As part of our new Architect Spotlight series, we asked Matt McKee, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, to share his tips for navigating the path to licensure. After graduating from the University of Miami with dual degrees in 2011, the New York-based architect earned his first license just two years later.

Why did you pursue architecture?

I knew I wanted to be an architect in the third grade. I was interested in math and art, so architecture came as a natural blend of the two. For school projects I would draw houses around my neighborhoods, build Lego models of buildings, and later on, study the effectiveness of what would become low emissivity window coatings. 

Why was earning a license important to you?

When I was a freshman in high school, the president of a local firm told me that a number of professionals in the field aren’t licensed, and that means you can’t actually be called an architect. It is not just a title people use, but rather a commitment to the profession. This stuck with me, and now that I have been licensed for several years, I could not agree more. Licensure lets the community know that you are ensuring that your work elevates the health, safety, and welfare of the population it serves.

How long did it take you to complete your internship and exams?

While in school, I worked during summer and winter breaks as an intern at local architecture firms. After graduating, I got a job in Miami and focused my efforts on both the IDP and ARE. It took me about three years to finish the IDP and four months for the ARE.

Did you take advantage of supplemental experience?

Supplemental experience was one of the greatest assets to completing my IDP. During my internship, I became involved with the local AIA chapter. Plus, my office actively supported community rebuilding efforts, which often counts toward IDP. From in-the-field construction knowledge to the politics of state laws (which effect our contracts on public work), these opportunities helped shape my understanding of how our industry works.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?

For those just starting on the path to licensure, the journey can appear long and daunting. The best advice is, no matter how cliché it sounds, to take the path one step at a time and find mentors who can help you. This doesn't mean you shouldn't earn IDP while you are in school, or you shouldn't start studying for the ARE when you are working full-time. Naturally, there are overlaps and shared knowledge among the three components. But compartmentalizing each step can help make them more manageable. 

At times, it took a great deal of effort to keep going. Architecture is a challenging field. In school, it seems like we work harder than other majors. When we start our internships, we work later than our friends. However, in the face of all of these "downsides,” nothing beats walking into a space that you designed. Those are the days that make the late nights and hard work worth it.

How do you stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends?

In the morning, I like to look at ArchDaily and Architizer. I find that these two sites often have great projects that help generate new ideas for the work I'm doing in the office. There have been countless times where I have been able to find a project in the morning and put it in front of a client or design team to help generate solutions for current projects. In the evening, I can't keep off of my local Curbed. It is important to know the world around you, and even more important to know what is happening in your own backyard.


Architect Spotlight: Krystal Rodrigues
Meet Krystal Rodrigues, a Bermuda-born architect who became licensed just two years after earning her M.Arch.