The Costs Associated with becoming an Architect

November 13, 2013 — 132 Comments

The costs associated with becoming a licensed architect are out of control. If you have gone through the process yourself in the last 10 years you know exactly what I mean – it seems like there is a never-ending line of people with their hands out, telling you that you have to pay for every single step along the way – and we all know that there are a lot of steps along the way to becoming a licensed architect.

Over the past 40 years, the requirements for architectural licensure have increased tremendously in terms of time and cost to the candidate. In 2012, the Texas Society of Architects agreed to put together a task force to examine the Architectural Licensing Exam (ARE) and the Intern Development Program (IDP) process and propose changes for a simpler, more efficient system. The results from this task force have been compiled and were presented at this years 2013 AIA “large states” meeting where the findings and recommendations were very well received. Last week The Path to Architectural Licensure was presented to the Executive Board at the Texas Society of Architects who unanimously endorsed the task force findings.

This is an extremely important issue for our field – it forces us to look at how we are nurturing and building the careers of the young people who aspire to become architects, and what their path to success might include.

I have read the report myself several times over and the data presented in it is both remarkable and alarming. The report not only identifies items in the system that might be broken, it also presents recommendations on how to fix this process. I have culled out and presented some of the graphics which highlight the main issues – mainly the time and costs associated with becoming a licensed architect.

This first graphic shows how the testing requirements have changed over the last 40 years [click to enlarge]:

Architectural Registration Exam over the years

This next graphic takes a look at the out-of-pocket expenses associated with the process of maintaining and recording the requirements of the Intern Development Program as well as the number of tests and costs of those test required to become licensed to practice architecture [click to enlarge]:

IDP and ARE Cumulative Costs

Finally, as if to add insult to financial injury, this last graphic looks at the costs associated with becoming licensed as compared to Engineers and Lawyers [click to enlarge]:

Costs to become an architect compared to engineers and lawyers

The participating states (Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, and Michigan) were to take the paper to their own leadership groups and see if those groups would like to endorse the recommendations – with that process currently underway. Ultimately, the paper with any endorsements will be forwarded to NCARB and a request for their response. Your participation is encouraged and I would really appreciate your feedback on the recommendations posited by the force – or even if you simply want to vent about the current system. To read the entire report (which I highly recommend anyone in the field of architecture take the time to do so) just follow this link to The Path to Architectural Licensure report.

Cheers – and thank you for your time and opinions.

Bob Borson signature

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  • Warren Bloss

    I have been in construction 35 years. Often I would seek out how to become a licensed architect. Each time, I had to choose to earn a living rather than put my family in poverty for many years and enter architecture with a huge debt. I wish I had chosen to pursue the degree when I was fresh out of college. Now, there is no more time left regardless of the many years of working in the industry, running an architectural office, and completing plans for one. Just last week, upon reviewing my drawings, I was told by an architect that I should become one myself. After researching it, at this date, I find that pursuing this at 52 years old is an impossibility as there is no time left. It saddens me, because I know I would be a good architect without being one of those annoying “elitist” that I am forced to work with every day.

    Keep in mind that having the ability to draw a pretty building and know the UPC codes does not place one at a higher level of importance than another.

    I remember in Technical College, I took drafting as an elective…..The instructor asked one very important question. “Here is your project. How are you going to draw it?” As each student was asked and as they spoke of the mechanics of setup and drawing the project, they were met with an irritated, “NO!” When he came to me there were no other answers left. So, I said, “Any way YOU want it, sir.” HIs answer was, “Exactly Right!!!” HIs point was that a draftsman and architect are working for the customer. They are merely a part of the project, not the whole picture. Certainly not God.

  • DCArchiChic

    Thanks for sharing! This has been a topic I’ve been tackling in DC as well. I think it would be helpful to compare these changes with average income for the profession. When you add these costs, with the costs of other organizations and certifications we are encouraged to participate in and obtain USGBC/LEED, AIA, etc., the costs of student loans, and general costs of living, and then compare them to the income of a young architect it is ridiculous! Thank you for addressing this topic and I would love to assist you as you explore it further.

  • Hou_Arch

    I have been a licensed architect for 22 years. I wholeheartedly agree with the report. Why should it be harder, more time consuming and more expensive to become a licensed architect than an engineer or an attorney? It shouldn’t. Architects need to lose this elitist, “if you can’t handle it, you don’t deserve to be one of us God-like creatures” attitude. Licensing is a way for states to determine your competency in life safety so you don’t kill or injure anyone with your building. It is not (and should not try to be) an endorsement of your superior design skills. I am tired of seeing talented, hardworking folks give up because of all the barriers put in front of them for licensing. One of the most insidious ones is NCARB’s “six month rule.” I know of several folks with MANY years of experience who can’t count it toward licensure because they hadn’t begun IDP before the rule change. I personally feel that having fewer licensed architects is bad for the profession because good designers will go unlicensed and clients will start to recognize (correctly) that they can hire unlicensed designers who are equally qualified to do the work.

    • Malcolm Scott

      I agree that we need to see as many people through licensure as possible.

      However, what should happen is that hiring an unlicensed designer should be against the law same as hiring an unlicensed contractor. The consumer plays a role.

  • Jenlozier

    Not to mention the cost of college has gone up 1000 fold and that now an ‘5-6 year accredited’ or master’s degree is required where it was once a 4 year bachelors or just ‘experience’.

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  • Julio Guillen

    Add to the burden of time and money the need to learn a weird drawing program with no actual application in the actual world, just for the rarefied exercise of passing the examination. At least until the 90’s you draw by hand, in a way similar to the way you would do in actual practice. I don’t see that particular point addressed in the post…

  • Adding even more insult to the financial injury of acquiring a license are the costs associated with having a license. Not so much the annual state fee ($125/yr in MA), but national & local associations dues such as AIA and the Boston Society of Architects here in MA are nearly $800/yr. While optional they are almost a necessity to be and stay informed and visible to colleagues and prospective clients. Great post Bob!

  • Art Vandelay

    “Most firms will cover some or all costs associated with exams and initial license”

    None of the half dozen firms in which I have worked with during the last 7 years have. They have ranged in size from 2 – 250 people. I believe the firm paying for your licensing is a pre-2008 standard and is now considered overhead as opposed to an investment. The study guides tend to cost nearly as much as the tests themselves. So save up those $12-18 an hour salaries, those little letters after your name are expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice if the almighty AIA assisted in exam fees/ IDP, somehow. At least saying you are an architect is better than saying ‘architect in training’ or “intern architect” or “intern” or “cad jockey”

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  • Jimbob

    Most firms will cover some or all costs associated with exams and initial license. Some will cover or help with study materials and post licensure expenses such as NCARB or AIA membership. Some smaller or specialized firms can’t or don’t help with this, and if you want to go it alone, you have to deal with it. To put it into perspective, if you are licensed and stamping drawings, you are often managing the course of work for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of work. If you can’t manage your own situation to either gain training at a solid firm which mentors you and is paying for your exams, or manage your own finances to come up with $1800 over a 5 year period, you probably have no business being an architect until you learn those skills. If you don’t have the ability to come up with $1800 over a 5-10 year period, what makes you feel so entitled that you think you have the ability or right to hold lives in your hands as you practice?

