When Should You Start Your Registration Log Book?

To become a registered architect in a state or territory in Australia you need to complete a three part examination process (or alternate pathway). The first part is a Log Book and Statement of Practical Experience, the second is the National Examination Paper, and the third is an Interview. The Architects Accreditation Council of Australia set this process.

As a student, the first step in planning your path to registration is to understand the log book. It’s never too soon to get a basic grasp on its requirements:

  • You must have worked a minimum of 3,300 hours (about two years). A minimum of 12 months of this experience must be after completing your Masters of Architecture.

  • You need to be able to log these hours against 15 specific performance criteria, under the categories of Project Briefing, Pre-Design, Conceptual Design, Detailed Design, Documentation, Procurement, and Construction Stage.

  • Hours are logged under three levels of experience; ‘Observer’, ‘Participant’ and ‘Executive’.

(For more information, you can download How To Logbook from the AACA website.)

If you are a student and not yet working, I suggest that the key takeaway is that you need broad experience before you can seek registration.

When you get your first architecture job, you might wonder when to start filling out your logbook - both in terms of when to start the task itself, and at what point hours become valuable to log.

It may seem that the ideal approach would be to start right away, log all hours, and stay on top of it - after all, the reality is often that candidates find themselves struggling to fill in a log book at the last minute. This can become a huge task involving chasing down time-sheets from past employers and remembering what tasks you performed on projects from several years ago. It’s best to avoid having to do this, on top of all the study you will be trying to fit in to prepare for the exam.

However, I would not recommend starting your log book straight away. I asked a couple of recently registered architects, and they agreed with me. “I would recommend starting 6-12 months after you start work full time,” said Duncan (registered in 2018). “I think time is needed to focus on the new environment and to begin to understand what you need to learn and what counts as relevant experience.”

Personally, I started working part time in the final year of my bachelor degree. I believe the ideal time for me to start my logbook would have been upon graduating from my masters. This would have given me the opportunity to focus on logging any relevant hours from the past few years while they were fresh in my memory. Then I could have clearly seen which areas I needed to gain experience in over the next couple of years. For me, registration was a priority and I sat the exam as soon as I could, 18 months after graduation, and passed.

Similarly, Sander (registered in 2013), had spread his studies out, so by the time graduation came around, he was pretty experienced. He completed the required 12 months of work experience post graduation, and then successfully applied for registration. “You should start filling out your log-book when you start working serious jobs,” he explains. “It shows growth, and progression of understanding - and it adds to the accuracy of the logbook.”

Alternatively, Tynan (registered in 2018), reported the benefits of not rushing in to it; “I properly started and completed the logbook after 5 years of (full time) experience, and all that experience was with the one practice. I didn’t prioritize completing my logbook and I didn’t desire changing practices or chasing certain experience. It afforded me time and energy to contribute to my position and projects within the practice, teaching, travel, life events, and other academic/creative pursuits.” Rather than use the log-book as an experience gauge, Tynan participated early in PALS (Practice of Architecture Learning series - designed to help candidates prepare for registration.) “I’d advise doing it early to at least provide guidance to the experience you’re gaining. I think it’s worth comprehending the entire process as early as possible, however I don’t think there is a uniform best time to complete it. 5 years felt balanced for me and the feedback I gathered during my interview is that was an appropriate amount of time/experience.”

A final thing to note is that the log-book format has been known to change over the years, so if you’re planning on updating it as you go then I would suggest getting a sense for how it works and then creating your own simple excel spreadsheet to track all hours, which can then be easily organised in to the correct log-book file when you’re getting close to applying for registration.

So it seems that your approach to your log book depends on whether registration is a pressing priority for you. If it’s not, you may decide to put it on the back-burner for a while, but need to acknowledge that at some point you will have to recount your years of experience and face a rather mammoth task of filling it out all in one go. In this instance, you should at least be conscious of recording accurate time sheets or quarterly notes that you can refer back on to fill in your log book more easily.

If you’re more like me, and feel that registration is a ‘finish line’ to be crossed as soon as possible, then I would recommend reviewing the log book criteria after working for about a year, and decide at that point whether to begin filling it out, or delay a little further.