This spring, Victoria Eckhardt, based in our Baltimore office, officially passed her Architect Registration Exam (ARE)!
The Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) is used to assess an individual’s knowledge and skills in different areas of architecture. Completing the ARE by passing all six divisions is required by all U.S. jurisdictions as a key step on the path to earning a license. In addition to taking these extensive examinations, the ARE cannot be fully completed without certain professional prerequisites being met first, which are called Architectural Experience Program (AXP) requirements. To complete the requirements, an individual must complete 96 tasks in six different experience areas that total 3,740 hours. By the time someone has completed the ARE, they will have sat for nearly 20 hours of exams.
All that to say - it’s no small feat! Due to COVID, it took Victoria about two and a half years to meet the requirements and get through all six divisions of the ARE. For her, it was worth the effort and time to become a better designer. “Passing the AREs meant that I learned all this new information I didn’t have before. Also, being licensed can open more opportunities along the way, depending on what path you’re into.”
Lots of people never make it through this process, though, and there are myriad reasons why. The system has inherent problems and bias, but they are issues that the certifying institution, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), is working on. For one, the process is expensive. There’s registration fees, annual renewal fees, paper processing fees and a $235 fee for each division of the exam. The exam is also only available in English, although there are some accommodations available in some states for non-native English speakers and neurodivergent individuals such as additional testing time or access to a dictionary.
Previously there had been rolling expirations on the professional experience required to take the exam, which fortunately NCARB just rescinded. This policy had often put women who were starting a family at the same time they were reaching this point in their careers at a significant disadvantage. Taking time off for maternity leave or to work inside the home for a time can mean losing valuable credit for their hard earned knowledge and experience. Rules like this have contributed to the wide gap between the percentage of female architecture students (around 50%) and the number of licensed female architects (about 17%).
With all of these hurdles, it can feel like an uphill battle. “Working at a firm that supports this process makes a world of difference” Victoria says. At Design Develop, we’re happy to support our ARE candidates through generalized workplace support but also by covering the cost of exam fees and study materials.
She also recommends using a variety of resources as study material: “Be curious and look up anything that you don’t know. Take as many practice exams and quizzes as you can. Having someone else who is sharing the process helps too, so talk to people and discuss confusing subjects. Momentum is your friend- keep it going.”
Wise words from a wise woman! Congrats once again to Victoria - we’re so excited for all the possibilities her hard work and determination have earned her. It’s so important for women in architecture to be seen, to have the opportunity to advance their careers, and ultimately have a more representative industry that serves and supports its community better. We’re committed to doing our part to help support the next generation of women leaders as an important equity objective but also knowing that it’s the best way to build a truly exceptional culture of service for our clients.