    • Art Vandelay

      “Most firms will cover some or all costs associated with exams and initial license”

      None of the half dozen firms in which I have worked with during the last 7 years have. They have ranged in size from 2 – 250 people. I believe the firm paying for your licensing is a pre-2008 standard and is now considered overhead as opposed to an investment. The study guides tend to cost nearly as much as the tests themselves. So save up those $12-18 an hour salaries, because those little letters after your name are expensive (and hopefully worth more than just the Post Prometric Pint from your close friends). At least saying you are an architect is better than saying ‘architect in training’ or “intern architect” or “intern” or “cad jockey”

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  • Anne Dafchik

    As a recently licensed architect, I still often reflect back on my university years, where students who spent money on the best materials received the highest grades. The requirements of the course may have dictated nothing more than study models, but… Making a model out of chipboard or foam-core? B- Making a model out of plexi-glass and resin? A+ Cost difference? Hundreds of dollars.

  • William G. Koonz II, AIA, LC

    I would like to take a moment or two to address a number of items that were brought up in the article and the subsequent comments by a number of my fellow professionals. While I think you make some good points, the issue here is not NCARB, but candidates. I took the exam in 1994 over a period of 3 months. It doesn’t take years, it takes dedication and a drive to complete your goals. Candidates let their life get in the way and because the need to “BE” and architect has been diluted by the profession. We don’t value the time and dedication that it takes to know everything we need to know. We can hire another “consultant” who isn’t responsible for anything, rather than doing the research ourselves and being the “Master Builder” that we have historically been.

    This mentality is what brought us to implement the need for IDP, I completely disagree that the “70’s” were a great time. Perhaps many of us didn’t experience or don’t remember the “unpaid internships” and the drawing bathroom details for 3 years while we learned very little about Architecture. It’s easy to forget that many designers in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s worked for years with no real practical experience. Worse yet, their salary was not commensurate with their responsibility. We all need to remember that while all the other professions are less expensive to get their license, they don’t have the responsibility to the public that an Architect does. If we fail, buildings fall and people die. Not something any of us could live with.

    I have mentored numerous interns over the years and found them all to be confused by the process. That has a LOT to do with lack of information and education at the university level. If we don’t teach our prospective future architects what it takes to follow their dream, then they won’t know how. Once the process is explained and people are led through it, it’s not that difficult. That is what mentorship is all about people! We, as professionals, have a responsibility to teach those who are entering the profession and pass on our knowledge. That is not what the university is for. They can’t teach you to be an Architect, they teach you to think critically and creatively. THAT is their role. Our role is to teach the nuts and bolts of the profession. The issue here is that we miss that fact more often than not.

    As for NCARB’s lack of degree requirement, that is just plain untrue. An accredited degree is required for licensure except in certain states. It is a state architecture board mandate as to what the requirements are for licensure, not NCARB. They make recommendations which are implemented. Look on their site, they say very plainly that, licensure requirements are the prevue of the licensing state body and not that of NCARB.

    The cost of the exam is driven by the profession. There are a couple of issues with why it is so long and costly. First, the need to test a number of different subjects for competency is costly to do. There are multiple exams for a reason. If you look at the list of exams, you will notice that the requirements are actually getting simplified, not more complicated. In addition, the relative cost of the exam is actually decreasing when you consider that salaries in the last 20 years for interns has almost doubled. The overall cost of this test is more than others, but not outrageous (see why above). Second, the reason for the additional requirements comes from litigation that has occurred against the profession. As Architects, we have been sued numerous times by the trial lawyers in this country to force us to better maintain the public health, safety and welfare. This is just the nature of our current judicial system and not something that is going to change until the public takes more responsibility for their own actions. “If you fall, it must be someone else’s fault, you should sue them and get some money.” Third, if you look at the cost of the exam from 1974 to today (for arguments sake, I used the 2005 high level number), you will find and increase of 2.8x for the cost of the exam. There has been a far greater increase in the salaries of interns in that same period, so historically speaking, the cost of the exam has decreased, not increased. If the figures in the report were in today’s dollars, we would have something credible to compare.

    While I agree that becoming an Architect is expensive, there is a GREAT responsibility in following a career in this profession. It is hard, required long hours and you probably won’t ever be rich. On the plus side, you can make an impact on society that will FAR outlive you and could make an impression on generations to come. If we look at the great buildings throughout history, look at the impact they have made on our world. Is there another profession that can claim that impact to the human race? Probably not.

    I hope that people come to understand that while the IDP process is complicated, the information is all out there for one to learn. It takes some research and responsibility. While the cost is more, it is commensurate with the responsibility. While the requirements to become an Architect are significant, they are that way because of the needs of society. It is not NCARB’s fault that our society doesn’t understand what we do and what it takes, it is ours. If you want to change the process, get involved with reenergizing the profession, so we can again be seen as the “Master Builders” that we have historically been.

    • Will

      Can we all just be honest for a second? I’ll address a single point you made but I think it’s the main point that most the rest of your your argument is based on.

      You say, “We all need to remember that while all the other professions aren’t as expensive to get their license, they don’t have the responsibility to the public that an Architect does. If we fail, buildings fall and people die.”

      Now honestly, when did you last do load take downs, size a footing, call out the nailing on a wood shear wall, or design a roof truss? The answer to most of these things is that it’s probably been a long time.

      The implication that an Architect is somehow a “keeper of life” is, simply put, absurd. I’m not going to argue that Architects don’t serve an important and vital role, but protecting public safety isn’t really one of them. Architects excel at (besides aesthetic and programmatical design) assembling and coordinating a team of outside experts (civil engineers, structural engineers, geotechnical engineers, fire protection engineers, etc. etc.) which they then pay to accept the associated liability. This is true, at least in my brief 13 year career across 4 states, for the vast majority of projects. Down to and including small residential jobs.

      So my point is, no, Architects don’t serve as a public protector (and even if you disagree about that, objectively we know that there are other professionals that at least also serve that role) and using that as an excuse for the awful licensing process is just plain wrong. Structural engineers and fire protection engineers, both held to a higher level of liability than the AoR on a project, enjoy both a shorter education time, a shorter intern period, and a shorter and less expensive licensing examination.

      This fact flies in the face of the so often repeated mantra that the ARE exam simply reflects the magnitude of Architects’ public duty.

      • William G. Koonz II, AIA, LC

        Well, Will, to be honest, I have done most of the “comments that you used, “load take downs, size a footing, call out the nailing on a wood shear wall, or design a roof truss”, over the course of my career, especially checking what others do during residential or light commercial projects. If in your “brief career” you haven’t had to do that, well good for your, but passing judgment based on your limited experience doesn’t quite seem appropriate.

