The SGA Edge for Emerging Professionals: Financial Aid, Time Away and Mentorship Opportunities

No matter your occupation, most everyone today faces challenges when it comes to balancing work life with everything else. This is especially the case for emerging professionals in architecture who need to earn valuable AXP (The Architectural Experience Program) hours. Whether it’s the financial stress, faithfully allocating hours of study time, meeting hour requirements in specific areas of study or passing the different sections of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), the road to becoming a licensed architect is marked with hurdles for every individual.

To facilitate this critical period of learning and growth, SGA supports emerging professionals with essential tools for career-launching success. That means offering financial aid. It means giving emerging professionals time off to study. It means providing meaningful mentorship opportunities to all. We seek to exceed industry standards on every front by making available a unique combination of experiences to emerging professionals. And our efforts have not gone unrecognized: SGA was recognized in 2017 and 2018 by AIA Oklahoma as an Exemplary AXP Friendly firm. So how do we equip emerging professionals with the necessities for success? Here’s a closer look.


A Library of Resources Available to Emerging Professionals and Retail Architects Alike

To start, our retail architecture firm continually dedicates funds in an effort to improve our extensive resource library. Whether it’s ARE preparation materials, information on up-to-date building code regulations or material samples, we update our library often to keep emerging professionals one step ahead at all times.

What’s more, we offer emerging professionals the opportunity to obtain AXP hours via bi-weekly lunch-hour sessions through a program we dubbed “SGA Academy.” These sessions target difficult-to-obtain hours, especially those missed during projects that lacked the necessary services to gain the required experience. But thanks to SGA Academy, emerging professionals who attend these sessions acquire experience, education, and exposure in those difficult-to-obtain categories and earn hours that can be used for their AXP experience record.


“SGA works with me to monitor my progress towards becoming licensed. From providing study materials and reimbursement for exams to pairing interns with licensed mentors.” — Lena Detter, Intern Architect


Educational Opportunities for Emerging Professionals and Established Retail Architects

We also promote continuing education through in-house Lunch & Learns. Our retail architecture firm provides industry and technology education opportunities on-site through classes facilitated by internal and external industry professionals. As a firm, it is our goal to provide a minimum of 20 sessions per year, with at least 12 of those being accredited though AIA with an HSW designation.


Financial Support To Alleviate Monetary Pressures of Becoming a Licensed Architect

When it comes to financial burdens faced by emerging professionals, the obstacles are many. “Paying for tests out of pocket is a large financial strain on anyone still getting established. SGA reimburses me for exams. I would have had a much harder time being able to schedule my exams based on when I could afford them,” says Lena Detter, an Intern Architect at SGA. SGA pays for 100% of the fees associated with AIA, NCARB and the state board application. We pay exam fees for all divisions of the ARE, including the opportunity for one retake.

Furthermore, SGA offers exam pre-imbursement to alleviate financial burdens more effectively. That means our emerging professionals may submit an expense report for their exam fees as early as the same day they schedule the test. Expenses are processed each week, meaning an emerging professional may schedule an exam on a Wednesday, submit their expense report by 12:00 P.M. and get reimbursed for the exam fee the following day — which is often weeks before the exam. This, combined with paid-time-off for all exams, plus one extra “do over” makes financial burdens a non-factor.


Mentorship for Emerging Professionals for Retail Architecture, Sustainable Architecture, LEED Certification, and More

An essential part of our program involves mentorship. It is crucial in its ability to provide a feedback loop, which occurs both with the emerging professional and the mentor. It’s a two-way street, and each will learn from one another. A mentor is available to give input, to act as a sounding board, and to act as the emerging professional’s advocate. On the flip side, mentorship is also a developmental opportunity for mentors and allows them to improve their communication skills as they provide knowledge from past experiences.


Continuing Education Opportunities For Retail Architects and Emerging Professionals 

When it comes to continuing education, opportunities abound at our retail architecture firm. Detter says, “Aside from the plethora of Lunch & Learns offered, SGA has created an academy. This is an over-lunch meeting with all the interns as well as recently licensed individuals to help us go over items that we may not see on a daily basis. This aids in job training, AXP hours, and has helped establish a network of individuals within the firm that are excited to help emerging professionals.”

Once a newly licensed emerging professional passes all requirements, SGA sends them on an all-expenses-paid trip to the National AIA Conference to obtain AIA credits, network with peers, and broaden their perspective of the profession. In addition, Lunch & Learns put on by outside vendors throughout the year for new materials, products and systems continually promote technical education to equip our team with the tools needed to best serve our clients. We also make local conventions and training opportunities available.

Finally, emerging professionals can interface every day with the Principals and leadership of SGA. Our open office structure encourages everyone to continually ask questions and seek feedback and input on not just construction detailing, but on contracts, firm leadership, client communication and more.


A Bright Look at the Career Path Ahead for Emerging Professionals

For emerging professionals wanting to attain their professional accreditations, there is limitless potential. As emerging professionals continue to grow and become more experienced, there will be an opportunity to grow within the firm structure of SGA and the overall profession. The desire to become licensed shows the emerging professional is dedicated to pursuing their goals both professionally and personally. It is this dedication we seek to find with each emerging professional.