The Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL), developed by NCARB in 2015, provides dedicated students pursuing a license with a quicker pathway. IPAL, which is an optional route offered by approved programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), enables students to finish both the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) and the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) while earning a degree.
Amanda Cohen and Rachel Lindemann share their unique experiences and opportunities as IPAL students and give helpful advice for prospective students.
Why was it important for you to participate in IPAL?
Rachel: After working in the architecture field for five years, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree to become a licensed architect. The IPAL program allowed me to fast-track that licensure process and reach my goal in less than half the time it would have taken on the typical licensure track.
Amanda: I wanted to participate in IPAL to jumpstart my career before “life” got in the way. Passing the ARE before graduation meant there would be one less exam for me to take post-grad when there are more distractions and responsibilities to prioritize. I knew that it would also make me a more competitive job candidate and could offer me better, higher-paying positions.
What do you think IPAL has done for your architecture career, and what has been your biggest takeaway from the program?
R: IPAL fast-tracked my goal to be a licensed architect, but it has also shaped the way I view the field of architecture. I worked closely with professors and gained insight into the interactions between the academic and professional worlds and the licensure process. Today, I am much more interested in how these groups can work together to support individuals who want to be licensed. I plan to stay involved in the Ball State/Indianapolis architecture communities to support future IPAL students.
A: My biggest takeaway from the program is that the hard work pays off! It was anything but simple to balance a full-time job at an architecture firm, part-time night school at Drexel University, extracurriculars, a social life, and study for all six license exams. However, even just a few months post-grad, I am already seeing the benefit and advantage the IPAL program has done for my career. I am not a typical entry-level recent grad—I instead can apply to jobs with over four years of experience and am fully qualified for licensure. Being 23 years old with school, AXP experience, and all ARE divisions completed sets me apart and shows firms my level of commitment and passion for architecture. It also is a huge weight off my shoulders, already knowing that I completed the licensure component of my career because I feel that I can focus on finding my niche within the industry.
How did you balance completing your coursework and experience hours?
R: I was lucky enough to have my experience hours completed before entering grad school/the IPAL program. I did balance working part-time in an architecture firm while in school, but I did not have to worry about hitting the AXP milestones by graduation. Each Sunday, I would plan out my week, allotting time slots to my study goals, schedule coursework and work commitments, and then I just follow the calendar. It wasn’t easy, but it allowed me to control my perfectionist tendencies and acted as one big to-do list to keep me focused.
A: Drexel’s Bachelor of Architecture program is structured to ensure that its students complete all AXP hours before graduation. With their 2+4 Bachelor of Architecture program, I attended typical full-time school with summers off for the first two years. For the remaining four years of the program, we transitioned to year-round, part-time night school and had full-time paid internships, where we could all log experience hours with NCARB. Balancing part-time classes with a full-time job wasn’t always simple, but open communication with my firm was crucial. Explaining when I needed to have time off before a final critique or when I needed to leave early to get to class, they were always accommodating and understood that my education had to come first.
How did you learn about the IPAL program? Would you recommend it to other students interested in becoming a licensed architect?
R: I learned about the IPAL program during my grad school application process. At that time, it was still in the preliminary review stages at Ball State for program approval, but I knew I wanted to jump into it if it was approved while I was still a student. The program gives you a unique perspective as you work through all three portions in tandem; you can draw from work experience/colleagues, academic resources, professors, and the larger ARE studying communities to develop a cross-sectional study practice. I highly recommend it to motivated students who know they want to work as a licensed architect.
A: learned about IPAL when touring colleges back in 2015. When I visited Drexel, the faculty explained the unique structure of their 2+4 B. Arch program and how IPAL intertwined with this class and work structure, offering a new way of earning an Architecture license much earlier in one’s career. I would absolutely recommend the IPAL program to other students! While the program can be challenging, I always reminded myself the hard work and focus on exams I put in while in school would give me greater freedom post-graduation, such as a competitive edge in the job market.
Do you feel the program equipped you with the skills needed to successfully complete the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)?
R: I had a unique situation as the first student to go through the IPAL program at my school. The professors and the architecture program at large were very helpful and supportive of each step of my IPAL journey. The program gave me the tools to complete the ARE paired with diligence and sheer determination.
A: I used several different study guides when preparing for the ARE, and NCARB has some great resources available for free on their website for ARE prep. My school and firm also provided ARE study materials, which was instrumental to my success on the exams. Having free study guides as a college student meant so much because these resources are not always affordable. The AXP Advisor at Drexel advocated for us within the university and developed a great library to help IPAL participants prepare for the ARE. Many of our courses at Drexel are directly related to the content covered in the ARE. With these courses so fresh in my mind, much of my studying was easier. Also, Drexel’s AIAS chapter hosted several events during my time there that involved recent grads and upperclassmen, who offered advice about how to communicate with your firm if you find that your experience hours are not diversified across the six categories. While obtaining the minimum number of hours for AXP can be relatively simple, ensuring those hours are qualified experience across all categories is more complicated. Resources from NCARB that explain the types of tasks eligible for each category made those conversations with my firm easier and kept me on track to complete the AXP by graduation.
What advice would you give to someone participating in an IPAL program?
R: Create a plan, be focused, and attempt to manage your stress levels as your class and IPAL commitments overlap. Study the suggested materials while also working on reading comprehension and test-taking skills. Be strategic about scheduling your exams in advance and allow for the 60-day testing turn-around window before graduation. This will motivate you to study and help keep you calm on test day.
A: I would suggest laying out a plan with the date of your exams, the amount of time needed to study for each exam, and booking your test date when you begin to study for that specific test. Knowing I had a hard deadline made me more committed to studying since I knew I couldn’t move the exam date (not for free, at least). Additionally, it’s a great option to form study groups with others in your school or firms preparing for the AREs. It doesn’t need to be the same test, but surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals committed to studying times and available to answer your questions is best. I had also spoken to probably half a dozen people at work who either recently completed their exams or were taking them. These coworkers gave me amazing advice about how long to study for each exam, reflections on the order they took the tests, and what study materials they used. They continued to check in and offer support while I was studying. People are your greatest resource—connect with them and don’t be afraid to ask for help!