Stop Calling Me “The Intern”

Posted on November 16, 2011

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Here's your coffee, sir

I AM, the Intern…?

It’s not a title that anyone likes having.

Intern makes me sound like an unpaid coffee bitch. I mean seriously. I spent 5-6 years of sleepless nights in the battlefield that is called architecture school and when I come out the other end I get the title of intern? Talk about a slap in the face.

“So what is this whole intern situation you’re so fired up about?”, you may ask. Let me break it down for you. Architects are actually a lot like other highly professional fields, i.e. doctors and lawyers. We have to go through 5-6 years of architecture school for either a 5 year Bachelor of Architecture degree or a 4 year Bachelors degree + 2 year Master of Architecture degree (this is what I did). Then there’s the internship. Three long years of working your way up from the bottom, getting on the job training.

When you’ve finished your requirements for your internship, you get to start taking the dreaded ARE exam. The ARE or Architect Registration Exam is a 7 part test (you heard right!) that includes multiple choice and graphic vignette sections on most of the tests. It’s no easy task to pass the 7 deadly exams. In my informal poll of people I know who’ve taken the tests, as long as you study hard, you shouldn’t have to retake more than one or two of them. Once you pass all the tests, congratulations, you’re a licensed architect!! Don’t get too comfortable though. You do have to have 24 hours of continuing education a year to keep your license (in Illinois, at least). This part’s pretty easy though. If you sit in on a couple lunch presentations from product manufacturers and go to a conference or two every year, you’ll be covered. Whew. I know, right?

And…

So what’s my beef? Intern is such a derogatory word. When I hear it, I think of summer interns, kids who don’t have a formal education in a given field gaining experience over the summer. You’re lumping me, a highly educated person, in with someone who has no education whatsoever. Eff off. Don’t even get me started on unpaid internships. One of the circles of hell is reserved for people who have unpaid internships for college graduates. I am working for you, hence YOU PAY ME NOW!

Personally, I wish they’d call us apprentices. That fits the job description a little better. We’re getting on the job training, not rubbing elbows with professionals to see if we want to go into a certain career. To become a licensed plumber (and many other similar trades), you go through an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship usually lasts 4-5 years and includes a set amount of classroom training as well. After you have enough experience, you can take an exam to become a licensed plumber. So in a field that requires no formal education, you get to go from apprentice to licensed professional. Nowhere in that process do you have to introduce yourself with a title that makes you sound like an useless peon.

What about those other professional fields? Doctors get a 4 year bachelors degree, followed by 4 years of medical school, then have 3-7 years of residency depending on their specialty. After that, they can go into a very specialized field which can take an additional 1-3 years called a fellowship. Even with all this education, doctors, like architects, get stuck with a period of time that people can call them interns. The first year or their residency is usually referred to as their internship and they can be called either an intern or resident. If I were a first year resident, I would never call myself an intern and I wonder if it bothers them as much as it bothers me… Oh, that also leaves out all the various tests and boards needed to pass to become a practicing physician or the fact that you have to continue to pass boards throughout your career. If anyone has the right to be annoyed about being called an intern, it’s doctors.

Lawyers go through a 4 year Bachelor’s degree, 3 years of law school followed by the 2 day long bar exam (dun dun duuuuuuh). Like doctor’s, you can continue your education to have a specialty, but after you pass the bar exam, you’re a big time law practicin’ man. Guess what, no interns! You go from student to licensed professional. Yipeee!

What have we learned? No one, other than those high school summer helpers, should have to go by the title of interns. It just sucks, man. It’s not cool. And if you have unpaid internships, you are a bad bad person.

So what do you think? Are there interns in your profession?

Big thanks to Bryan and Annie for clarification on what it takes to become a doctor and lawyer.