The Path to Architecture Licensure

Posted by Guest Contributor on Feb 07, 2017

As an emerging professional in the field of architecture, I find that the most rewarding experiences come from the ability to make a difference in the lives we serve and the future of the architecture profession, students and recent graduates.

For thousands of graduates, acquiring an accredited degree is the first of many steps toward gaining architecture licensure. Graduates must secure a position in which they can obtain Architecture Experience Program hours (AXP), overcome the huddles of “real-world” architecture versus studio architecture, adhere to student loan payment demands, master the unavoidable progression into adulthood, budget funds for the exam, budget additional funds for study materials and sessions, and of course set aside the necessary time to study for the exam while facing weekly deadlines in the midst of this self-inflicted chaos.

ARE and AXP infographic 2016Organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA), National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA); the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS); the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB), and others have conducted studies to observe trends of recent graduates and their obstacles to achieve architecture licensure.

Based on the 2016 NCARB research compilation, “NCARB by the Numbers,” there are 22,847 licensure candidates reporting AXP hours and 10,826 candidates testing for the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). Reports show that it takes roughly four years to complete the required AXP, and two years to complete the ARE. These factors (time management, obtaining AXP, and budgeting funds), as well as the fact that passing the ARE is not the only requirement to become a licensed architect, contribute to graduates’ obstacles, and in turn, delay our ability to earn our licensure soon after graduation.

To alleviate some of the financial and time burdens many recent graduates face, organizations and architecture firms have created scholarships, reimbursements and knowledge-based support programs for those seeking their architecture licensure. Array Architects, for instance, reimburses employees for passed exams and provides time off to test. Local professional organizations, such as the AIA, offer study sessions for a small fee, as well as libraries of materials for testers to borrow as they prepare for their exams. Other organizations, such as NOMA and my personal alumni association, maintain accountability groups through GroupMe and Facebook for encouragement.

These are all helpful resources, though some organizations believe this is not enough and feel that tackling financial issues head on is the primary remedy. For instance, the Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholarship—developed by the AIA’s National Associates Committee in honor of the late Jason Pettigrew—aims to remove the financial burden and fast track the ARE process by providing the total costs associated with the ARE, including the Kaplan study materials library, to emerging professionals who have made significant contributions to the profession at an early stage in their careers. This fast-track approach, as well as the free study materials that the DC office can use, influenced my decision to apply for this particular scholarship.

This year, I have the honor of being among 10 AIA Associate Members selected to receive this award.

The criteria to qualify for this scholarship includes the following:

  • Significant contributions to the profession at an early career stage
  • Exemplary involvement in community and/or professional organizations
  • Outstanding achievement in the creation, development, and delivery of creative programs for emerging professionals in architecture
  • Passion for pursuit of architectural licensure

Conference Attendees meeting in front of an Array bannerMy leadership involvement began at an early stage when I realized the architectural profession constantly questions its relevance, the impact it has on communities and the number of individuals the profession attracts. Instead of feeding into these constant questions, I felt that highlighting my passion for the people within the built environment, leadership, education, and mentorship was the immediate answer to these questions. As we move forward in the ever-changing world of architecture, it is important that we pair our progressive dialogue with action.

My actions began during undergraduate studies when I became the president of the Tuskegee University Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) and created several first-time events. This initial leadership opportunity allowed me to support my department and student body during two accreditation visits and transitions in administrative leadership. These efforts revitalized our student body’s interests and presented many avenues of success for my peers.

This experience taught me that architecture is more than the buildings we see, rather the impact we are able to create through leadership. Architecture is, in fact, a knowledge-based community with the ability to shape the world around us, serve underrepresented groups, and change lives. We see this daily in the medical facilities we design, the user groups we listen to, and the patients who find peace in their surroundings. No matter the experience level, we are all accountable of the future of the profession and must remain cognizant of our purpose and daily impact on those who are immediately impacted by the buildings we design and the spaces we plan.

This blog authored by Jennifer Matthews, former architectural designer with Array. 

Topics: Licensure, Architecture, ARE, AIA, Emerging Professionals, Scholarship

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