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How does one become a professional home


designer?
By Jackie Craven, About.com Guide
See More About:
• architecture careers
• house styles
• architecture schools
• architecture lesson plans
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Question: How does one become a professional home designer?
Answer: If you dream of designing houses and other small buildings, but don't want to spend the
years it takes to become a registered architect, then you may want to explore career opportunities
in the field of Building Design. A Professional Building Designer, or Home Designer, specializes
in designing light-frame buildings such as single family homes and agricultural buildings. A
Professional Building Designer may also design decorative facades for larger buildings.
Unlike architects, Professional Building Designers are not legally required to pass exams or
receive special licenses. However, a designer who carries the title "Certified Professional
Building Designer" or "CPBD" has completed training courses, built a portfolio, and passed a
difficult exam.
Training Courses
Your first step in becoming a Professional Building Designer is to enroll in training courses in
architecture or structural engineering. You may take classes at an accredited school of
architecture, at a vocational school, or even through a correspondence school. Seek courses and
training that will give you a broad background in construction, problem solving, and
architectural design. In lieu of academic training, you may study architecture or structural
engineering on the job, under the supervision of a building designer, architect, or structural
engineer.
To find courses, workshops, seminars, and other training programs, see the listing of Official
CEU Providers on the Web site for the National Council of Building Design Certification
(NCPBD). Also see Before You Choose an Architecture School for links to accredited
architecture schools and architecture training programs.
On-the-job Training
On-the-job training is essential to receive certification as a Professional Building Designer. Use
the career resources center at your school and/or online job listings to locate an internship or
entry level position where you can work with architects, structural engineers, or building
designers. Begin building a portfolio with working drawings for design projects. Once you have
accumulated several years of training through coursework and on-the-job training, you will be
eligible to take a certification exam.
Certification Exam
You are not legally required to become certified in order to work as a house designer. However,
earning certification will make it easier for you to find a job in the field. In the United States,
Professional Building Designers are certified by the National Council of Building Design
Certification (NCPBD). When you apply for certification, you will be asked for letters of
reference and a portfolio. Once these are approved, you will need to take a two-day certification
exam. The exam questions will cover many phases of construction, design, and problem solving.
You will be permitted to refer to several approved reference books as you take the exam. The
exam is timed, so you will have only a few minutes to complete each question.
Whether or not you aspire to become certified, you may find it helpful to look at sample
questions from the certification exam. These questions will show you the types of courses and
training you will need to obtain in order to find work designing houses. A few sample questions
are listed below.
Sample Exam Questions
Which of the following is not one of the four basic ingredients in concrete?
a. fine aggregate
b. cement
c. water
d. admixture
Where did early Christian and Byzantine architects obtain most of their building materials?
__________________________________
Make an isometric sketch of a:
a. gable roof
b. hip roof
c. gambrel roof
If these questions seem difficult, do not be discouraged. The NCPBD offers a study guide that
will help you prepare. You will also find the material you need to know in these books:
1. Architectural Graphics Standards (Ramsey/Sleeper-AIA)
2. The Professional Practice of Architectural Working Drawings by Wakita & Linde (John Wiley
& Sons)
3. Construction Materials and Processes by Don A. Watson (McGraw Hill Book Co.)
4. Construction Principles. Materials and Methods by Harold B. Olin (Van Nostrand Reinhold)
5. A Field Guide to American Houses (Virginia & Lee McAlester)
6. Simplified Engineering for Architects & Builders (Harry Parker)
Learn More About Careers in Building Design
• National Council of Building Design Certification (NCPBD)
• American Institute of Building Design
Still curious? Drop by our Discussion Forum and post your questions.
Plan Your Career in Home Design
• Choose an architecture school
• What is an Architect?
• Careers in Architecture
Home Design Career Resources
• National Council of Building Designer Certification
• American Institute of Building Design
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Guide since 1999


Jackie Craven
Architecture Guide
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