So, why didn't you become a Doctor?

Updated: Oct 15, 2018

First off, welcome to my blog! As with any blog, it’s difficult to decide what to write about, but I believe the best way to go about it is to dive in and begin...

Who am I? I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a business owner…and an Architect. In my short life I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I am proud of who I’ve become and have met many of my goals, including one of my biggest goals, becoming a licensed Architect.

Did I mention you cannot refer to yourself as an Architect (even with many years of experience) if you do not take and pass the Architectural Registration Exam? The word "Architect" cannot even be associated with your name or business if you are not registered (at least in the USA). There's some food for thought. So, for the people in the building design field, attaining the Architect status is a big deal.

I did all my schooling in Texas and graduated from the University of Texas in San Antonio with my Bachelor of Science in Architecture and my Master of Architecture. If you are interested in becoming an Architect, I will be completely honest with you; it is not an easy journey. School is just the beginning, and it is a grueling learning process with subjective grading/critiquing and extra long nights. Sometimes, you can be up for multiple days. You may get small amounts of rest in between washing graphite off your arms and glue off your fingers, but it is definitely a roller coaster. Oh, and be careful not to cut yourself with a blade while you are building models through tired eyes (yes, I know many who did this). Yup, it is definitely not an easy journey.

If you’re asking yourself right now if it was worth it, yes, it definitely was. Architecture school made me a stronger person; it gave me a tougher skin. I learned to stand up for what I believe in and what principals I wanted to uphold in my designs.

After my sophomore year in college, I was committed to finishing my Bachelor’s degree. It was a rough ride, and a lot of people around me decided to go down different career paths for different reasons. As you can imagine, it was pretty intimidating to continue. Then again, I had a lot of support from family, friends (even those that decided to move on from Architecture) and colleagues. Their support was invaluable to me.

At the end of my undergraduate education I was contemplating attaining my Master’s degree. At my university, in order to be a licensed Architect you needed to get your Master’s degree (more on this later). I would think, “Oh man, two to three more years of this? Can I even do that?” I have to admit, one of the reasons, among many others, that I decided to get my Master’s degree is due to something one of my professors told me, “Why would you get your Master’s? It’s not like you’re ever going to get your license.” That did it! I was determined to finish my career path all the way to licensure.

After graduating with my Master’s degree, I began working full-time. I had already been working at my first summer internship and second part-time job as an intern during graduate school. I was unfortunately laid off due to the recession like many others, but I found another job shortly afterwards with a female Architect that I grew to admire. She was inspirational because she always took an active role in the Architectural community and women in the industry. I saw her as a role model, and when I finally got my license in Texas, her signature was on my Architectural License Certification. I’d like to think a small smile crossed her lips as she signed my certificate…

Learning the business of Architecture is completely different from anything you will ever learn in school, and you will have to fight to learn what you need to in order to succeed in your internship. It is important to have a mentor or boss that will take an interest in you and what you want to accomplish, and she was that for me.

I got married, and shortly thereafter moved to Florida. My husband had found a great job, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I began working after moving to Florida, but it was difficult to find a job in a city where you have no connections. Architecture is all about connections, and I learned that the hard way. No one knew who I was or what school I had gone to, and no one wanted to give me a chance. The letters of reference that I had didn’t even matter because no one knew any of my previous employers either. After a brief employment at a firm that wasn’t a good match, I finally got a job with a firm that gave me a chance, and I was able to prove my skills and work ethic.

My husband and I decided to start a family, and that’s when I decided it was time for me to pursue licensure. I left my job at the firm, and although I had a few setbacks, I finally began studying for my Architectural Registration Exam with the continued support of my family and friends.

I suppose I shouldn’t say exam; I should say exams, plural, or divisions. I took seven of them, and with a full-time job it can take any candidate about two years to complete all of them, sometimes shorter or longer as everyone has their own schedules. My full-time job at the time was raising my child, and yes, it is a full-time job.

Each division takes approximately 80 hours of studying and is about four to five hours long. If you fail, there is a 60 day waiting period before you can try again, and you have five years to complete them before you lose them. The exam is

just as demanding, if not more, than the six years of school that I went through.

I should also mention that on June 30, 2018 the exams that I took were retired (ARE 4.0) and a new set of exams was released (ARE 5.0). There are now six divisions instead of seven, but I have heard from candidates that they are just as difficult as the previous version.

My grandmother, who has not only supported me through this journey but also has a great sense of humor, finally asked me one day, “So, with all the time you have put into becoming an Architect, why didn’t you just become a doctor?” I laughed and said, “Well, because the sight of blood would probably cause me to pass out!” In all seriousness, her question has been asked before. Becoming an Architect takes a lot of time, money and energy. It is a difficult profession with little monetary reward (due to many factors that I will discuss at a later time) and a work-life balance that can be hard to attain.

Even the dean of my school once stood on a drafting table in front of the entire freshman class and said, “If you are here to make money, I suggest you turn and walk out the door!” I didn’t see anyone at the time walk out, but as I continued my journey I did realize that few people actually made it to licensure.

Four years of undergraduate work, two years of graduate school, 6,000+ hours of internship, 8 years of working in the industry and approximately two years of exams while raising a child, and I was finally able to call myself an Architect.

I have now begun a new journey in my life as an Architect: starting my own business.

Until next time…