        Now, the reality of your argument is based on what you have done. Mine is based on the law in many of the states I carry an architectural license. Whether you want to argue that the profession has others who are responsible, the legal system doesn’t view it that way. In a building failure, the primary member named is the Architect. While it is true that many other professionals also carry liability, we are the ONLY profession that carry that liability for the ENTIRE project, not just their limited portion. You will never find a Fire Protection Engineer sued because a wall fell or a Structural Engineer sued because the smoke evacuation system failed and people died. In both of those cases, the Architect is named in the suit.

        You can make the argument that “it’s too hard” or “unfair because others have similar responsibility”, but using your own argument, “Architects excel at (besides aesthetic and programmatical design) assembling and coordinating a team of outside experts (civil engineers, structural engineers, geotechnical engineers, fire protection engineers, etc.”, Architects have to understand ALL aspects of the built environment and therefore, need to be trained and tested on it all. Not doing so would not allow us to understand what your so called “experts” are doing.
        I appreciate that you feel that we are singled out in the professional ranks, but alas, the profession and law demand it, no different than it does for the medical profession.

  • Mark Mc Swain

    A troubling thought occured to me drinving into work this morning.
    This large expense for licensure has other costs as well–to wit,
    “Just how many potentially great architects are turned away from practice because of the high financial burden?”
    Suppose we could bend time and transplant a 22 year-old FLW to today. Even if we presupposed his having identical access to patrons, he still would not be academically qualified to even enter IDP. history suggests that FLW would have some profane Welsh phrases upon the topic entire.

  • Brett Bouwer

    Very Interesting article.
    My name is Brett Bouwer and I am a third year architecture student at the university of colorado denver.
    currently in Studio II and have to go to five to finish my undergrad. Being in colorado I have been told I have to go get my masters degree too.
    I can tell you I spend well over 10 grand on educational expenses alone.
    But where I am really suffering is finding out about NCARB, IDP, etc . No one gives you a straight answer, no one is preparing me for the real word. 99% percent of my fellow classmastes have no clue how a building is even built. Not to mention all the years i have to wait after I take my exams to become an architect.

    • Hi Brett,
      Few things that hopefully make you feel just a bit better about your situation:
      1. Everybody feels the same way – you are not alone
      2. You don’t have to wait years to take the exam, you can start right after you’ve met your education requirements. You have to wait years to get the experience and that coupled with your exams qualify you as an architect.
      3. A great many schools consider the IDP process basically as supplements to your education and as a result, they focus your college curriculum on items that you will not get exposed to once you graduate. It’s not a bad thing that you might graduate from college and not know how a building gets built.
      4. College is expensive for everyone – the expenses associated with the licensing part of becoming an architect are minuscule compared to college. However, they are disproportionate to other licensed professionals and luckily, we have people who are trying to resolve that issue.

      Hang in there – best of luck.

      • Janeille

        ” It’s not a bad thing that you might graduate from college and not know how a building gets built.” are you kidding me? How is that not a bad thing..I know this thread is old but please elaborate. That is crazy to me.

        • It shouldn’t be. Architects don’t go to trade school so that they come out of school with an easily defined trade skill. This is about learning how to learn and process information. The best architecture schools teach you how to solve problems that don’t exist. You can go to a technical school if you want to learn how to draw a wall section.

          • Janeille

            Appreciate the reply Bob, I agree that architecture school is not trade school and learning how to learn and process information is important. However, Its like coming out of medical school and not knowing the basics of how the human body works. If you catch my analogy.

          • to keep the analogy going, that’s why both architects AND doctors have an intern process that takes place after they go to school.

          • silly

            it should be, the fact that they don’t know how to build something- and seeing how that is their chosen profession- is absolutely ludicrous and explains why so many struggle in this “profession.” oh dear, how awful that we would want to know what “trades people” know.. *sarcasm* snobs.

  • Bob Swinburne

    When I took the exams in 04 and 05 I was already a designer with my own firm. I looked at it as a marketing expense figuring that having a license would add a level of legitimacy and open my practice up to new markets. It accomplished that somewhat but mostly I stopped having to explain why I wasn’t really an architect.

    • Kat

      I feel like that’s why I’m ultimately getting licensed. No one in this firm that’s licensed ever stamps anything because of liability and I won’t really get a raise because overhead is too tight. Then my boss asks me when I’m going to start testing, and it’s kind of like, “What’s the point?”

      • the short answer is because you are not an architect unless you are licensed – it’s our “finish line.” In my office we have institutionalized the process of becoming licensed because regardless of whether or not you stamp drawings, as owner I can market you differently as a licensed professional over a “designer”. Anybody can (and does) call themselves a designer, it’s a worthless label.

        • mark

          this is not quite true. i called myself an architect even in school and continued to do so in public and with consultants and vendors and contractors in practice. in the context of being an employee…. nobody cares. i don’t know how this gets perpetuated but it’s ridiculous. the reason firms like licensure is their insurance premiums go down… its not even a marketing strategy… and i know plenty of designers that are unlicensed and make way more than staff architects. in fact designers in larger firms are all strategic employees.

          • ridiculous.

            First off, I couldn’t even tell you what my insurance premiums are so that clearly isn’t my motivation. I also noticed that you didn’t list your last name or assign an email to your comment, possibly because you don’t want people to know who you are since you just admitted to fraud? Whether or not you like it, it is illegal to call yourself an architect (in the field of architecture) and not be licensed.

            Being a licensed architect only plays a small role in your salary – being competent and skilled at your job is much more important BUT in a firm where you are put in front of clients and held out as a leader, being licensed makes a huge difference. I don’t make an issue of it here in this post but in my office, we charge hourly, we well time and experience – and I can charge more for a licensed architect than a non-licensed architect and as a result, licensed architect earn more than non-licensed architects.

            I personally don’t really call about the the designer versus licensed architect label – I compete against them both for work and since I couldn’t say how many jobs I’ve won simply because I was licensed, probably none, but I bet I never lost a job because I was licensed.

          • mark

            this ‘illegal’ thing is what i hear over and over. it’s simply not true. if you are an employee, working for a principle that is providing services you are not committing fraud by calling yourself an architect. the only time you can run afoul of the state is if you as an individual get into an agreement with another party to provide architectural services and you are not licensed. that’s it. to all you architects out there working for a company with licensed principles…. you are all architects and please feel free to call yourself that at work or wherever.

          • Per AIA National:

            “Although many AIA members have inquired about the cast of new uses for the term architect, and expressed their displeasure of it, there is no official AIA policy for the usage outside the construction industry. The term architect is a generic one and the AIA does not own the rights to it.”

            “In the profession of architecture, though, you cannot call yourself an architect or provide architecture services unless you are licensed.”

            Furthermore –

            “While the AIA cannot investigate and prosecute individuals who misrepresent themselves as architects, AIA local component offices work in conjunction with state architectural registration boards to protect the term architect. The offending individual or firm will be asked to cease and desist the illegal use of the term. If the individual or firm refuses to stop using the term, the state architectural registration board can initiate legal actions against the individual or firm.”

            I’m not against you calling yourself an architect to your buddies, but as soon as you call yourself an architect in a professional capacity, you are exposing yourself to risk. In the state of Texas, the TBAE (Texas Board of Architectural Examiners) can fine you up to $5,000 per day for holding yourself out as a architect when you do not posses the license.

