Arch Stories – How I got licensed

Earlier this summer I worked with Katherine Williams from Arch Stories to add my two-year journey of testing and passing the Architecture Registration Exams (ARE) to her website. Katherine maintains a rich collection of licensing stories from minority architects dating back to the 1980s. The stories are wide-ranging, some focusing on strategies for the exam, while others include tips on juggling life with test-taking demands and interesting historical anecdotes. Taking the exams can be daunting and is an often procrastinated task, so having a resource of test-taking stories can be motivating.

Architects are licensed to protect the health, safety & welfare of the public from unqualified practitioners. To become licensed is a lengthy process which entails studying at an accredited university, gaining experience under a licensed architect, preparing for and passing the ARE’s (there are now 6 exams with the 5.0 version of the exam but I took 7 with the previous version), then applying for a license in the state(s) that you wish to practice. I received my initial license back in 2011 from Texas and currently hold licenses in DC, MD & VA. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating – only 2% of all licensed architects in the United States are Black although Black Americans make up 13% of the population. The recently announced AIA Large Firm Round Table 2030 Diversity Challenge aims to increase this number from 2 to 4 % (2,300 to 5,000 licensed Black architects). It is important to diversify the profession so that it can reflect the communities that it serves. I am personally always open to mentoring opportunities that support this effort.

Back to my “Arch story” that I mentioned initially…below is an excerpt from the full post; you can read the rest on Arch Stories. Also that’s me in the photo above – back row, third from the left – celebrating with friends after finally passing the exams! If you have any questions about the profession or licensing feel free to contact me.

During my architecture internships, I heard stories from other architects who waited too long to take their exams and ultimately never did because life got in the way. Once I started my first job out of grad school I was determined to pass the exams as soon as possible. I settled down in Atlanta after my studies in Illinois. I was never one to study in groups, but it just so happened that I ran into a fellow UIUC grad, Thomas Allen, who had also moved to Atlanta. We never formally met in grad school, because we were in different programs, but I remember seeing him there. We decided to study for the exams together at a little coffee shop between our apartments called Inman Perk. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, fueling us with added motivation and accountability. At that time, testing was allowed, in some states, before the completion of your internship, so I took advantage of that and registered to test through Texas because Georgia did not allow testing prior to completing internship hours.

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