Licensed, Now What?

I am 20 hours from becoming a licensed Architect.  This is a huge accomplishment, but standing at the edge of this milestone I wonder about its perceived value.

Most associates find “The Path to Licensure” long and arduous; it is.  My journey took five years for my accredited Masters of Architecture degree, three years of practicum as prescribed by the Intern Development Program and seven grueling tests of the Architect Registration Exams, not to mention eighteen months of involuntary hiatus due to the economy.

But once all of that is done, what’s at the other end of the journey? I have to confess I think I may get some sort of postpartum/post-license depression.

Whoo Party! Meg’s an Architect!….Now what?….*sound of crickets*….

My role on my projects at work isn’t going to change within the following weeks and I probably won’t be stamping drawings for another few years.  I’ve accomplished this huge professional goal and nothing changes immediately.  Maybe this feeling is a result of being a Millennial, part of a generation where mere participation in sports or competitions was enough for a reward.  It’s claimed that my generation has too high of expectations for the workplace.  I will partly admit this is true. With getting licensed I believe it should be commonplace to get a new business card, an updated bio on the website, a raise, an increase in responsibilities and the like.  But this is all from achieving professional accomplishments not from just coming to work every morning.

The recent economic recession has also taken a toll on my generation.  We experienced high unemployment and salary/benefit cuts abound in our ranks. So not only do we have high expectations for the workplace but now the workplace monetarily cannot provide to those expectations.

This relates to a concern of soon-to-be-licensed Associates.  We are told from all directions in the community of the value and respect that comes with being licensed.  So much so that it comes down to the way we introduce ourselves as Architects.  Now the economy has put an unfortunate twist on this perceived value.  Firms have not only had pay cuts but taken away benefits like reimbursements for testing and fees.  So the cost to get licensed is totally on the Associate. And with that, will the pay cuts and freezes also prohibit firms from promoting newly licensed Architects?  Does that in turn show a lack of value for the credential of being licensed? What’s the point in getting licensed then?

Surely my own perceived value of becoming licensed should be enough, right?  I think this moment represents a crack in the foundation of our profession.  When we say that we only get licensed for our own self-worth isn’t that similar to working on a project at a discounted fee because we just want a project for validation?

If we are going to put value on being a licensed Architect, shouldn’t it be more than just talk? Doctors and Lawyers stand firm on their fees and in turn validate their worth to the general public.

Maybe I’m making large jumps here…but maybe I’m not.  It’s all got to come from something.

3 thoughts on “Licensed, Now What?

  1. First, Congratulations on achieving your license on your own. Unfortunately, your frustrations are a common sentiment so know you are not alone in this. You started this profession hopefully with a passion and the idea that you’ll make the world a better place by how you spend your professional time. Some people think they’ll even make a “good” living from architecture (you’ll make a living but we’ve not done a good enough job explaining our value to the world to be compensated properly). Many of my colleagues and myself are staving off the licensing challenge until the firm we work for reinstates it’s testing benefits knowing that we won’t be stamping drawings anytime soon. However, there is motivation to become licensed from our firm as that is one of the many requirements to become a principal in our firm. So the long term goal of moving up in the firm requires that license. Additionally many of the firms in my area (Portland, Or) have been seeking licensed architects even in this time of economic trouble, so an additional motivator for licensure. Finally you didn’t go through all this training and sleepless nights to not finish the race did you? That sense of satisfaction knowing you’ve reached that goal may not be enough to sustain that euphoria forever, knowing you can now call yourself a capital “A” Architect is a huge accomplishment. When you graduated from college you didn’t expect a job to be handed to you as soon as you got your diploma. You also didn’t expect a new project assigned to you each time you mastered a skill. Your professional advancement from being licensed will come ( and hopefully additional pay) but you’ve got to prove your value to expect those financial and professional benefits of being licensed.

    • Chris, you pretty much got the situation pegged down. That’s disappointing that your colleagues are holding off on professional development because of your firm’s situation. I’d say to anyone to keep going with it because, like you mentioned, licensure still has value anywhere in the market. If not at one firm then someplace else.
      Your last sentence is interesting. Like I wrote I understand one needs to prove their mettle to receive recognition and advancement. So doesn’t getting licensed show proof of value to expect those benefits?
      -Just a question for healthy discussion.

  2. Are architects being disrespected? How much do architects earn? On this link Archsoc presents some economic and demographic data for the American profession. As far as we know, this is the first time that such historical data has been obtained, analysed and presented. You’re looking at a world first!

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