Monday, December 19, 2011

More on getting licensed (or not)

I've received some good feedback on whether to get licensed, and folks have brought up some good points, such as the cost of maintaining an NCARB record and the cost of study materials and the tests themselves.  If you're not making a lot in the first place, and the economy has depressed your already-meh wages, it's pretty daunting to think about taking a test and possibly losing $210 because you had to borrow a study guide from someone who borrowed it from someone else and needs it back on Monday, etc.  I also know that there are some folks who have done really well without ever getting licensed.  For example, a colleague of mine said that there are no rules on calling yourself an "architect" in her home state of New York, so many of her classmates have thriving architectural design careers without a license.  However, here in my adopted home state of Colorado, a designer can be seriously legally reprimanded for calling him/herself an "architect" if s/he is not actually licensed.  (And your company cannot have the word "Architect(s)" in its title unless there are actual architects involved in the company's ownership.)

I received the following comments from an architect who got licensed in the 1980s:

I was determined to get my license as soon as possible after school was completed and after a nice travel break. I had enough experience from working in Architectural and Engineering offices (plus framed houses and did interior trim carpentry) during college to sit for the exam within 3.5 years after I graduated.  I got licensed at 28.  The study and exam combo was brutal for us. It was four days in a row!!  There was no option to spread it out over an extended period like you can now. I studied very hard and passed it all the first time. What a relief!!

...[I]n response to your post on getting licensed versus not, my recommendation is for anyone that wants to make real progress in the profession to get it out of the way as soon as possible. You get more respect amongst your peers and it will allow you to pursue your own practice if you desire. Plus it looks very good on your resume.

Someone once described poverty not as a lack of money but as a lack of options.  What I like most about having a license is that it gives you options.  Not everyone will look down on you if you're not licensed, but no one will look down on you if you are licensed.  You can start a design firm if you're not licensed, but you'll need someone else to stamp and sign your drawings.  If you're not licensed, you may have to be careful about what you call yourself depending on where you do your architectural design or 3D modeling or whatever else you do, but it doesn't matter when you're licensed--you're an architect.

And that's a choice everyone has to make for themselves.  Some firms won't care, some will.  Some states/jurisdictions won't care what you call yourself, some will.  Depending on what you want to do in life, licensure may not be the ultimate or even a necessary goal for you.  But I never want to see any of you work hard and then find yourselves limited in any way, and jumping through those final hoops can open a lot more doors and possibilities for you.

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