectural associations not fighting for the rights of this profession.

    Architecture sort your shit out and get your head outta your ass. I’m done with it.

    • Lisa

      Well said. I feel like my education is permeated with the idea that the designs should be as original and crazy as possible in order to get attention and praise. But the praise will only come from people who are within the architectural world themselves and not from the general public who wouldn’t really give a crap about the symbolism of ex. the winding staircase. The educational institutes of architecture really has neglected the people and ironically still they speak about ‘architecture for people’ everyday.

      And yes, end of the day… I want to work to live, and not the opposite. I guess that’s where the difference lies between me and the architect.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=83515993&trk=tab_pro Fatima

    I think this is great. However is there going to be a control on minimum wage? Some offices offer salaries a lot less than RIBA’s guide.

  • Tony

    MCA Micheal Cunningham Architects in Liverpool take on about 5 students and pay none of them.

  • Aditi

    I have to agree with some of the comments here. I feel it is unacceptable to be working for free and having to pay your expenses out of your savings when the job you are doing should be paying you. But I also see the other perspective where architecture students are stuck in a catch 22 situation whereby you need experience to get a job but you need a job to get experience.

    When I finished my masters in 2010, I spent months applying for jobs, doing freelance work, and after sending literally hundreds of applications I only got a few interviews. These interviews were also rejections later on because I didn’t have the experience. At this point I also considered an unpaid internship simply to get the experience to get a job.

    I think the problem lies in the profession itself. Practices are not willing to take on newly qualified students because they don’t have the experience and they don’t want to spend time to support them in gaining that experience. I know from my personal experience that if you don’t know a certain software and don’t have the experience your application is tossed to one side. It’s a shame because it seems it is forgotten that everyone has to start somewhere!

  • ceilidhhiggins

    It is pretty sad that architects continually moan about low fees and that the world in general doesn’t value architecture. Well, if architects don’t value the work of students or graduates contributing to their practice, it’s not surprising that society at large doesn’t value the work of architects!

  • Theo

    Good that the RIBA starts a crusade against unpaid architecture! I find it somewhat strange that this same RIBA is organising a nearly unpaid competition right now. How about that?!

    <a href="http:// (http://www.ribacompetitions.com/vauxhallthemissinglink/index.html)” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(http://www.ribacompetitions.com/vauxhallthemissinglink/index.html)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.ribacompetitions.com/vauxhallthemissinglink/index.html)

    The competition is a call for ideas but there is no firm commitment to develop the winning scheme post-competition. The competition is subject to a non-refundable registration and administration fee of £50.00 + VAT for design professionals and £10.00 + VAT for design students. It is the intention to shortlist three schemes for a second stage. Each shortlisted entrant will receive an honorarium of £2000 + VAT. There will also be a prize for the best student entry of £500.

  • Katrina

    I feel the need to reiterate the first post. Dezeen REGULARLY advertises unpaid Part I, and in some cases Part II, intern positions.

    As was also previously said, if a student is working on jobs that are earning money for the practice, they absolutely should be financially compensated for this.

    If you are a post-Part II graduate, you should absolutely be paid for your work at an architectural practice. This is not an internship – this is a JOB.

  • Lene Hau wannabe

    Architecture as a profession is unpaid to begin with. Forcing firms to pay is silly. Working for free is silly. Does the world need architects the way it needs engineers? The world doesn’t think so. Architects, at least you can advertise to your clients that your services are tax-free.

    Architects are talented people and that talent should be spread around, even taken advantage of by other disciplines. To waste that talent on only making buildings is stupid.