Understanding and developing the skills necessary to achieve licensure can be an arduous and often confusing process. However, by setting personal goals and developing a supportive relationship with supervisors and mentors, you can complete the Architectural Experience Program™ (AXP™) and be one step closer to becoming an architect.

My AXP experience has evolved over several years; from an internship where I was apprehensive to apply my hours to anything other than the tasks outlined in the Guidelines to assisting my current firm’s developing Mentorship Program. Yet, as my knowledge and understanding of the skills I would need to develop for my career advanced, I became more confident in my ability to complete the once daunting 3,740 hours. This self-assurance was only enhanced once I realized that an open dialogue with my AXP mentor was vital for enhancing both my internship experience and my professional skills.

In the course of my AXP and Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) endeavors, I have developed several strategies to help navigate the AXP’s six experience areas.

Wear Different Hats

As a licensure candidate—and eventually an architect—you’ll wear a variety of hats. That’s why it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone and the roles you would typically perceive as being done by an emerging professional. In my internship experiences, I helped prepare RFIs, marketing documents, and RFPs to fulfill my Practice Management hours. My firm’s weekly progress meetings are used to fulfill my Project Management hours. My skills in historic research and historic preservation fulfill my Project Planning & Design needs. And I jump at almost every opportunity to assist on a job site, punch list, or project management role to satisfy the necessary hours for Construction & Evaluation.

Develop a Team of Professional Mentors

While NCARB requires only one AXP supervisor, it is always beneficial to have a posse of professionals to assist you in your goals. At my current firm, we developed a “Mentorship Program,” comprised of three tiers that assist and support one another. These tiers consist of emerging professionals, registered architects, and firm associates. Many employees play the role of both a mentor and a mentee, with the emerging professionals providing insight and assistance with technological and software advancements.

As an emerging professional, I work under both my AXP supervisor and one of the firm’s principals. While this may not be feasible for those at smaller firms, this dual mentorship can help enhance your AXP experience.

Stick to Personal and Professional Deadlines

One of the most difficult aspects of completing the AXP can be coordinating meetings with your supervisor. It can often seem like you are imposing upon them when you ask for assistance completing needed hours or even asking them to find the time to review your submitted hours. However, your mentors understand that they play a vital role in helping you navigate your path to licensure, and being open with them about your goals and deadlines is imperative.

Through my firm’s Mentorship Program, I am required to meet with my mentorship team on a quarterly basis, and I submit my AXP hours to my supervisor within the same timeline. While others may want to submit their hours on a daily, weekly, or monthly, basis, the quarterly timeline allows me to get a better sense of my professional progress. It also enables the team to plan a trajectory for the next few months of projects, allowing me to focus on those areas where I need to fulfill AXP hours the most. Regardless of how often you submit your reports, remember to keep the six-month reporting requirement in mind.

During these meetings, my mentors provide feedback on my professional development and recommend areas of focus or improvement. At the same time, I can ask questions about the profession, request opportunities to work in other roles within the firm, and even provide my own thoughts and feedback. Most importantly, I discuss the deadlines I have for the upcoming months, whether it be AXP hours I need to fulfill, prepping for the ARE, or interest in other endeavors, such as obtaining certification in other areas. Overall, these meetings should be viewed as a way to strategize your personal and professional goals.

Designing Your Own Path

Everyone’s path to licensure is different, and so are the steps they take to achieve it. However, NCARB provides numerous resources to assist both emerging professionals and their supervisors.

Of all the sources available, I would recommend those provided by NCARB:

Leigh House is a licensure candidate at K. Norman Berry Architects in Louisville, Kentucky. Leigh graduated with a Dual Masters in Architecture and Historic Preservation from Ball State University in 2016. She is currently working on fulfilling her AXP hours and is a member of the 2017 NCARB Think Tank.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).