          • mark

            it’s just that a lot of young architects get this in their head that they are not an architect without a license. i hear them on the phone with a vendor or in a meeting with a cm or client or whoever and they stumble over it. it’s stupid. everyone knows you work for the company. the company has licensed professionals. they hired your firm. or they are building a building with your firm…. and you are an employee with your firm. nobody cares. not even the state. i’ve worked at/with the biggest. and nobody (especially client reps) care. they hired your firm and all the consultants that came with it. the expeditors that work with the city. the building officials that look at your drawings. they don’t care. they don’t. and i tell all my young professional colleagues… please call yourself an architect. and they understand it. if they aren’t a principle that incorporates the firm…. nobody but the AIA cares. (and ncarb and prometric and other third party leaches)

          • It depends on which state you’re working in. Some states have practice laws, whereas others have title laws. If you’re in a title law state and are using the title of “architect,” they most certainly will haul you in before the board. Try that in Mississippi, for example. I’m a licensed architect in several states, but at the time of the incident, not in Mississippi. I was working as a consultant for a planner on a design charrette, and got interviewed by a local paper, which said I was an architect. I didn’t even tell them that. But in any case, I had to answer to the Board.

  • Ian Toner

    I just got my renewal notice for NCARB: this is the one that mystifies me the most. They charge a pretty high ($225/year) fee for “maintaining” my record. The annoying part is that when I applied for reciprocity in New Jersey (I’m originally licensed in PA), I had to pay them an additional fee to forward my record to NJ. How much? Another $400!!!

    But, NJ required it. So I paid it. Then I got an application in the mail from NJ, which requested all the same information that’s in my NCARB record, like education, previous registrations, work history, etc. I called NJ and asked whether I really needed to fill all that in, since they already had my NCARB record. They said yes, because NCARB only sends an “abbreviated” version of the record, which doesn’t include any of that information. So what do they do, exactly????? Why do I pay them more each year than I pay the state of PA and NJ combined? What service are they providing? I really don’t understand it. PA has all of my information on record already; why not just have them forward the information to NJ?

    • Bob Mock

      Wow, That’s even worse than I had imagined. And brings a very valid question.. WHAT ARE THEY DOING for us? starting to sound like pretty much nothing….

    • Gary

      Ian, that is how NCARB keeps costs DOWN for interns. One administration of the ARE costs them over $1000 yet they only charge the candidate $210. Where is the difference made up? In the fees they charge Registered Architects and NCARB Certificate holders. IDP and ARE could both actually be a lot more costly if not for supplementing those costs in this way.

  • Bob KT

    The whole process looks like it is intended to be a form of hazing. Perhaps somewhere along the way the rules changed from trying to ensure quality to trying to limit competition. Or, perhaps, just trying to justify the test(s) – is there a lot of money in testing? Apparently there’s more than a bit. Just my two cents.
    – Bob the P.E.

  • architectrunnerguy

    Ok, I’ve taken time to carefully read the report. I agree with all their findings only would suggest that the entire term “Intern Development Program” be dropped. The whole phrase makes the three years sound like graduates are training for a moon launch for crying out loud! The far less formal “Three years of Architectural Experience” phrase that we all had back in the 70’s worked very well…..and it was FREE….and EASY…and SIMPLE . One simply filled in percentages of various type of experience and the boss signed it. And it’s my guess that the percentages of incompetants to competants sitting for the exam hasn’t changed in 40 years even with this fancy “Intern Development Program”. Let’s get rid of some useless, complicated and expensive red tape here (sorry NCARB).

    And yes, let’s have a degree count for something here. Why retest people that have been tested and passed the tests so to get to the day in May where they’re walking across some stage wearing a funny looking hat? No structure, MEP, etc. either. (again, sorry NCARB…I know, contrary to Mies, less is actually less for you guys here).

    Finally formatting. There’s something to be said for devoting two to four intense days for testing and getting all sections over with at once and finding out where one stands in lieu of stretching the process out over YEARS! Perpetually in anticipation or “on the bubble” isn’t good no matter what the endeavor. The current formatting, technology aside, has to have an effect on participation. Give all sections over a week and do it twice a year. Remote would work well but there’s even something to be said to not do it remote but have everybody bring their laptops to a hotel ballroom if electronic logistics can be worked out.

    I find it ironic that NCARB was first founded about a 100 years ago to develop standards for all state architectural boards as it related to aspiring architects without degrees. The formal degree meant something to NCARB then but now they’ve turned this whole thing upside down where a degree means nothing.
    The whole process has gotten way too bloated and we probably passed the tipping point back in the ’90’s. Nowadays the whole experience is usually postponed because it’s so complicated, long (see above), not to mention expensive.

    I remember when I took the exam in Richmond, Va. three years after my Va. Tech graduation it was like “old home week” with 70% of my graduating class there for the exam. My guess would be the 3 year percentage now is nowhere near that.

    • Nadia

      Here here. I agree with everything said. And having been someone who went through IDP relatively recently I think it is a total joke. I started it believing that it was a good thing b/c architects need a diversity of experience. But after having one employer blackmail me into working in his office longer under threat of not having a full years worth of IDP signed and another never bothering to sign my IDP at all with no explanation I now find it pretty much worthless.

      I also love the idea of having our education count for something. Getting a degree in Architecture is not for the faint of heart and god knows it is expensive enough without all the BS that follows.

  • James

    There is a couple costs that you missed. First is the cost of the education. When I attended a university, my credit hours cost was around $60 per credit hour. That same school now charges $960 per credit hour. Graduates today are saddled with student loan debts that surpass a mortgage in some states.

    Then there is the on going charges from NCARB. I agree with a previous post that the AIA should buyout NCARB. NCARB changes annual fees to maintain your records and we need them, because NCARB has successfully lobbied many states to require applicants (new and reciprocity) to file for a state license through NCARB.

    • Paul Adams

      NCARB used to be somewhat affordable. Now it costs $225/year–just in case I want to be licensed in another state. Outrageous.

  • Nadia

    I have 9 years of being an intern architect under my belt with a break to go to grad school somewhere in there. I only went to grad school b/c the four year school I went to before that wasn’t a professional degree which constitutes a whole lot of extra expense. (For the record I didn’t learn anything in grad school that I hadn’t already learned in undergrad). I would have completed the ARE 6 months ago (after passing 6 exams on the first try) except that I failed my last exam based on some random technicality on a very easy vignette. Unfortunately I have no idea what the mistake I made was b/c the system doesn’t allow me to know or ask any questions. The whole exam process seemed more like a hazing to me that a test of knowledge, there were questions on the exams that architects with 30 year careers have never known the answer to nor needed to. At any rate I am so disillusioned with architecture, with putting in so much time, effort and money in for little to show for it in the end. This is what the exam process did for me. Not to mention that I am currently at my lowest salary in 8 years. I think it might be time to stop throwing good money after bad and find a new career.

