Why I Enrolled in an IPAL Program

NCARB launched the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) initiative in 2015 to allow students to work toward completing their experience and examination requirements while earning a degree. Now, the first students are approaching graduation at accepted IPAL programs. IPAL student Travis Wiegand shares his experience with the program and how he’s juggling earning a master’s degree, taking the exam, and working full-time with a busy life.

You’re currently participating in the M.Arch. IPAL option at Boston Architectural College (BAC). How did you first learn about IPAL?

I first heard about the IPAL program at our on-site intensive week during the fall 2016 semester.

Why did you decide to enroll in IPAL?

For me it wasn’t much of a decision to join into the program. I already had the goal to become a registered architect as quickly as I could. Having the opportunity to shorten the timeline through the IPAL program and allowing me to begin taking the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) before completing my degree has put me ahead of where I would be had I stuck with the traditional route.

How has your program integrated the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and the ARE into the curriculum?

One of the most attractive elements of the BAC’s program was the integration of architectural practice into their curriculum. Every other school I had talked to seemingly discouraged the idea of working full-time while pursuing my master’s degree. For me, that simply wasn’t an option. Working within a firm while simultaneously taking master’s courses through the BAC allowed me to complete the AXP. Since the launch of the IPAL program, the BAC has integrated additional coursework that aligns with some of the ARE 5.0 divisions.

You completed the AXP last year. How did you balance earning experience with your classes?

I had already completed a good portion of the AXP before enrolling at the BAC and as I mentioned earlier, gaining experience while working at an architectural firm is part of the BAC’s program, so completing the AXP came naturally. Balancing working full-time with going to school full-time isn’t always easy. Some weeks are seven days nonstop of either working at the office or working on my coursework, but supporting my family and completing my master’s are both priorities to me. I may have to say no to some things along the way, but when the day comes and I can tell people that I’m an architect, I’ll know it was worth it.

Why is licensure important to you?

One of my goals is to own my own firm, so licensure is certainly a legal requirement, but it’s also a personal goal that I’ve had for some time. With the title of architect comes additional credibility to those I work with and the knowledge and confidence to know that I’m capable to take on the role.

You’ve already passed two ARE divisions—how did you approach the exam?

Some of my coursework at the BAC backed by my experience in the field provided a great foundation for me. Combining that with studying the various AIA contracts and firm legalities allowed me to pass the Practice Management and Project Management divisions.

Do you have any advice for other students considering participating in an IPAL option?

I really don’t see a downside to it, other than you no longer have any excuses to not be actively working toward licensure. Prior to the implementation of the IPAL program, I would have had to wait until I was done with my degree program before being able to tackle the ARE.

How do you stay on top of the profession in your downtime—do you have any favorite books, magazines, or podcasts?

There are a number of channels that I like to plug in to. While books do provide a great opportunity for broad ideas, I’m a huge fan of podcasts and articles as they’re a much more accessible means for me; they come in manageable portions that can be consumed in a short period of time. They’re a reflection of the big topics of the day or a quick introduction to other creatives that will then lead me to more conversations and explorations. That being said, some of my top podcasts are 99% Invisible, Design Matters, and After the Jump. Gimlet Media has a spread of podcasts, but they really hooked me with Startup. And who can pass up ArchDaily!

You recently became a father. Congratulations! How are you balancing your education and career with parenthood?

Well, I’ve actually taken a semester break in order to devote all my energy to our new daughter. I’ll be completing my degree in the spring semester. The great part about the IPAL program is that I can continue working on the ARE during this break. My plan is to take at least two more exams before returning for my final semester, but we’ll see how much time my little angel lets me devote toward studying.

An important trait is to know yourself—your abilities and limitations. The key for me to take on any big challenge is to break it down into manageable sizes and set deadlines. Tackling a huge deadline can seem daunting, but understand that there are a lot of little pieces that make up the whole. Identify the small tasks that are manageable and work through them, stay focused and have good time management, and you won’t be overwhelmed with the enormity of the challenge.

I try to take one day at a time and enjoy the little things. It’s also good to keep in mind that, as one of my professors from the University of Minnesota said, “A painting is never finished; it simply pauses at an interesting point.” As creatives, we can push a design to the end of time, but it’s important to be able to accept a milestone and move on to the next.

It also helps to have an amazing wife who encourages you, challenges you, empowers you, and helps balance you when you’re getting blown over! I’m lucky to have a wonderful partner in this great adventure and couldn’t imagine trying to do all this without her!

Travis Wiegand is a Project Manager at Vanney Associates in Minneapolis, MN, and is working to complete his master’s degree at Boston Architectural College.