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How to Become a Professional Home Designer

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Become a Professional Home Designer

Photo by Dieter Spannknebel / Stockbyte / Getty Images

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.

Professional Building Designers are not legally required to pass same registration exams required of architects. However, they do have specialized training. 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 or at a vocational 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 website for the National Council of Building Design Certification (NCBDC). 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
If you wish to find a job in building design, you should work toward obtaining certification in the field. In the United States, Professional Building Designers are certified by the National Council of Building Design Certification (NCBDC). You can download their CPBD Cadidate Handbook to learn about the process.

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.

If you are considering a career as a building designer, 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 NCBDC 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

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