and so it begins…

I was refreshed to finally read about someone preparing to take the exam that wasn’t bitter and angry at the world, NCARB, their University and the rest of the known world because they chose to be an architect. I understand the complications, air of injustice to the piles of paperwork and system in place to test and license architects. However, that is the system that was not developed in an arbitrary fashion, but by professionals over time with thought and intent.

It’s not perfect, but it just is.

I try to be patient and empathetic to emerging professionals, but with so much whining about titles, the ARE and the IDP, I lose my patience quickly. I went through the same IDP process, paperwork and time and then took my exam in 1995, on paper (not etched in rock with chisels) and for four days straight. The test was ONLY offered once a year. It was so intense I got a nose bleed during the final hour of the 12 hour design exam (which was drawn by hand on paper). I don’t complain or make excuses, but now celebrate that I challenged myself to a difficult task and passed all sections…first time. I wish more young architects would embrace the challenge more than whine about this seemingly insurmountable hurdle. It’s supposed to be hard. That’s why we call ourselves architects with a badge of pride and the utmost of responsibility. It’s an honor and a duty all the same. Sometimes I am so humbled I can’t even speak.

Please read this young architect’s blog and be an encouragement to them as they have set their mind and energy on a very difficult but tremendously rewarding path. Those of you who are already architects need like me to come alongside these emerging professionals and cheer for them if nothing else.

If you have some wisdom that goes beyond trite clichés, that couldn’t hurt either.

photo is from Siddie Nam’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

the artichoke's guide

I’m starting this blog as a personal study tool for the A.R.E. with the hopes that others will stumble upon it and find it useful/share their wisdom/voice their frustration/celebrate their victories. I’ve only just begun the marathon that is the A.R.E. which I’ve decided to embrace after months and months spent thinking about how I wasn’t going to take it (even though I continued to track my IDP hours).

What changed, you ask?

1. After 5 years in the real world, I feel like my brain has finally recovered (I hope) from the insanity that is/was architecture school.
2. 4+2 years of school (read: debt) means that I feel the need to make those degrees (read: the money I’ve spent/am paying until 2023) worthwhile aka I didn’t go to school for 6 grueling years to have someone else with the same degrees stamp my drawings.
3. I’m a competitive person…

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and so it begins…

17 thoughts on “and so it begins…

  1. I understand where you are coming from Lee. I too took the exam back in the day when it was on paper and four days long. I do admit though I only passed 7 of the 9 the first time. Unfortunately those were the two that I thought would be the easiest and did not study for them. I was one of the last to take the paper exam and had the opportunity, because I had to retake two portions, to also take them on the computer. It was not a design portion so it was not all that different except the amount of questions varied depending on the percentage you had correct. If you had a high percentage correct you were done. If you were on the bubble you got more questions. I believe that the exams are spread out also so you can study for one exam and then take it. Not having to study for all 9 portions at once has to make it easier, but also spreads out the anxiety.

  2. Thanks for the post Lee! I took the long way around, but did finally get through it! It is definitely worth it and no amount of whining is going to make it easier. Just do it! What you learn about yourself along the way is priceless!

  3. Ted Rusnak says:

    Every Architect has their own tale of woe when the subject of the TEST comes up. My route to it was a bit more circuitious than most but when I received my thin envelope stating I had passed all the sections and was now allowed to call myself an Architect I was overwhelmed and humbled.
    I have used the analogy of the strength of steel. The strongest steel available is forged not poured into a mold and allowed to cool. The steel is heated and hammered repeatedly until it gains the strength sought, crits?. That steel is the best because of the means of its creation. IMHO we architects are, in a manner of speaking,also forged because the profession must have only the best. The final blows are made by the test.
    (Waxing a bit filisophic, but I think I’m aloud).

  4. Hi Lee,
    Great post. It is encouraging to know there are so many emerging architects dedicated to becoming licensed practitioners. I see several of EA’s posting on Twitter, too. With so many other important accreditations vying for time and attention, I know it’s a struggle to maintain focus on the A.R.E.

    I enjoyed reading your story, too– congrats on passing the 4-day exams in one fell swoop! Truly awesome.

    Similar to Ted R., I also experienced both the paper and computerized test versions. I prefer the computer version as it really seemed to assist with better time management.

    Good luck to everyone out there who’s taking the A.R.E.!

    1. Thanks Tara. I wonder if those of us who’ve made it would find ways to encourage emerging architects if the complaints about the “system” would diminish a bit.

      1. Hi Lee, I had to think about this a bit before responding. Are you referring to licensed architects or emerging architects as the ones doing the complaining?

