This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architecture Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architecture Registration Exam Series.
I Had To Do It!
In January 2014, I started writing this blog for Young Architects and recently completed writing my first book called How To Pass The Architecture Registration Exam. Since I started all these projects I have met a million people who are either:
- Taking the exams now
- Started and stopped for whatever reasons.
- Want to take them in the future.
For me personally, I had to complete the journey of becoming an architect no matter what I did. It was hugely important to me to finish what I started. Not having my architecture license was literally blocking me from advancing my life. I needed to close the “becoming an architect” chapter of my life.
But that’s my story. It may not be your story.
I don’t think everyone should become a architect.
In fact, I truly believe that not taking the ARE’s and getting your architecture license may be the very best decision for you and your life. Each of us have had very different lives and upbringings. The decisions I have made with my life, which I knew were right for me, may very well be the worst decision for you and your life. And vice versa.
Often we get on this path of going to college, getting a job and are lead to believe (from NCARB, employers and society) that getting architecture license is the next step. I agree with that logic if you actually want it and plan to use it. A message that I think many young architects is missing is that you dont NEED to have an architecture license to have a successful career.
This blog post actually began while writing a blog post for architecture grads called 10 reasons to take and finish the ARE. As I wrote that blog post, I couldn’t help but notice that there are actually some fantastic reasons to not go through that process or to avoid it all costs. Passing my AREs was many inglorious hours of showing up and sitting in a Starbucks reading boring books, while all my friends were out partying and having fun.
My intention of this “Dont become an Architect…” blog post is to achieve one of two things:
1. If you are undecided to knock you off the fence.
2. To validate decisions you have already made.
10 Great Reasons NOT TO become a licensed architect
1. You don’t need the closure.
This was my biggest reason for completing the exam. Having that silly piece of paper that said “Licensed Architect” was very deeply important to me. I needed to reach that milestone to justify and bring closure to many years of insanity that I put myself through so I can move on with the next chapter of my life.
Getting closure may just not be important to you. You can still have an extremely successful architecture career without having the architecture license. You love architecture, you enjoy your work and don’t feel the need to prove yourself to you or anyone else. To you, the license is just not important.
Maybe its important to your company, your boss or someone else that you have you get your license. All the work it takes to get that piece of paper isn’t about them. It’s really about you.
2. There are other things going on in your life.
Architecture was a lot of fun to study and has brought you a wonderful career. But deep down inside, there are other things that are more important to you than investing massive amounts of time at getting an architecture license. Maybe it’s having a child or raising a family, pursuing a hobby or just going after something else in life. Don’t get me wrong all of these things are still completely possible. Infact I have watched many people raise a family the same time they became a licensed architect with incredible focus and vigor. Having the architecture license just may not be that high on your list of life priorities. That’s completely ok.
3. You do not want the responsibility.
There is an incredible amount of risk and responsibility involved every time you stamp a drawing. An Architect of Record accepts an incredible amount of risk and responsibility. Meanwhile changes happen and corners are cut on the jobsite in name of a contractors profit. Its impossible to be on top of everything all the time.
I have recently seen two architects be sued merely as the first point of contact and protocol. What they were being sued for was evidently the work of the contractor not following the drawings. Yet, the architect still had to spend a significant amount of money on legal counsel to prove that.
If you get your license, it raises your chances of being sued. Even if you are not at fault. When a project is not performing as designed, the first point of contact is always the architect who orchestrated the project. Without a license you cannot be the Architect of Record.
4. Avoid the extra work; IDP, ARE and never-ending Continuing Ed.
I found the Intern Development Program (IDP) incredibly frustrating to figure out and a tedious chore to stay on top of. If there’s anything to recognize about getting the architecture license, is that it’s a lot of work. After you’re licensed you have to complete continuing education requirements every year to maintain an active license otherwise your state will take it away. All of this stuff is a lot of extra work. Especially if your already working full-time for the architecture firm.
5. Avoid the never-ending fees.
You have already made a huge financial commitment by investing in architecture school. It was a great investment but I will be paying for my education for many more years to come.
Getting licensed sure was cheaper than going to grad school, but I also did sign myself up for a ridiculous amount of NCARB, AIA and state licensing fees to maintain my license. Joining the AIA is optional although if you’re using your membership appropriately it should theoretically pay for itself. Nevertheless the AIA costs about 500 bones every year.
6. Avoid the major time commitment.
I typically spent about 100 Hours +/- to study for each architect registration exam.
100 hours x 7 tests = 700 hours.
