Editor's note: View a current list of IPAL programs.

Created by NCARB in 2015, the  Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure  (IPAL) offers a dynamic, innovative path to licensure for students who are dedicated to becoming architects. By integrating the opportunity to gain the real-world experience necessary to complete the  Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) and ensuring that each IPAL student can take all six divisions of the  Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), students can be eligible for licensure soon after graduation.

Today, there are 26 IPAL programs at 21 colleges from around the country—including the University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte, which was selected by NCARB as one of the inaugural IPAL programs.

Co-director of UNC Charlotte’s IPAL program David Thaddeus, FAIA, shares how the program encourages diversity, the advantages of enrolling in an IPAL program, and tips and tricks for prospective students.

How did the IPAL program at the University of North Carolina Charlotte get started?

A couple of faculty members and Chris Jarrett, the director of our program, decided to submit a proposal for creating an IPAL track at our School of Architecture (SoA) in 2015. I am the co-director of the IPAL program at our SoA with Professor Peter Wong. We also work closely with Carol Bacon, a graduate of our program who serves as a liaison to local architecture offices.  Together, we created an IPAL Consortium of 18 partner firms that assists in decision and policymaking, in addition to supervising students. Our first IPAL class, of two students, started in 2016 and will graduate in the spring of 2020. Since the inaugural class, our IPAL program has attracted some of the best students at the SoA through a competitive application process.

What are some advantages of participating in an IPAL program?

There are several advantages to participating in our IPAL program, both to our students and to our partner firms. One of the obvious advantages is the ability to study and take the ARE before graduating. Shortening the duration to licensure is an attractive feature for a focused student. Another advantage that our program offers is three years of part-time and one year of full-time employment in the same partner firm. The professional connections that our IPAL students develop before graduation build a very strong foundation for a solid career in the profession. From the partner firm’s perspective, our students bring fresh ideas, digital skills, and a fresh and youthful outlook on the profession. The talent has been impressive and the selection of a short list for interviews at firms is always difficult to narrow down.

How does UNC Charlotte support current IPAL students’ academic and professional pursuits?

The School of Architecture constantly monitors IPAL students’ academic and professional progress. Through advising, the academic and professional schedules are coordinated, and areas of deficiency in either realm are identified and addressed. Updates on student academic progress and on AXP experience hours are presented at Consortium meetings where suggestions are made for making up hours in deficient AXP categories.

How does IPAL encourage diversity in the profession?

Encouraging and promoting diversity in our own IPAL program will undoubtedly become a similar expectation in the profession. More representation of women and minorities in the application and selection processes, as well as on the IPAL Consortium, should lead to greater expectations of diversity in the profession after graduation. The young professionals graduating from the IPAL program at UNC Charlotte are a different breed of emerging professionals who will undoubtedly change the practice of architecture in the near future. What we teach our students pales in comparison to what they teach us.

Are there any tips you can offer to prospective students interested in IPAL programs?

Academics should always come first while still a student. Take advantage of studio culture, study-abroad programs, and extra-curricular activities, but then focus on becoming licensed before life happens. Time management is a key skill that will serve anyone very well.

How do you think your path to licensure would’ve differed if you had participated in an IPAL program while at school?

I personally believe that my circuitous path and extended duration would have been greatly reduced had I been enrolled in an IPAL program. But then again, as a graduate student already with professional experience, I was intent on immersion in my graduate education.

Do you think more schools should offer IPAL programs?

I don’t believe that the IPAL program is for all students, for all schools, or for all architecture communities. UNC Charlotte currently has a thriving design and construction industry, but we have deliberately kept our IPAL program small. We expect the program to grow with increasing interest from the local architectural community. As long as the program is optional and does not significantly infringe on any academic aspirations of a curriculum, then it is a great advantage to offer the option to students who consider licensure to be a priority.

If you’re interested in applying for an IPAL program, be sure to read these FAQs before you get started.