    • Amelie

      All of architecture is hazing. I knew what I was in for at school and said “I can handle this as long as it ends”, thinking that the professional realm would somehow be different. But the longer I work (at multiple firms on wide ranges of project types) the more I look at job listings for interface design & the like. It’s quite sad that my heart races when I see competitive salaries (worthy of architects’ level of education & skill) health insurance, & 401K matching in a listing. Recently my salary was cut by 1/3 without notice at the same time as my responsibilities were increased. In talking with my very knowledgeable mentors the sad consensus was:
      Well, if you want a job, you just have to take it and start looking for work elsewhere. If you try to push any harder than you are you may have to remove the job from your resume because the architectural community (even in a big city) is so gossip-heavy and socially inbred. Though I’m halfway done with my IDP, I’ve decided that the effort is not worth the benefit. It’s either a tangent field or a sea change within architecture that’s in store for me as well. This seems to be true of many young (potential) architects, sadly. If the trend continues the profession really will become extinct for practical purposes.

      • Ron

        Smart Lady!

    • Ron

      Another smart Lady!!

  • davide

    The actual costs are much higher!!! Depending on the ARE division the offical NCARB passing rates are as low as 55-60% which means that most of candidates have to repeat one or more sections incurring in extra costs.

    • I don’t know how the task force could factor in the variables for the pass/ fail rates -I mean, I do but I don’t necessarily think they should. I studied more than almost anyone I knew and I passed all sections on the first try whereas I’ve heard of some people walking in cold and taking all the tests. Their thought was they would see what sort of information was on the test and the possibility that they could pass a few without dedicating any time to studying was a possibility.

  • Jason

    really great article. There’s also the enormous expense of study material to factor in there although that’s pretty difficult to average from person to person. Also the incredibly dated software used for the vignettes. I actually had to buy an older computer just to use the practice software. No 64 bit, and no mac.

    • Matt

      This same problem with a 64-bit machine had me try to cancel my first exam, which was 3 days away when I finally tried. However, it was three days including a weekend, so they said the 72 hour notice didn’t count and charged me $200 for the test I didn’t take anyway. Hard not to feel like it’s all just a big scam…we certainly don’t get paid any better, and all of a sudden have way more fees and way more liability for the work we do!

  • Geez louise!

  • Evan Troxel

    In addition, if you fail any portion of the test they will not tell you anything about your deficiencies except for a so-called “content area” that you had minor or major errors in. The problem with this is in my experience I have found that the tests never stick to prescribed content areas and the lines are very blurred between the 7 tests. You have two options if you fail – pay $210 to take the test again not knowing what to study more on, or pay $50 per question or $300 per vignette to challenge.

    I have an issue with the vignette grading in particular – there are many ways to “solve” them and all of the scoring is done by computer. $300 for a human being to look at a solution is ridiculous and just goes to show that they just want your money and not to be questioned in any way.

    I have a personal friend that failed site planning twice, and months later she got a letter. It stated that after pulling a handful of tests to check the accuracy of the grading, it was determined there was an error by the computer and that he had indeed passed.

    Talk about a racket, indeed. I have no faith that these tests are determining the proficiency of the candidate. They are simply a tortuous means that oils the machine. And here I am in the middle of it.

    • I know my perspective changed once I came through the other end. I don’t really think about it or belabor the expense anymore. I know that when I was talking the Texas Society of Architect President Larry Speck, he mentioned that when the research started coming in, since he has been licensed for quite a while now, it was surprising to see just how laborious and expensive the process has become.

      • lugray

        I think your point is a huge issue. The people fighting the injustice of the system are primarily those outside trying to make their way in. There is no incentive for already licensed people to fight for change considering it really just increases competition.

        • Evan Troxel

          That is a great point!

          I hope blogs like this that get read by huge numbers of people will start to make a difference.

        • Yes, it was such a painful process that I’ve mentally compartmentalized and wiped that time of my life away. I developed such an aversion that I literally avoid driving near that part of town years after taking the tests in that office park. However, participating locally with get togethers and current candidates to ease their fears and help them cope with the process is a something we all can do. As for the tests themselves, that is massive can of worms.

  • Mark Mc Swain

    Another elephant in this room is that “we” are paid what society thinks we are worth–and “they” don’t think it’s bery much at all.
    Which is not at all helped by the builders, and plan houses, and every other “work around” outfit out there turning out what is commonly thought yo be “architecture” and devaluing our services.

    If NCARB & AIA were using all our dosh to get out there and find ways to enforce existing practice law, the bite might not be so bad,

    Instead, it’s just financial hazing.

  • joe Thorne

    I graduated from Ohio State University in 2011, after a year of having problems I moved to China to farther my career in architecture. One of the most common discussions among expat architects in China is when do we plan on return if ever to practice architecture in our home countries. The Europeans tend to go with the flow, but Americans I have noticed more commonly to answer why go back to america to practice.

    I am a year and half out of school I am already a project manager involved in designing and bidding large scale projects. A position almost impossible in the states due to a society fixated on labels and certifications.

    Of course I plan to move back some day for my masters, but question what will I do after is something I am always thinking about. I love what I do, and I know living in the states will make life easier with friends and family. Career wise though it just seems like a headache.

    Cheers from Beijing.

    • Howdy Beijing!

      I have received a few emails from american architects in Beijing and most share your thoughts. Interesting problem to consider. Maybe you would come back and be as much a superstar here as you are there …

    • lugray

      I moved to Asia upon graduation from undergrad. I spent a year living in Bangkok and then two living in Shanghai practicing architecture. After three years I went to grad school. Then lived in Berlin practicing for two years before moving to Portland OR to settle down. I was hired as an intern and given the same pay and responsibility as someone straight out of school. Basically most firms here didn’t value out of country experience since i didn’t have LEED or Revit. Never mind that I worked on competitions and let design teams and was given responsibilities that I wouldn’t get for decades working in the US. Our system is severely broken.

  • Entry level

    Reading your comments does not make me feel bad for not starting my ARE exam.
    I am an intern level and was laid off couple of months ago and since then I was not able to find another job which led me thinking maybe it’s good time to finish my ARE exams since I have lots of time.I realized ARE exams are very expensive, and I already spent 60k for my tuition + high costs of model materials, laptop, books printer , etc.. I don’t expect that I will pay for the exams without paying for educational materials and perhaps extra additional seminar or two so that doubles my expenses.
    With this 1500 $ I could take a cheap java script course and find an entry level job that pays 62k with benefits.

    My previous job wasn’t paying much, 10$/hr ,and from what I understand architect salaries doesn’t pay much and most offices needs only one or two architects to stamp their drawings so realistically how many licensed architects does the world really needs ?!


    • Eric

      Not joking–I just had someone at my firm give their two weeks’ today who is leaving architecture to take a programming job after picking up a CS associate’s online. And I can’t say I blame him.

      • I will never put myself in a position to judge someone else for their professional aspirations (or lack thereof in some instances). For me, I think George Burns put it nicely:

        “I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.”

        Happily, I’ve never had to worry about paying my bills so there is a certain perspective I don’t have.

        • architectrunnerguy

          “Happily, I’ve never had to worry about paying my bills”
          Well, then again you’ve only been a partner for a short time.

