Want to call yourself an Architect? Just get licensed

Over the past few months we’ve all been talking about people calling themselves architects. This is a very sensitive subject for so many reasons. In one sense it’s a bit of an existential problem facing our profession. But then again it’s also just dumb and obvious. Want to call yourself an architect? Don’t like the term intern? Fine. Go to school, work for a few years, then take the Architecture Registration Examination. It sucks, but then it’s easy. Someone asks you what you do and you can proudly puff up your chest and say “I AM AN ARCHITECT.”

If you want to call yourself an architect, get licensed. It’s that simple. There are plenty of excuses and reasons, some valid, some not, as to why people don’t get licensed. Money and Time are two of the biggest excuses.


Being an intern means you’re probably getting paid peanuts, sometimes literally. So what. You went to at least five years of school to meet the typical educational requirement to get licensed. I bet you accumulated some debt then. Paying for tests, while not cheap, is chump change compared to that mountain of money. Think of it this way, you paid tens of thousands of dollars on your education to become an architect and now another two thousand is too much? Come on. Finish what you started, if you want to be an architect, don’t stop short because you want to save a few dollars.

If you don’t have the money? Ask the firm you work for to pay for it. Put the testing fees on a credit card. Take out a loan. Ask your parents for help. Sacrifice some luxuries. Or check to see if your local AIA chapter has scholarships. If you are already self-employed the cost is deductible. The tests are expensive, maybe unnecessarily so. Their cost is out of alignment with what we earn trying to reach licensure, and what we’ll make afterwards. But deal with it. If money is the reason you’re not testing, solve that problem.


I have less than zero sympathy for this excuse. For every person I talk to who says they don’t have time to take the tests, I know of someone who took the tests while working full time, while running a business, while training for a marathon, while raising kids…the list goes on. My oldest daughter was born while I was testing. I took a month off from studying then got back to it. I’ve got a good friend who took all her tests while pregnant. I think the last pre-motherhood test she took was the same week as her due date. I also think she had to retake that test six months later. But you know what? She had plenty of excuses not to test when she did. But she stuck too it. And now she’s an architect. You’ve either got the time to test or you can make the time. If it’s important to you. You know it’s true.

And there it is. If it’s important to you. When someone asks “hey why aren’t you licensed?” There are really only three answers. “I’m not yet qualified to test, according to NCARB”, “I’m currently taking those horrible exams”, or “It’s not important to me to be licensed”. That’s it. Each of those answers of course have some nuances; there are plenty of reasons why getting licensed isn’t your top priority. That’s okay. But don’t tell me it’s because of time or money.

For further reading, here’s a post from Archinect you might enjoy on this subject. You can also read all these amazing posts. Hopefully in 2014, I’ll be able to explain why I’ve been writing so much about unlicensed archtiects. It’s not a witch hunt, I promise. Subscribe to my blog to read more about the tricky world of being an Architect in the 21st century: Shoegnome on FacebookTwitter, and the RSS feed.


  1. Rogelio Carballo December 15, 2013
    • Jared Banks December 17, 2013
      • Scott March 19, 2014
      • Jared Banks March 19, 2014
  2. ArchiteG, Inc. December 31, 2013
  3. Christopher Hough February 5, 2014
    • Jared Banks February 5, 2014

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