Full Disclosure: This blog post was set to be posted the day the new ‘Streamlined’ IDP process was triumphantly announced by NCARB. ‘Streamlined’ effectively means ‘easier’. After re-reading the below post, I feel that the new process only reinforces the issue at hand.
Ask a licensed architect about the examination process and he or she is likely to tell you tales of insurmountable odds, sleepless nights and how nothing could have prepared him or her for the challenge of the AREs. Now ask a registered architect from the preceding generation about the junior architect's experience and you are likely to hear how much easier the registration process has become for the younger generation. It seems as though every so often, NCARB challenges itself to figure out a way to alienate each subsequent crop of registered architects from those that came before.
I half-jokingly tell my students that it will not be too long before the IDP is reduced to a few months of experience and the ARE's are a three hour true/false exam...While a lot of truth is said in jest I truly believe however, that NCARB enacts rules, devises new test configurations and advocates for interns as best as they can, with the health of the architectural profession first and foremost in the minds of the decision makers at the Council. 1 One of the areas I believe their efforts are getting muddled is in the constantly evolving world of technology and its role in the profession. It used to be that everyone had a drafting pencil, a t-square and a drafting board. The skills of drawing and technical drafting that were so fundamental to architects, coupled with the ability to answer multiple choice questions were all that was required to take the registration exams. Now NCARB hears cries from candidates that they are being penalized for learning different software in school or the office: that the generic, MS-paint styled software of the 3rd and 4th generation of the AREs made it more difficult to prepare for the exams and truly display the architectural prowess of the candidate. Combine this with a decreased period between failing an exam and retesting, and one could make the case that NCARB is trying desperately to rush registered architects into the economy. This is a real concern that impacts the quality of the registered architect. Yes, passing the exam is important, but so is having experience that can only come with working in an office/on a job site and having direct contact with a supervisor.
I think what is missing in this discussion is the benefit to the intern that accompanies a streamlined approach to registration – a higher salary. It is no secret that architects are among the lowest paid professionals for which there is a professional degree. Hypothesis abound regarding the reasons for this, but I believe that in reducing the hurdles required to be cleared by an intern NCARB is actually providing the intern [and newly registered architect] leverage at the negotiating table. No other milestone in the field of architecture commands the attention to one’s salary like registration. We can debate the merits of a B.Arch vs a M.Arch all day but the fact is only one is required to be eligible to take the AREs. By allowing an intern to begin the registration process immediately upon graduation [and yes, paying a fee to NCARB to establish a Council Record], and reducing the wait time between failed exams, perhaps NCARB is attempting [consciously or not] to empower the newly registered intern with the leverage he or she needs to obtain a salary commensurate with his or her experience, schooling and dedication to the field of architecture.
If we want our interns to truly have a comprehensive experience prior to registration, then perhaps we need to look within and value our services to the extent that interns can be paid a fair and just hourly rate. This approach would reduce the pressure an intern feels to expedite the registration process if the primary motivator is a higher salary. If we cannot value our work can we expect the public, our client, to? And if the most admirable reason for expediting the registration process is financial, are we then undermining the value of registration?
1“NCARB is actively listening to candidate concerns, and the six-month wait to retest is often noted as a significant frustration,” said NCARB CEO Mike Armstrong. “A new feature of our exam support capacity allows us to provide greater access while maintaining exam integrity.” - http://www.ncarb.org/News-and-Events/News/2014/06-ARERetake.aspx