          • I married someone who was smarter than me …

          • Kat

            I just read this comment to my supervisor. Her reply was, “The key to an architect’s survival is to marry well.”

    • Jake Stone

      “ARE exam”? Architectural Registration Exam exam?
      Do you also work in a building information model model? Use an automatic teller machine machine? Does your car have a vehicle identification number number?

      • not sure that this comment adds anything to the mix. Was your purpose to make someone feel bad or was there something of value that I’m missing? Hopefully these aren’t the sort of battles you take on a regular basis.

  • Ken

    Excellent analysis. However, I think that these costs are minuscule compared to rising liability insurance costs, rising health care benefit costs (associated with running a firm), computer hardware costs, and rising software subscription costs. I think that those costs are much more difficult obstacles to overcome than the costs of licensure.

    • valid problem, just not the problem that this task force was charged with addressing. This really had more to do with nurturing and building the careers of the young people who aspire to become architects –

      it’s too late for you.

      • adam

        That is an interesting bit of rhetoric, considering the entire professional career path is as an anti-nurturing as possible.

        • Not in my office … We pay for tests (pass or fail), we pay to attend state and National conventions, we give work time to volunteer to charitable cause (which includes the AIA) … Not every contributes to the problem

  • Ron

    What is the correlation between what an Architect makes (monetarily) 3 years after he/she is registered versus an Engineer or Lawyer. Has anyone run those figures?
    Don’t know in today’s terms, but in 1979 when I passed the exam and was registered, an Engineer made twice as much as an Architect, directly out of school with a 4 year degree. Also, in 1979, I took the 2 day (8 hours each day), 4 part, multiple choice and then had to take the 1 day, 12 hour, design problem I think that summer (or the next) to get my NCARB. At that time Texas, did not have the funds to implement the design problem.

  • Yvonne

    I’ve always wondered why yearly renewal fees are so expensive for IDP and state licensing boards. You would think that it would take less resources to simply maintain records than the yearly fees these groups require you to pay. What are they really doing with my record each year after saving the original file in a database somewhere?

    Also, it would be interesting to see a similar study of the architecture licensing process comparing cost and time differences between the US and other countries.

    • I’ve wondered why the maintenance costs were so high as well – makes me think the system in place to maintain or modify is either poorly organized or that there is a certain amount of on-going operating expenses that these maintenance costs need to offset. Who knows, probably nothing so clandestine as I imagine.

      • Mark Mc Swain

        And for contrast, I was told that, in Sweden, when one passes one’s Universoty exams, those are treated as one’s ARE, and you can be licensed at graduation.

        I’ve never beed to Sweden, nor met any Swedish architects, so that could all be hearsay.

        Given the vast quantity of things we have to/want to/ought to teach our interns now, I’m not sure I’d be over-keen on licensing right out of college.

        • lugray

          I believe this is also the case in Denmark – graduate from architecture school = being an architect. We should consider rolling in the AREs to coursework. The final exam for a structures class should be the structures ARE, etc.

        • Richard_Balkins

          Although this is 3 YEARS AGO, this information might be helpful. The following is as it is as of 2016 and can not be guarantee to still hold validity in the future.

          In Sweden, there is no licensed architect or unlicensed architect. You are either an architect or you are not. This is the case in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark. What you have are professional societies with membership credentials much like AIA. In this case with the Swedish Association of Architects, membership requires a qualifying degree and you are conferred special titles containing SAR/MSA and similar special titles. But Architect or Arkitekt (Swedish word for Architect) is not regulated and the practice of architecture is not regulated beyond that of the discretion of the government officials (equivalent of our building officials) having jurisdiction over reviewing the compliance of your building plans. However, membership in a professional society in order to practice of architecture is not required by law but local officials may either accept your plans or not and if your plans have issues, they may exercise more discretion. If you engage in complex projects, they will probably want to see some kind of credential…. such as a degree or other applicable credentials but if you already start off designing projects competently and showing clear understanding of the health, safety and welfare matters and other issues, then it is up to the local officials approval.

          Just a few words but that should answer this.

  • Something is messed up in the chronology. I took the full ARE in 1984, and it was a 4-day ordeal then. The chart above indicates that didn’t happen until 1994, if I’m reading it correctly.

    • I don’t know if the 1994 chart was created to articulate the change to a 4 day exam, there might have been other reasons to use ’94 as the date. That having been said, there is another timeline issue that I passed along to the folks who curated the dated for the charts. I am glad you chimed in – really want to vet the data as best as is possible.

      Thanks Steve

      • architectrunnerguy

        Bob: Just some of total days are messed up. The sections and hours are correct. I took it in ’77 and it was exact same as the ’74 exam you list above except it was TWO days (8 hours/per day) and the ’80 exam was FOUR days as Steve noted above. I know because by then I had employees and always paid them for exam days so they could use their vacation time for relaxing. We gave them the whole week off but they all came back in Friday to tell war stories.

    • Robert Moore

      Yes, I took it in ’86 and it had all the parts listed in the ’94 chart.

      • CKeado

        I also took the ARE in 1988 and it sounded like the ’94 version you indicated. I especially liked the fact that you took the exams in the spring and didn’t get result’s until the fall.
        I believe that there was a sense of accomplishment when you completed the week-long ordeal, that get’s lost in the current process.
        My last question is that in this old process of qualifying for the exam and then taking the exam, was it too lax and as a result, there were unqualified Architect’s passing through the cracks? It seems to me that the only reason to change the process was to make it more affordable (machine grading versus people grading) but instead, it’s made it less affordable. I feel for the future Architects.

        • I don’t think you are alone in your sympathy for future architects – thankfully there are some people in leadership positions trying to do something about it

    • Dan

      Same here…took it in 1990 as a 4 part test.

  • Bob Mock

    As someone who completed the ARE exam process not to long ago, I am a FIRM believer that the ARE’s do not quantify someone as a capable and safe architect and I believe that the entire NCARB process is out of control.

    The fees they charge for getting or maintaining a record is outrageous. ‘Maintaining’ a record should not cost the kinds of dollars NCARB charges.

    I also think NCARB has started taking on a direction of it’s own, beyond it’s stated mission. For example, they are advertising for a position with NCARB to be a ARE cheerleader; to encourage more people like myself who took a number of years after graduation to finally take their exams. Why you might ask would NCARB want a cheerleader? To further pad their budget (read: Pockets)

    NCARB’s Stated mission is (From the website):

    “The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards protects the public health, safety, and welfare by leading the regulation of the practice of architecture through the development and application of standards for licensure and credentialing of architects.”

    NCARB as by their stated mission should not serve as a profession cheerleader and certainly not when they’re bending potential candidates over backwards with worthless fees and irrelevant exam questions.

    I would submit that NCARB is not giving protection to health, safety and welfare (poor tests), nor is it serving the profession. (outrageous fees and requirements)

    • Michael Shuell

      agreed – I’d like to add that its completely rediculus that NCARB requires “volunteering” as a part of idp

      • Entry level

        Volunteering aka unpaid internship

    • You should read through the suggested solutions in the report – I think they have successfully identified some of the issues you’ve brought up. I have wondered many time why the AIA doesn’t own NCARB. We are the only professionally member organization (that I know of) that doesn’t oversee or own their own licensing process. I find that ridiculous.

