As schools and universities have recessed for the summer, many new graduates are looking for jobs, eager to get their professionally clad feet in the door. At our firm, we have interviewed many candidates, all with different backgrounds, levels of experience, and perspectives on what the future holds for them. One noteworthy finding is that not all new architecture graduates consider licensure a top priority. After working exceptionally hard for a length of time that can vary from four to seven years, some still view this career milestone as optional. What’s more, many of our professional and firm leaders may not see this as a compulsory step for their employees or even themselves.
As a profession, we don’t place the same value on licensure as do other fields like medicine, law, or accounting. Empirical information indicates that we don’t incentivize or reward licensure in the same way, and throughout our education all the way to retirement, it isn’t necessarily emphasized. While there may be many reasons for this, ranging from financial to systemic barriers, the result will impact the future of our profession. In the last three years, we have netted a total of 155 new architects residing in Texas. Compared with our population and development growth, this trend indicates there will not be enough licensed architects to meet market demand. While the number of newly registered architects in the state is increasing 4 percent each year, the profession is simultaneously losing half that amount to retirement, relocation, or other factors. So the looming question is: If there aren’t enough architects to do the work, who will do it?
If you practice as a licensed architect, I encourage you to ask yourself what value you put on your license. Perhaps you can better meet client expectations, collect higher fees, or operate your solo practice. We might also honor the notion that licensure promotes our entire profession: It signifies that we have earned and can exercise a specialized body of knowledge and, with that, can be entrusted with the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Knowledge can be acquired without becoming licensed, but per the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners: “The title ‘architect’ is a regulated term, which means that only those who have become licensed professionals may legally call themselves an architect.” There is an inherent reading that our license adds value to our work as design professionals.
Recently, NCARB repealed the rolling clock rule, meaning that those who are undergoing the licensing exam process are no longer subject to losing credit for passed exams based on a five-year window. While TBAE has yet to mirror this rule change, it is an important step in removing one of the barriers to licensure for those that have encountered delays in the ARE process. However, we need to continue to emphasize the importance of working toward this milestone, regardless of the timeline. If we want architects to remain integral to the sustainable growth and well-being of our communities, it is essential that we promote the value of our license, not just to the public, but to our future practitioners.
Our relevance as thought leaders and problem solvers is dependent upon promoting the value of what we do, and how we, as architects, are essential to building a better future. With fewer licensed architects, it may seem justifiable to look outside our profession to meet the demand for building design, reducing the importance of our voice when decisions are being made on the built environment. Let’s be loud about being licensed, about the benefit to the public, and about our promise to protect the health, safety, and well-being of all.
Nicki Marrone, AIA, is a principal at Alamo Architects in San Antonio and the 2023 TxA president.