Nov 10, 2009

The IDP & ARE Experience: Perseverance Is The Key

This article was posted on the AIA Associate News, November 2009 under Articles of Interest:

Most likely, the beginning of my IDP experience was just like yours. I opened my NCARB file back in 2004 with the support of my firm, and using the recent graduate discount. Back in 2004, there was no economic downturn. Everything was booming and moving at a fast pace. As a recent graduate with a Masters from the Savannah College of Art and Design, I sure was glad to have chosen an accredited NAAB program. Without which, you would have to go back to school if they you ever wanted to get licensed.

At first, filling my IDP credits was extremely intimidating. All the categories, the 700 credits, and the required experience in those seemingly unattainable sub-categories —how did they come up with such an intricate system? It felt so challenging that I didn’t file anything for more than a year. Then I realized that if I wanted to be a licensed architect, I needed to get on with my credit history. The accounting ladies were kind enough to print me dozens of pages of detailed work of all the hours I had logged. And in one weekend day, I was able get on track. Before my IDP experience was over, NCARB came up with a new IDP catalog and rules. I wished they had ‘clouded’ the changes so that more interns could catch the change. For once –at least for me– NCARB had great news: IDP credit will be given at 1.5 units per hour for all continuing education programs. Finally, attending lunch and learns, hard-hat tours, and other continuing education sessions was paying off. In 2007, I was able to finish my IDP.

Next step in the process was to get an ARE candidate number. Working with Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) and NCARB took another half a year to complete; lots of phone calls, lots of “we are processing it” answers. Something that perhaps not all states do is the written test that DPOR mails you. It is more like an open-book test about professional ethics and resource information. The answers are available online; you must fill in the multiple choice questionnaire and mail it back. I have to say that DPOR was always easy to reach, over the phone or via email.

Choosing the order of my ARE exams had me asking everywhere and reading everything: interns at work, interns knew through the AIA local chapter, college classmates, the, etc. They all had different answers. But if someone asks me now, I would say three things. First, start with Construction Documents: it gives you a good frame of reference for your ARE goals, and your firm. Secondly, don’t stop there; all the ARE exams are somewhat connected, so keep studying. And three, the best time to study is winter; you will find fewer excuses to go out and not study. The new version ARE 4.0 was a great motivator. NCARB’s transition chart was what kept me going and studying in an attempt to get done before June 30th. Talking in new version terms, I am done with six exams, and I am studying for my very last exam. I will definitely schedule it before the new cut-off date, October 1st. By the end of the year, I am hoping to read AIA letters after my name.

Between here and there, I’ve had several project deadlines to meet, transferred my license registration from one state to another, and renewed my NCARB files twice. But the closer you get to the end of the ARE list, the better you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The AREs are just a means to an end. The end, obviously, is becoming a licensed architect. We haven’t gone this far to stop before the finish line, we can do it.


  1. This was a great article to read. I am currently starting my IDP process and yes I am still indimated with uploading my credit history. Also with all the changes recently has left me a bit bewildered. It was sure nice to read that others feel the same. I'm glad to see you finished the program and feel that it was well worth the obstacles. It gives me relief. Thanks for writing this, it's a great article.

  2. You can do it, and best luck to you. after all the years of architecture education, we deserve to call ourselves architects.