  • Arielle

    I’d love to see this compared to the exams and costs of becoming a licensed Interior Designer, as well. I’m just baffled by how expensive it is, and my biggest obstacle will be cost. Not only is the exam process $1,000+ for 3 tests, the study materials are quite cost prohibitive as well.

    • all we need to make that happen is another task force!

    • Mark Mc Swain

      Sadly, the only thing more expensive than the study materials is not using them.

    • lugray

      add in landscape architects to this question. What are their costs to become licensed?

  • peharchitect

    When preparing for the ARE 3.1, I would have loved a few cut backs on the fees and number of exams. As rough as it was, there is something to be said for the 5+ year degree, 3+ year internship, and the multi-year test prep for taking each exam. Now that victory has been reached, I have concerns that watering down the exam for new generations may decrease the level of pride that goes along with being a “licensed Architect”.

    • Brenda

      I do have to agree with this as well. The points brought up in the study have some merit, but I’m finding that the areas of the IDP that I still haven’t fulfilled are the areas of the profession where I just don’t have knowledge. I get asked questions and don’t have a clue how to answer them, so I think that some of the structure that’s currently in place should remain. With that said, since I’ve started in the profession 7 years ago, IDP has changed 3 times and they’re working on the third version of the ARE. That just needs to stop – I’m having to adapt to multiple variations DURING the process. I like the study’s suggestion to have 10 years without changes!

    • lugray

      Why should we be forced through hell in order to have pride? I am an unlicensed designer of buildings and I am damn proud of the work I have done as well as the incredible architecture created by people throughout the world. In fact, I would say most of the world is far ahead of the US in terms of quality of architecture and the built environment, and it just so happens that it is almost universally easier to become an architect in other countries. Hazing is not a requirement to feel pride and it is horrible that people believe it is.

  • Kat

    I knew they were high, but putting in the comparables, it is ridiculous. I’m currently trying to save up enough money to start taking exams. That is my current barrier. And they wonder why, as an industry, we make little profit? Maybe because we’re all paying NCARB (and AIA!).

    • I like the fact that part of what instigated this process was that the leadership at the state level branch of the AIA (Texas Society of Architects) recognized the need to take better care of our associates. You can consider that – regardless of where you live – they were thinking about you.

      Good luck on your exams.

      • Mark Mc Swain

        TSA has always seemed to be more focused on the actual needs of the profession, rather than just being another Beltway lobbying group.

      • Mark Mc Swain

        Also, one of the unstated things about being a lawyer is that merely passing the bar is not enough (even if it pays circa twice what being a newly-frocked architect). Junior lawyers are generally expected to put in 60-70 hour weeks for 5-6 years at a firm to be considered for any of the big-paying positions.

        • lugray

          so are architects BTW. I see interns as well as recently licensed professionals routinely putting in 60-90 hour weeks as deadlines approach or firms are going after new projects.

  • Emily S

    Don’t forget that CA has an additional exam ($150, I believe) and then the costs of joining AIA (if you so choose) for the city, state and national chapters and paying those dues every year… Also in CA, our license expires every 2 years and we must pay an additional fee at that time as well. It’s definitely not cheap! I feel really fortunate that my firm has paid all of my fees since I got my license.

    • it seems now that it is an employment benefit when firms help with the expense of taking the exams. I’ve known of a few larger firms that will buy the study material and make it available to their interns, some even pay for the exam when you pass it … but this seems to be the exception and not the rule.

      • Mark Mc Swain

        Rather a convoluted discussion on LinkedIn, Architecture forum on that very topic.

  • NVArchStudent

    I’m also curious about the costs associated with the education process that are beyond those associated with more traditional majors. I’m thinking of things like model-making materials, pens, pencils, sketchbooks, laptop loaded up with expensive software (my program requires this), ect. These generally aren’t big ticket items but they add up for poor college students

    • That would be a hard one to quantify since the materials would vary greatly from college to college. I think it would be interesting but how to capture and present this information would be the real challenge

      • NVArch/Student

        agreed, but when the hurdles for becoming a licensed architect is the topic at hand, it would be worth the effort of at least mentioning that simply studying architecture in college is not for the faint-of-heart when it comes to financial outlay. its certainly more costly than most other degree programs

  • Brett Wolfe

    this is nothing more than a hazing ritual created by the old men in the suits.

  • architectrunnerguy

    The exam was cut back to two days from five days in ’74 because there was real concern that by the time everyone reached the fifth day the exam wasn’t about testing architecture knowledge anymore, it was about endurance.
    I took it in ’77 when it was still two days and THAT was still rough. And back then if you failed one section you had to take the whole test over again. And to top that off, you didn’t know which section(s) you failed or by how much. No scores where given, it was either a P or an F……and they only gave the test once a year.
    There’s was a great thread somewhere on LinkedIn a while back about all this and also the cost of reciprocation as it relates to the AIA and especially the NCARB (talk about ridiculous costs and NCARB!) but I couldn’t find it in a quick search.

    • Thanks Doug – I’ll go back through and see if I can find that thread on LInkedIn – although I am curious if it provided thoughtful consideration for the issues. Most of the time it seems LinkedIn posts get taken over by some cyber bully and everything devolves into a giant complaint “woe is me” thread. This would be okay if those people got involved and tried to be part of some solution.

      I think my comment just turned into a LInkedIn thread!!

  • Emoore

    As a licensed Interior Designer that follows your blog, I can attest that the same thing has happened to Interior Designers. And now with NCIDQ, ASID and USGBC raising their annual dues ($45+$450+300+ annual CEU costs), the costs are out of control. This does not include license fees paid annually to the state and in my case 3 states since I live in a tri-state area and have clients in all three. Although I appreciate the need for licensing, particularly because we deal with health and life safety issues, these spiraling costs are shrinking our decidedly middle class incomes. Most interior designers reach an income ceiling within the first 5-10 years of their career and unless you are willing to go out on your own there is really no hope of increasing your income.

  • Brenda

    Bob – can you please explain what is meant by “certification”? What is the $1500 application fee?

    • This is NCARB certification – from the NCARB website:

      “This fee covers one year of NCARB services to compile your NCARB Record and verify your credentials in pursuit of NCARB certification. Once you are approved for certification, this fee also maintains your Certificate in active status for one year.”

      • Brenda

        I was a bit freaked out for a moment. If I ever get through the rest of my tests and IDP I didn’t want to shell out another $1500! If you’ve already enrolled in IDP ($350 per their current website amounts) as an intern and pay the $75/year annual fee, then they will waive the $1500. You’re still paying, it’s just not that big amount at one time.

      • Edward J Shannon, Architect

        In July of 2010 NCARB conveniently raised their application fee from $675.00 to $1,500.00! This was a time when the profession was burning with at least 1/3 of architects being unemployed, yet this institution found it suitable to raise their application fee by Over 200%!! NCARB had just moved into a state of the art LEED accredited facility in pricey DC. Their employees make are paid far more than architects with commensurate experience!