Say you’re normal and fail only 2 exams. Add on 200 more hours retaking
Total – 900 hours of studying
A complete year of full-time work is about 2000 hours. Do you have 900 hours to squeeze in after you work a full-time job?
One of my most frustrating moments was when I put down my ARE study book and realized that all the time, money and focused energy I already spent working through those exams I could have built a profitable business from scratch, gotten another degree or achieved some other worthy goal in life.
7. Your skills are better spent not being the licensed architect.
You may be best utilized to the profession and to society for having a skill which licensure has nothing to do with. Maybe you’re a brilliant: construction (fill in the blank) expert, spec writer, marketing expert, project manager, a model builder, renderer, CAD expert or whatever.
Having an architecture license would be nice, but will not help you further your personal goals or skills with whatever they may be. If that is the case, you should channel all the time, money and energy into perfecting your craft to serve the greater good.
8. There are millions of great jobs you could do in other industries with your architecture training.
I have always believed that an architecture education sets is one of the best educations anyone could receive. Architecture teaches you to be a brilliant problem solver. It touches upon so many skills, topics and directions that anyone could run with in their lives. It’s naïve to think that working in an architecture firm and practicing architecture in a way that requires a license is the only direction that you could go with this training.
You could make more money and have a successful career without the architecture industry working in a subset of the profession; marketing, graphic designer, entrepreneur, graphic designer, realtor, a construction job or something that hasn’t even been invented yet. The possibilities are endless.
9. The architecture career is merely a stepping stone for something else.
I don’t believe that the career of showing up at the same cubicle every day for 30 years or so and then “retiring” will be the same for our generation as it was for our parents’ generation.
The internet has drastically changed the global economy. Today a lot people are making a lot of money in ways that were unimaginable 10 years ago. I don’t believe that the future of the architecture firm will look and operate the same way it has for the past 100 years.
After graduating architecture school and working for several years you have learned that spending 40 hours a week working in the cubicle may not be how you want to spend the next 30 years. Maybe your dream is to escape your architecture office, take all the skills you learned from architecture and apply your talents to building something else in another industry, realm or dimension. You’re certainly qualified to do so.
10. Your loved ones will be affected by your decision to get licensed.
Maybe you have kids, a spouse, a family or others that depend on how you spend your time. They will be affected by the time you commit and how you go about committing your time to the licensing process.
Like I said earlier, many people raise families and finish the licensing process, but it shouldn’t be ignored that it’s definitely a challenge, juggling life and the licensing process.
Don’t let people’s stories affect yours
I went to a job interview 4 years after I graduated and I mentioned I was in the middle of my exams and the interviewer told me that it didn’t look good that I hadn’t already completed my ARE’s and I as approaching that threshold of people who will never complete it.
I didn’t get that job and I walked out of there not even wanting it. Maybe he was right. I don’t know or care. I do know that sooo many things had happened in my life between graduation and that job interview, who was he to pass judgment on the pace I was completing the exams at?? Finishing the exams in 1 year wasn’t my story. Others may make you feel bad for not choosing the same decisions they made. That's their story and not yours.
I support you.
You could be healthier, happier and live a more fulfilling life if you do not go down the road of getting your architecture license. Only you know the answer to that. If that is that case I fully support you in your decision.
During architecture school I watched many people realize that being in the architecture program just wasn’t for them. During that time I watched their lives change course and saw them move towards another goal. Architecture brought them clarity to where they wanted to go with their life. I commend them for figuring it out and changing direction.
I also watched several people push and force themselves through a degree they weren’t passionate about or really had any interest in. It was painful to watch and it was painful to be their peer.
Not having your architecture license could be the best thing if your heart is not in. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting it.
My story isnt yours.
I earlier mentioned how I got my architecture license because needed the closure. I truly got my license because having it was crucial, with where I wanted to take my career. I actually have used my architect stamp 4 times in the first year, since having had it.
I had very strong beliefs about why I felt I needed it, but hadn’t my beliefs been so strong I would have wasted my time. Trust me this thing is a lot of work and your resources could be channeled into something that you are more passionate about. It’s ok if you don’t do this. If it’s not really for you, then you will be better off in the long run.
Read the full series
This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architect Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architect Registration Exam Series.
If you enjoyed this post, you should also check out:
- 10 Great Reasons To Take The Architect Exam
- How to Pass The Architecture Registration Exam
- Why I Wrote: How to Pass the Architecture Registration Exam
- 5 Common Reasons Why (Smart and Talented) People Don’t Finish the ARE.
- The ULTIMATE List Of ARE Study Material (Part I: Study Material Overview)
- 10 Things to Consider While You Prepare for Your First Architect Exam