We asked recently licensed architect and licensing advisor, Patricia Rosales Vera, NCARB, about her experiences as she earned her license and tips for candidates on the same journey.
At what point in your life did you decide to pursue a career in architecture?
Many people I talk to have wanted to be architects their entire lives. They have been drawing or creating models of buildings since childhood. Not me. I learned what architecture was later. I initially wanted to be a pediatrician and spent two years in nursing school before I realized that pediatricians didn’t deliver babies!
Not long after deciding that medicine would not be my career, I took a tour of Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. We toured all the different buildings—classroom after classroom—and everything was the same until we entered the architecture building.
Upon touring the architecture building, three things struck me. First, instead of the plain classroom or lecture hall, these classrooms were open and full of drafting tables, T-squares, and triangles. It was big, open, and welcoming! There was something different. It was during this first visit that I heard the call to architecture. At that same university, I went on to get my architecture degree.
What did your path to licensure look like? How did you fulfill your requirements and juggle personal responsibilities at the same time?
My path to licensure in the United States was likely more challenging than most. I should clarify that I studied architecture in Ciudad Juarez, in Chihuahua, Mexico, and was already a licensed architect there. Navigating the foreign architecture path across two borders and languages felt like a maze. I would start in one direction only to learn I needed to go in a different direction, then another. Getting started definitely had a learning curve.
Once I was approved for (and understood) the foreign architect path, things got interesting. I was approved to start testing just one month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Even so, I didn’t let it slow me down. I remember that I did a lot of studying in the car. Oftentimes, this was while I waited for my kids to get out of practice. I studied, I worked, and I studied some more. I did all this while my kids graduated from high school and middle school.
I created an international network of study buddies from all over the globe: Canada, Germany, Spain, India, Puerto Rico, and of course, Mexico. I could also be found in nearly every webinar available because I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do because of my background. I didn’t study in the United States, and English was not my first language.
Were there any challenges you faced while on the path to licensure, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I faced initially was simply not knowing where to start. I did not grow up knowing anyone in architecture. Yes, I had my degree and license in Mexico, but that has very little to do with working through the testing process for the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®). I overcame this by asking many people, many questions.
I faced some procedural challenges, such as explaining to the local Mexican government entities what NCARB required and going back to NCARB to explain what the Mexican entities were willing to do. Neither wanted to sign (or accept) documents outside the original language. Still, we worked through it by persistently following up with each group or person and following the process all the way through.
Other challenges were financial. Testing can be expensive! What gave me the momentum I needed was being awarded an American Institute of Architects (AIA) scholarship after passing three exams—that covered expenses for my subsequent tests. After each test I took, pass or fail, I would always schedule my next testing date immediately. Having a deadline for the next step made all the difference in keeping me on track.
Tell us about your experience as a licensing advisor. What motivated you to take on this responsibility?
My experience so far has been incredible! I have really enjoyed the public seminars I have co-hosted with my local NCARB licensing advisor counterpart, Emmanuel Moreno. The feedback and impact we get after hosting these information sessions make it worth it.
I am a bilingual Hispanic female and a registered architect. I make up a very slim minority of registered architects. I live in a borderland community with a great need to help the local architecture college students and those licensed in Mexico living just minutes away. I was motivated to become a licensing advisor because I wanted to be the mentor and resource that I didn’t have. When I became a licensing advisor, I wanted to leverage my experience to assist other aspiring U.S. architects (and Mexican architects like me).