        At that time I moved from Illinois to Iowa (due to unemployment) My total costs for reciprocity were $2,130.00! When I took the exam, some 15 years before it was about $500.00.

        The funny thing was, NCARB was more concerned about my internship I completed in the late 80’s. It didn’t matter that I had sealed drawings in Illinois for 12 years. They wanted verification that I had a solid internship. When I told them one architect I had worked for was deceased and another firm was no longer in business, they seemed baffled. They then said I could have some peers fill out a form. What a joke!

  • Don’t forget the archaic drafting software now used for the exam. Their practice software is not compatible with newer computers without installing an additional piece of 3rd party software to allow it to run. The only other option is to pay NCARB to use a cloud based software which is extremely slow if you are on a slow internet connection.

    • the software issue is addressed in the report:

      “No special software should be required for the exam that is not everyday software used by the great majority of architects in the professional marketplace.”

      It will be interesting to see how this is dealt with if the proposal is accepted by NCARB

      • tdatx

        I would hate to see NCARB finally give in and use existing software. I know it is the elephant in the room,. but it seems like if the path to licensure includes an Autodesk product, we’ve just rolled over an accepted a monopoly. I never had a problem with their software – they just need to update it so it actually works.

  • Kerry Hogue

    a small correction to the time line durations on the exams. the 1974 version was given over two days. The 1980 version was given over three days.
    Not to minimize the costs assoicated with taking the exam now versus when I did but some relative information: in 1978 when i took the exam my gross salary was $14,000. I had just started a new job in May where my salary went up from $10,000. The exam was given the first week of December so my effective gross was less than the $14K. I spent over $1,000 for exam fees, ALS seminar (2 days in Houston, I live in Dallas), study material (no internet or electronic, all hard bound books), travel and expense to Austin ( 2 days hotel, meals, gas) to take the exam. So the costs represented at the time were about 7 to 8 percent of my gross income. On take home pay that amounted to over 10 percent.

    • I am not going to challenge you on the dates – but since the task force assembled the data, I would have hoped that they got the timeline right. I did wince when I read that the 16 hours of testing took place over a single day (ouch!)

      I don’t think they took travel, gas, and accommodations into consideration since those items aren’t unilaterally applied to everyone – but they are real enough. That is one positive aspect of the change – the availability of where and when you can take the tests now.

      I am going to put a call in to make sure that some correction isn’t needed on the timeline – thanks for pointing that out.

  • If_the_Lamp_Shade_Fits

    ASID is busily creating a similarly rigged system for interior designers by forcing licensure before state legislations. I’ve been a member on and off since college and have yet to find a use for ASID in my daily practice. Yet they always have their hand out. /end rant

    • it’s a good rant – I hope ASID doesn’t go down that rabbit hole – getting out once your in seems almost impossible.

  • Jody Tettleton

    Bob, I ran into you leaving the Convention Center Saturday morning at TSA. I was heading up there to take Professor David Thaddeuss’ Structures crash course seminar for the rest of the weekend. Structures is my biggest issue with the current ARE – I have just taken my first exam SPD after a few years of being too timid. That exam was 65 questions mc and 2 vignettes. Tough but i passed. I would say that I use most of the SPD material on every project I work on. For the structures exam there are 125 mc questions and a vignette. Of the material I have studied for SS I pretty much never have gotten into the math in my 8 years of experience and there are twice as many questions. I realize they want us to understand concepts and be informed but we have structural engineers for a reason. Being scared of this test alone is what has kept me from testing and that seems unfortunate considering I won’t use much of the information after I pass. Vent done. Now back to sine and cosine garbage. Really enjoy your insight and perspective on our field. Great to meet you.

    • tdatx

      I’ll agree that test had very little to do with application. I took the test a few years ago (first-ish year of the current version), maybe a month after taking Thaddeuss’ course, with no other studying and passed it.

    • I remember – hope you enjoyed your Thaddeus class!

      In the report – in the “Summary of Needed Changes” – the recommendation is that “focus should be exclusively on health, safety, and welfare as mandated by statutory requirements for licensure.” I would infer from this comment that certain aspects of the test be eliminated and I would think the detail and depth at which we are tested on structure items would be reduced. It’s one thin to be familiar with concepts and strategies, and another altogether to have us calculating loads on individual chord members in trusses.

      Good luck on your sine and cosine garbage

    • Robert L Guynn

      FWIW- I thought that David T’s class was well worth the time/ money. I agree with your comment about engineers. I don’t know how many times while taking the test that I felt the answer should have been, “Call your engineer”.
      Best wishes on your exams and registration.

    • Kat

      I absolutely agree with this comment. I too often feel the answer is “Call your engineer.” With how much they pound into your head that there is no master builder and we are a team, why can’t we use our team? I’ve even asked some of the questions to my structural engineer friends when I didn’t understand material, and they were like “Why are you learning this?”

  • Steve Bodner

    Ha- they forgot to add the associated cost of study materials. I’ve spent well over $1500 on ARE prep classss, books and seminars. And to add insult to injury the relative pass rate is between 40-70% for each division which means you’re more than likely to have to take at least 1 or 2 exams 2 or more times. Furthermore, if you take longer than 5 years to pass all the test once you’ve begun you’ve got to take them over again (god forbid you have children in your twentys!)
    And finally if you’re trying to become lisenced in California, there’s the 8th supplemental exam.
    It’s taken me almost 15 years out of school but I’m almost there. 7 AREs finished and 1 final california supplimental exam to go next week! #almostanarchitect

    • Cody

      Not to mention the hit and miss nature of the materials that are available. I just finished last year (thankfully no supplemental required in Oklahoma), and I was always amazed with how difficult it is to figure out which resources are the most helpful. By the 5th or 6th exam, I finally had some idea of what and how to study. Also frustrating are the mistakes that are found in the NCARB practice solutions along with the lack of direction they provide. I know that these are not 100% correct solutions, but the vague nature of the vignettes feels more than a little misleading. Just learning the software for each vignette is a job in itself.

      Congrats on making it through the ARE and best of luck on the CA supplemental!

      • Paul

        Personally, I liked the fact it was rigorous process. Cost aside. I am proud of my achievement. It was hard and took longer than I ever thought. But, I did it. The cost to get here never really bothered me , I had to scrape together every penny. Yeah, it was expensive, I never thought of giving up because of price. I don’t consider myself highly intelligent or wealthy. I would agree the cost to get here doesn’t reflect the pay one might expect, salaries are dismal. I would agree there is an elitist culture that has made becoming an architect very hard. It is not for everyone. In 2000, when I started my exams I was glad the process had been changed from a three day to the current computerized testing. Don’t know If I ever could have passed the 3 day.
        endurance. Comparing cost with then versus now is depressing
        Everything has gone up. As a sole practitioner I work extremely hard to get the work I have. Schools don’t teach what the real world has in store for you and all the employers I had could have cared less about being mentors.

    • good luck on #8

      Since the report was focusing on items they can control, I’m not surprised that study materials wasn’t listed. By reducing the number of exams, maybe the study materials can become consolidated