The Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) provides a framework for earning and documenting your professional experience. The program is designed to build on your knowledge and skills, ensuring that you can competently perform a variety of tasks that are essential to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare in the practice of architecture.

If you’re working on completing the AXP, you may have noticed that some of the program’s required tasks are harder to gain experience in than others. Depending on your firm, the projects you work on, and your role, you might need to think outside the box to get the experience you need. If you’re struggling to earn experience in a specific area or task, here are five approaches to try:

1. Talk to your supervisor.

If you haven’t already, schedule a time to talk to your AXP supervisor about the experience you need. Come prepared with the specific experience you’re missing, and ask your supervisor if there are any opportunities coming up at your firm that you can take advantage of. Work with your supervisor to create a plan to tackle any holes in your AXP requirements, and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.

2. Take advantage of setting O opportunities.

Most candidates complete the AXP under experience setting A—but setting O provides a variety of opportunities that you can use to gain experience under any of the six experience areas. From design competitions to professional certifications to site visits with an architect mentor, there are several options that you can take advantage of without changing employers. Be sure to read the AXP Guidelines for details on each setting O opportunity.

3. Get collaborative.

While you should build competency in each AXP task over time, not every hour needs to be earned while doing a task solo. For example, your firm might not be ready to let you determine a design fee budget yet—but you could still earn experience under Project Management by sitting in on a budget meeting, or walking through a budget proposal with your supervisor. If you’re new to an experience area or task, talk to your supervisor about shadowing opportunities or observing meetings—having digital meetings can make observing easier than ever!

4. Complete a continuing education course.

Technically, this falls under setting O opportunities, but we felt it deserved its own call-out. If you’re struggling to complete your last few hours in an experience area, take advantage of the “AIA Continuing Education for HSW” opportunity. You can earn up to 20 hours in each experience area by completing an American Institute of Architects (AIA) approved continuing education course that’s worth health, safety, and welfare (HSW) credit. NCARB offers a variety of free courses for candidates with active NCARB Records—browse our library. Note—you will need to be an AIA member to take advantage of this opportunity.

5. Be patient, but not too patient.

Your skills will grow with time, and as your career advances, you’ll likely get exposure to more and more tasks. For some experience areas, you may simply need to wait until you’re further along in your career. Engage with your supervisor to create a plan on how to develop your ability in tasks that may take time to build up skill in. Make sure they stay on track supporting you. However, if you feel the plan keeps getting sidetracked or  delayed, do not be afraid to change firms. Most licensure candidates change firms at least once while working to complete the AXP, so don’t be afraid to look for a new employer to get the experience opportunities you need.

Do you have tips for earning experience in a hard-to-reach area? Tell us in the comments!