12 Tips for Students and Aspiring Architects

Similar to a supervisor or mentor, you can look to your licensing advisor for first-hand knowledge about navigating the Intern Development Program (IDP), passing the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), and meeting your state’s licensure requirements. We asked a handful of advisors to share tips for students and aspiring architects.

“Many aspiring architects ask me about the value of licensure, especially when they know they won’t be signing any drawings in their current work environment. Having a license establishes credibility with both employers and clients.”
— Stephanie Silkwood, AIA, LEED AP, RMW Architecture & Interiors

“Make sure you research and ask of your prospective/current firm how they approach IDP and the ARE. It is critical to work in an environment that supports, encourages, and celebrates your journey to licensure.”
— R. Corey Clayborne, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Wiley|Wilson

“As an aspiring architect, become fully aware of the many resources available to you and take advantage of them. Seek out a mentor to assist you on the path to licensure—do not do it alone.”
— Lee W. Waldrep, Ph.D., Illinois School of Architecture

“Stop putting licensure off until a better time. That ‘better’ time is here.”
— Teeny Simmons, Louisiana Board of Architectural Examiners

"When it comes to being a mentor or mentee, there's no substitute for face time. It's the only way to turn abundant licensure information into focused and specific knowledge."
— Michael Archer, AIA, Kohn Pedersen Fox

“If you have a summer internship lined up, plan ahead and familiarize yourself with the IDP Guidelines. Once you’ve identified your supervisor, discuss with him or her what type of work you will be doing and how these experiences can be applied to the IDP. Don’t wait until the end of the summer to log everything at once. Make submitting IDP hours part of your weekly routine."
— Garrett Loontjer, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin

“I encourage aspiring architects to make an ARE plan. Often times we get stuck not knowing where to start or get derailed when we hit a bump. By having a plan that includes how and when you are going to study, your exam order, and how often you are going to take an exam, it can give you the push to move forward. If you pass, great—keep going! If you don’t pass, assess if you need to adjust your plan and try again.”
— Shannon Peterson Christensen, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, CTA Architects Engineers

“We have an aspiring architect in our office who was finding it difficult to focus on studying for the ARE at home, given the number of distractions. He decided to arrive at the office one hour earlier each day to focus on studying before most staff arrive. Within six months, he had passed all divisions of the exam.”
— David R. Prengaman, AIA, NCARB, Vision 3 Architects

“Start reporting your hours! There’s no need to wait. Similar to the ARE, it's difficult at the beginning, but once you slowly build up your hours, you will find yourself gaining confidence with your professional skills. And when it comes to finding a mentor, find someone you can talk to, preferably not from work! Your professors or previous supervisors can provide advice on career development or issues you’re facing.”
— Hsu-Jen Huang, Ph.D., Department of Architecture, Savannah College of Art and Design

“Be persistent. Becoming a licensed architect will be one of your most challenging and fulfilling accomplishments. Take your time, use your resources, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The thing to remember is that you are not alone in this. There are all sorts of people going through the exact same experience.”
— Janie Wright, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Tuck Hinton Architects

“NCARB's Blog is an excellent resource. Not only does it expand upon many of their recent policy changes, it pulls back the curtain on the things that had previously been shrouded in secrecy, including the grading of the ARE.”
— Sean Sheffler, AIA, LGA Partners

“As an educator advisor, I recommend that students learn about the path to licensure when they begin college. Select a degree program that best fits your career aspirations, and expose yourself to the breadth of options available to emerging professionals.”
— Alexis McCune Secosky, School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University

Every NAAB-accredited school—and most AIA state chapters—have an advisor. Find contact information for yours here. And be sure to share your own tips in the comments below!