How to Choose a Good Building Design Program: Student Checklist

Updated November, 2020

This is a very good time to become a building design technician in Toronto.  

Investment in commercial and residential building projects is driving demand for design technicians, and employment is expected to remain stable over the next several years (jobbank.gc.ca). 

But this is a competitive field. There are plenty of colleges producing architectural designers each year, and only so many design firms and construction companies available to hire them. 

How do you position yourself as a competitive job candidate, and get your career off to a strong start? 

It all begins with your training program. A good Building Design program will give you the edge you need to stand out, impress employers, and get hired. 

With so many training options in the GTA, how do you know which program to choose? 

We put together this checklist as a practical guide prospective students can use to narrow down their options. 

Training costs money and takes time. You want the design program you choose to pay off with marketable skills and strong job prospects post-graduation. 

Here’s how to make that happen. Ensure the Building Design program you choose meets the following 6 criteria for trustworthy, high quality training. 

 

1. The instructor is an architectural design expert 

It should go without saying (and yet we must emphasize this point), that the program you choose should be taught by an expert architectural designer with many years of professional experience. 

Ideally, your instructor is a licensed architect who has worked in several areas of industry, including residential, commercial, and institutional design. 

You need to learn from someone who knows exactly what employers are looking for when hiring design technicians.

If your goal is employment at an architecture firm or construction company, the right instructor can give you a significant competitive edge. 

He/she will prepare you for the realities of working in a design office, tackling real building design challenges, and collaborating with other design professionals. 

Nothing beats real, substantial experience in the field—and that’s exactly what you should expect from your instructor. 

 

2. Quick Entry into the Workforce

When it comes to choosing a Building Design program, length isn’t everything. But, in our experience, most students are looking for an efficient program that gets them job-ready fast. 

Many of our architecture students are switching from other careers, or already have university degrees. They can’t afford to spend another 2-3 years on training. 

If you’re in this position, length does matter—you need a program that favours practical skills over theory. Look for accelerated building design training you can complete in just one year. 

A good 12-month program will deliver the hands-on design skills you need to land your first job. 

 

3. Internship for Real work Experience 

Ontario has its fair share of accelerated Building Design programs. Quick programs that come with an internship are much more rare.

Most students agree that the internship is the most crucial part of training. Like many careers, you need some real work experience to land your first architectural design job. 

The problem is most design companies want to hire people who already have some practical experience. So how does a new graduate break into the industry? 

The answer is by ensuring your training program includes a robust internship. 

Look for a Building Design program that goes beyond the standard 4-week work placement. The longer the internship, the better.  

Longer placements give you more time to work on real design projects, build your portfolio, and impress your employer. 

Don’t forget, your internship can lead to a job offer. 

Ask the colleges you’re considering how many students get hired straight out of their internships. This is the hallmark of a good program, and an ideal outcome for new graduates. 

Related: 9 Good Reasons to Pursue a Career in Building Design 

 

4. Strong Focus on AutoCAD & Industry Building Design Software 

This is an essential feature of a good Building Design program. You will have a very hard time getting hired as a designer if you don’t know AutoCAD software and other, industry-standard digital design tools. 

In a survey on employment trends for architectural designers in Ontario, the Government of Canada Job Bank highlights the advantages of solid software knowledge:  

“Architectural technologists and technicians with experience using computerized design software, such as AutoCAD, Revit, and SketchUp will have improved job prospects.” 

 

Look for a Building Design program that is project-based. In order to get comfortable with design software, you need to use it to create actual designs—for residential, commercial, institutional, and landscaping projects. 

Recent graduate, Ikenna Okpara stresses the vital importance of developing these technology skills during training: 

“Students should know that AutoCAD is a very powerful tool! It's been around for years but is still in high demand by employers. The flexibility of AutoCAD gives it many uses and applications for a wide range of design needs. 

You also need to learn tools like Microsoft Project for managing design work, tracking and deadlines. Revit and Sketchup are also very important. These are the fundamentals you need to get hired as a building designer.” 

 

Your training should give you the chance to explore every software feature, and gain experience producing building models, blueprints, details, and drawings. 

You should graduate with a good selection of designs for your portfolio, and be ready to hit the ground running at your first job. 

Ask the colleges you’re considering about how much hands-on designing students do. Ask to see examples of student projects. Make sure you’ll get the practical software skills you need to actually land a design job after training. 

 

5. Encouraging Graduate Employment Rates 

Speaking of landing a job after college...when comparing programs, it’s important to look closely at those “graduate employment rates.” Not all schools publish this information on their website, so you may have to ask admissions. 

The graduate employment rate refers to the percentage of program grads who are successfully working the design industry. This is a very direct, clear barometer of program quality. 

It all comes down to this: are employers actually hiring people out of this program? 

As a rule, you want to see graduate employment rates above 85%.  

 

6. Ontario Building Code Exam Preparation 

There is no doubt that architectural designers who become qualified and registered for a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN) have better job prospects. 

So, it makes good sense to choose a design program that includes comprehensive preparation for the Ontario Building Code Exam. 

This is a tough exam, which requires both in-class prep and self-study. But those who pass are unquestionably stronger job candidates. 

Recent Building Design graduate, Dorian Pai said passing the BCIN exam made a big difference when competing for jobs after college. 

“My professor helped us prepare for the BCIN exam during training, and I spent an additional month studying after completing the program. It was a very valuable credential to have during my job search. Passing the BCIN exam gave me a competitive edge over other candidates, and opened up more interviews and job opportunities.” 

 

Next Steps 

Are you considering becoming a building design technician? Have you started looking into training programs? At this stage, we strongly recommend speaking with an Admissions Advisor. 

Narrow down your top 2-3 schools, and book virtual or on-campus meetings with Admissions at each school. 

This is the best way to make a final decision about which college has the right Building Design program for you. 

Admissions can answer questions about costs, financial aid, graduate employment rates, design software, internships, the instructor’s background, and much more. 

They can also assess your strengths, discuss your professional goals, and confirm whether this career path is a good fit for you. 

Get started by exploring Herzing’s Building Design Technician program, available at our Toronto campus. 

This is an accelerated 12-month program, which includes a 2-month internship and comprehensive Building Code exam prep. 

Click below to learn more, request information, or chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We’re here to help. 

Explore the Building Design Technician Program