Take the architect registration exam, already

You’d think this topic, the dreaded architect registration exam, would be one I would have “in the bag”, so to speak. After all, I’ve written two books about it (so far) and share #AREsketches on Instagram pretty consistently to help others get licensed. A quick archive search says I’ve already written 15 blogs on the topic. And yet, I sit here the night of our collective writing deadline unsure about what to write.

Note: This is the thirty-first post in a group series called #ArchiTalks. This month’s topic is “architect registration exam”.

Like you sitting down to study for your tests, this is an exercise that’s easy to put off…but can also be a painful lesson if you choose to do so. Me? I’m having to stay up late to meet this deadline. That’s my pain. Putting off getting licensed – that’s a whole different kind of pain. Today I thought we’d live into that pain, find some motivation, and look at why you should make taking the architect registration exam a priority:

1. Career Advancement

If you want to own your own firm as a sole proprietor (ie: not rely on a partner to do the stamping) or generally move up in the traditional world of practice, the sooner you get licensed, the sooner those doors start to open for you. Some states have on their business law that you can’t be a partner in a firm without being licensed. As a young person in a firm, your ability to persevere the architect registration exam and finish testing shows a determination that mentors, managers, and firm leaders will value because they know it transitions to other avenues of life.

2. Financial incentives

If career advancement isn’t your thing, you probably still care about the paycheck at the end of the day. You’ll want to take vacations or afford a nice home…and hopefully retire sometime in the future. All of that counts on you being paid (what is hopefully equitable) wages that allow you to save to do so. And I’m here to tell you that in every firm I’ve worked for or have a general understanding of, licensed people get paid more than their unlicensed counterpart of the same experience level. For some firms, it’s a same-month raise and transition to salary/better benefits.

You may be thinking: “Who cares if I get licensed this year or 10 years from now? I’m in no hurry.” Your retirement cares. Let’s math out for a second.


You earn $45,000 as a graduate architect. Assume a standard raise of 4% annually and 10% retirement savings with a conservative 6% annual return.

If you wait to get licensed until the end of year 10, your $45,000 grad paycheck, will at the end of those 10 years, have earned you $74,000 in retirement savings.

If you get licensed in month ONE of this 10 year scenario, you make $51,000 your first year. That pay difference against the 10 years of savings leaves you with $83,960. That’s almost a 10k difference…in 10 years alone!

If you span that out against a 30 year career assuming that same 6k raise at year 10, it comes out to a $45,000 difference (if you never get licensed, it’s almost $85k). That’s a lot of missed beach vacations, mi amigo. Just because you didn’t want to prioritize getting licensed and getting it over with, you lost what equates to your first year’s salary. Painful.

3. Inner Standards

This is the best reason of all, and typically people motivated by this factor are the most persistent and get licensed the fastest. To get through architecture school, you have to have a dogged determination. That same determination will get you through the architect registration exam if you let it. Many fall into the trap after graduation of wanting to relax and enjoy that paycheck and slow down a little.* Others take on other responsibilities like kids. This is a lesson in priorities – not that children shouldn’t be, but those with inner standards that told themselves going to architecture school meant working as a licensed architect, are much more likely to self-motivate and pass the architect registration exam quickly because – even though they graduated – they aren’t DONE yet. Those driven people are the ones I want to work with.

*Mind you, not many firms will keep a person on for all 30 years if they never show a desire to better themselves.

So those are three things that can help motivate you to take and pass the architect registration exam, or make it painful if you don’t. I want you to be able to retire early or take those vacations. I want you to live beyond your potential, to get it done and enjoy the rest of your life, instead of having the architect registration exam stormy cloud hovering over you.

Come join me in the sun. Bring your study material. Let’s knock out that architect registration exam and get you ready for your bright future.


To see the take on “architecture registration exam” from other Architects, follow the links to the others in the #ArchiTalks group who are posting today on the theme:

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