Despite attending a non-accredited undergrad program, Sara Rosenthal, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, powered through the licensure process, earning her initial registration at 28. We asked the Massachusetts architect to share her thoughts on early eligibility (taking the exam while completing internship), what she’d do differently, and why licensure matters.

When did you realize you wanted to become an architect?

My interest in the profession was sparked early in childhood—somewhere between building a dollhouse with my dad, sketching intricate sections of high-rise homes with my brother, and reorganizing spaces in our home with my mom. My desired career path was solidified in the third grade after I wrote a report on being an architect. I’ve come across the report a couple of times and am interested to compare my third-grade vision of an architectural career to my current experiences.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your path to licensure?

The largest challenge I faced was not having an NAAB-accredited undergraduate degree. I could’ve remained at University of Florida for an M.Arch., but I was anxious to start my career outside of Florida. After working in Boston for three years, I decided it was time to get my degree so I could sit for the exams and become licensed. In hindsight, had I known about the difference between a 4+2 M.Arch. degree and a five-year B.Arch., I’m not sure I would’ve made the same choice for college. At the same time, I wouldn’t change the path I’ve gone down because it led me to my current position.

Why was earning a license important to you?

It was always my intention to become an architect. Becoming licensed was never something I second-guessed as a part of my career. Now that I’m licensed I have seen that having this credential gives your coworkers, clients, and consultants added confidence in your skill level and abilities.

How did you leverage your internship to help you pass the ARE?

I set up my exam order based on recommendations by friends who had either completed or at least started taking the ARE. It just so happened that the phases of my projects coincided with my predetermined schedule. I was reviewing steel shop drawings while studying for structures, drawing details for construction documents while studying for the Building Design and Construction Systems exam. Being able to correlate the study material directly to my work allowed me to retain the enormous amount of information more easily.

What advice do you have for aspiring architects?

Be your own advocate and take control of your career. While it is important to have mentors both in and outside of your job, you must also be mindful of your personal goals.

Tell us about the projects you’re currently working on.

I am currently in construction administration for a new elementary school in Milford, MA. The new school will provide students with a range of spaces for learning—including classrooms and breakout areas for smaller group lessons and hands-on experiences. I’ve been a part of the team since design development and am excited to see the progression of the project after we break ground in the coming months.