Why get your license? Wise words from architects who earned it

Struggling with the decision to start? Or move forward? If you need a reminder, we asked Pros in the industry why they’ve braved the journey to get licensed.

by Katie Robleski

Architecture licensure, it’s a beast there’s no doubt. Time-consuming? Gut-wrenching? Might even make you rethink your career choices? Question your sanity? You can probably think of a hundred excuses why licensure is a mountain that’s just much too gigantic to climb.

But all you need is that one REALLY good reason to go for it. You know, the one that tells everyone (and the voice in your head) why you are totally worthy and absolutely capable of conquering these seemingly insurmountable heights.

So let’s take a little break from your night sweats, and dive back into your daydreams. In interviews with licensure candidates, freshly minted architects, and old pros in the field, we’ve gathered up a few of our favorite really good reasons.

Technically, I’m definitely an architect.

“Without the license, I can’t say I’m an architect. When you say ‘architect,’ everyone knows your background and your role.” - Anonymous

“Being licensed adds so much credibility. It opens doors. No longer an intern.’ which has a bad stigma in the industry.” - Jake Groth

“I have no desire to have my own practice or stamp my own drawings, I don’t want the liability. I wanted the title and to move up in my career." - Laura Crane

Now or never.

“I was licensed at 26 … I didn’t want to be further along in my life and career and have to balance it all, so I went for it right away.” - Jake Groth

“It makes the most sense to get the license out of the way now versus trying to do it later on when life may be busier.” - Kevin M

“I didn’t want to be a designer forever. Long term career development.” - Anonymous

Hear me roar.

“Getting licensed was always the plan. I wanted to be taken more seriously, especially as a woman. I feel it is more necessary for a woman to be licensed in order to move up.” - Anonymous

"Personally, it had a lot to do with ego. Also being female in a male-dominated field, people often assume I’m an interior designer or the secretary.” - Laura Crane

“Getting licensed was also an affirmation of my 7.5 years of schooling and all the hard work hours I was putting in over the years at my firm (late nights, working weekends, working on holidays to prove myself to my seasoned peers). It legitimized all my hard work and efforts, and the moment I became licensed it did lift a huge weight off my shoulders that I had been carrying around for quite some time.” -Laura Crane

I hear you knockin’.

“[I got licensed] to be taken more seriously by clients. Clients will notice. More opportunities and higher pay.” - Paul Bierman

“Becoming licensed is pretty much a requirement nowadays. Since the 2008 recession, everyone decided to go get licensed. There’s been a big influx in the past few years. There’s an attitude of credibility toward licensure. It has really changed in the last few years.” - Jake Groth

“Once you’ve come so far, you need to finish it. You can only get so far in your career without it.” - Anonymous

“It does provide more credibility. I went through schooling, hours, exams, I did all the work. Being licensed is a little bit different in conversation with a client … It shows that I’m well-experienced and have backup to show for it.” - Kevin M

Now, how about you?

Maybe it goes deeper than a title or a bigger paycheck or your own stamp or opening up your own firm. Maybe you simply want to become a better architect. The exam structure for ARE 5.0 helps you understand architectural concepts and progression across the life of a project. You gain technical knowledge you may not have learned or fully grasped in school. And it encourages you to reach out and converse with your colleagues in the industry. Above all else, you know you’ve invested in yourself. And that feels real good.

Or maybe becoming an architect has simply always been your thing. Even before school, when you were just a kid. No matter how insane it all seems in the middle of an all-nighter or after a failed exam (or several), when push comes to shove, you wouldn’t have it any other way. License or bust. Because you’ve been fired up about this profession for decades. And one day, that fuel will definitely earn you a place way up top.

We want to hear more! Give us your own personal really good reason to get licensed. Comment below or tweet at us!

As always, we’re here to help you get closer to that coveted license of yours. Learn how Black Spectacles ARE 5.0 Prep can get you there ›

Cool to see myself in some of the quotes. I still stand by getting licensed as early as possible. Life with happen in many shapes and forms and that can sometimes be a distraction from your studies and internship. Think of your first 3 years in the profession as the ideal time to get licensed and forge a path to success. Getting licenced allowed me to open many doors to move forward in my career.


It’s great advice, Jake. I’ve been reading a lot of stories from architects where they kept pushing it out, I think you’re spot on with your take. Also welcome to the forum!

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Totally agree, Jake. I was on the same path and honestly it was just really good to get it over with as fast as possible.


It can happen at any time, too - don’t give up! I’m finally testing at 46 years old!
I’m excited to up my credentials and establish my own firm where I am more than just the “lead designer”.
I was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown from a large firm. It was great experience being there but a license would have helped me with project types and pay. Now I am ready to branch out on my own. BTW, I took 9 years out of architecture while I ran my own art gallery - and yes, I already passed the Practice Management section :smiley:


@hilary.meehan, Awesome to hear you’re aiming to start out on your own.! If you ever want to dig in, that’s my favorite topic to discuss, and/or I’m always happy to help connect you to folks who are building something similar!

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Thank you, @marcteer, for the personal response and encouragement.
I would love to dig in on that, definitely. It’s always good to learn from those who’ve gone before you, pool ideas, and see things from another perspective.