        I admit I’ve done more than my share of complain about “the system” on my blogs and tweets. I think there’s a fine line between complaining and problem assessment.

        Just because someone makes a derogatory remark (or just a critical remark) does not mean they are simply there to bash an organization.

        Before I head too far down the wrong road, I’d like to hear from you first to clarify.

        I will send you a private email.

        Thanks,
        Tara

  5. I often compare the licensure process to earning one’s driver’s license. It’s a privilege, not a right, and in order to earn it, one must complete what the state mandates as minimum competency. Both bring with them an enormous amount of responsibility – the well-being of others — and the requirements are remarkably similar: education, a minimum amount of real-world training, a written exam, and, of course, a maintenance fee. Anyone who complains about the hoops they need to jump through to earn their professional credential should think about that the next time they casually hop into their car.

    I agree wholeheartedly about the lack of encouragement for our emergent architects. I also find my patience thinned by incessant bellyaching over the Byzantine nature of the process. The “master-apprentice” mentality is gone… the perceived freedoms that have come with a tailor-made training process (IDP) and a computer-based exam (ARE) have diluted the profession — it has made what was once a communal event (the once-yearly exam) into an individual’s cross to bear.

    When you speak of offering encouragement, you’re referring to mentoring, a simple concept which has seemingly been lost in our profession. Speaking from experience (as a relatively recently registered professional who carries your same sense of pride in my accomplishment… but also probably did my own fair share of complaining about it at the time), a good mentor is hard to find. Sometimes, just knowing that you’re not in it alone makes all the difference.

    Every architect should consider acting as a mentor to at least one emergent professional. None of us got here on our own. We owe it to the future of the profession to give something back.

    Thanks, very sincerely, for your postive outlook.
    Sean

    1. Sean, I love your articulate description. It’s accurate and poignant all the same. I may have to quote you in future discussions and writings. Venting emotions because of stress is understandable. However, there is an incessant whining on the part of some that somehow they are owed a license because they’ve graduated from school and are heavily in debt. So what. On the other hand, experienced architects don’t help by complaining about their own problems too. I had good mentoring through a variety of sources. I just believe we owe it to the profession if for no other reason to mentor someone. We can show them the way or at least “a way.” We all need that. I’ve been practicing for over 20 years and I still need it. Thanks for sharing your keen insight.

      1. I agree with both you and Sean – as an emerging architect, I generally find and feel that I’m alone in this process. Though, it may be my fault – perhaps I didn’t seek out the “right” firm meaning a firm who had a mentoring process in place. On the other side of the coin however – it’s also the responsibility of the individual to ask questions. Because I have felt and still feel very much on my own and haven’t felt like I have had too much support, I waited to take the plunge because in all honesty, I was turned off by the profession and was pretty depressed that I no longer felt the way I did while I was in school. I started to question what it was that I really wanted to do if life and whether it was worth my time to study and sit for these exams for a profession that no longer gave me the warm and fuzzies it once did. Somehow I was able to reinvigorate myself – I’m always up for a good challenge – and I’m hoping licensure will re-engage me in the profession I’ve viewed myself being a part of since learning what an architect was.

      2. My journey seemed so simple and so direct; what else would I do? So, I try to be empathetic towards the majority who didn’t see things so clearly. Also, I think it’s so important not to overstep an important milestone like this now, when you may regret it in 30 years when it would really help. In other words, some might not see relevance and value to the process and investment now, but when your career options are extremely limited when you reach your 50’s and 60’s, you may think otherwise. Having the license gives an independence that can’t be achieved easily later. Get your license and if you choose to sell insurance, ski Mt. Everest or paint on the River Seine in Paris for the rest of your life, you can still come back to this. I’ve met too many people who had a difficult time getting a job later in life not because of the economy, opportunities or their profession, but simply because they skipped an important step like this just because it was not convenient at the time. No one has a crystal ball to use to live their life, but we can learn wisdom vicariously through others.

        I’m still cheering for you…

  6. I seldom comment, however I read through a few comments here
    and so it begins think | architect. I actually do have
    2 questions for you if you tend not to mind. Is
    it simply me or do some of the comments appear as if they are written by brain dead individuals?
    😛 And, if you are writing on additional social sites,
    I would like to keep up with you. Could you make a list of every one of your public sites like your linkedin profile,
    Facebook page or twitter feed?

    1. I think the point of a blog that encourages discussion is to allow for all types of responses as long as they are civil and meant to further the discussion rather than debase the participants. I disagree with many comments made as well as many blogs written, but that’s their privilege to express themselves in this medium.

      I have no other public sites than what you can find here.

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