Dissecting the Frog

Yesterday, the most recent changes to the Intern Development Program — first alluded to at the annual Coordinators Conference earlier this summer, and announced last month — formally took effect. You’ve probably already heard the gist — eligibility requirements have been streamlined, and the duration requirement has been eliminated. And to this I say, good riddance. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Truthfully, I can’t think of many people who will miss either of these aspects of IDP. Out of all the questions I’ve received in my time as Pennsylvania’s state coordinator, it seems like these two topics have harbored a great deal of confusion from soon-to-be architects. Phasing them out significantly simplifies the process for everyone involved. Or, as a young professional in my chapter put it, “eliminating barriers to licensure is always a good thing.” I don’t know if I would have referred to it in quite that way — I’ve never seen IDP as a barrier to anything, even when I was struggling through it — but it’s certainly true that the rules governing the act sometimes seem to take more precedence over the actual act itself. By simplifying the rules, the focus can shift back to the more important things, like actually, you know, logging experience.

Boiling eligibility requirements down to their lowest common denominator — a high school diploma, which anyone pursuing a professional career should have, regardless of accredited degree — is one of those it’s-so-simple-we-should-have-thought-of-it-sooner sort of changes. Besides, let’s face it — were three forms for the same purpose really necessary? That sound you hear is the collective sigh of relief from educator coordinators across the nation, who just saw a significant reduction in their paperwork.


“You’ve got to stay in there for at least eight weeks…”

Interns really had a hang up over the duration requirement (sample question: “I have found a summer internship, but my employer is” — gasp! the horror! — “giving me the day off for Memorial Day and Independence Day, so it won’t REALLY be eight consecutive weeks. Will this count toward IDP?”), which just seemed to become more confusing the more you tried to clear it up. To paraphrase EB White, trying to explain it became something like dissecting a frog. No one was interested, and the frog died.

Say what you will, but NCARB, to me, has always been incredibly responsive to the needs of their constituents. The ever-fluid nature of the Intern Development Program proves this — IDP is constantly evolving, mostly due to the input (or “constructive criticism”) of the people currently working their way through it. The best changes are the ones that are barely noticable, simple yet profound… and these two certainly qualify. And you certainly won’t hear any frogs complaining.

For Whom the Clock Rolls

Errata: Pennsylvania has apparently amended its licensure code to more closely follow NCARB’s model (beginning their five-year rolling clock with the first passed division of the test, not the candidate’s Authorization to Test)… effectively rendering the details of this post to be null and void. (Of course, I only learned this after mentioning it in front of 200 people. Open mouth, insert foot.) I’ve decided to keep this post a reminder to all ARE Candidates — be sure that you understand the rules and regulations for the jurisdiction in which you intend to receive your initial license.

Let’s talk for a minute about an intern named Joe (who isn’t a real person, mind you — just a figment of my imagination, used to illustrate a point)…

Joe started working for a mid-sized architectural office in 2005, right out of college. About two years into his internship, he felt ready to start testing. He formally requested that a copy of his NCARB record be sent to the state board, received his Authorization to Test letter in June of 2007, happily filed it away for safekeeping, and immediately began preparing to take his first division of the ARE. Then Joe went on a two-week vacation in July, and came back to a mountain of submittals from his current project. A few weeks later, around Labor Day, Joe was assigned to a new project, on a fast-track delivery system with some very aggressive milestones, so that foundation work could be completed before the winter months. Next came the holiday season, followed by another round of deadlines for the next phase of Joe’s project.

Joe had been studying off-and-on during all of this time, but couldn’t build up enough momentum with the material to feel comfortable committing to an exam date. Despite his best intentions, Joe finally scheduled that first exam in May of 2008… nearly one year after receiving his authorization to begin testing. A few weeks later, Joe received his Score Report, and was excited to discover that he passed. One down, six more to go. Joe’s girlfriend good-naturedly sticks the score report on their refrigerator door for a little while, but that document is also filed away for safekeeping.

We all know what happens now — the clock has started ticking. From the day you take (and pass) your first exam, you will have five years to complete the other six. If you don’t complete the other six in that timeframe, you will lose credit for the first exam, and will need to retake it. NCARB calls this the Rolling Clock. Let’s put things into perspective here: five years seems like a long time — most of us earned our degrees in architecture in five years. When you put it that way, seven little exams is nothing. But life — and work — has a tendency of getting in the way.

Fast-forward a few years. It’s now October of 2012. Joe and his girlfriend have gotten married, bought their first house (a modest fixer-upper with a lot of potential, which has kept Joe very busy on the weekends) and are expecting their first child in the spring. Joe finished up with IDP over two years ago, and has taken a grand total of five exams; he’s set a personal goal of finishing the last two before the baby arrives.

No sweat, right? After all, Joe passed his first exam in May of 2008… so his Rolling Clock still has another seven months left on it. Right?

Wrong. Joe’s eligibility actually expired two months ago, back in June. Why? Because Joe’s jurisdiction measures eligibility five years from the date of his Authorization to Test, not his first passed division. Oops.

Moral of the story: get to know the requirements for licensure in the state in which you intend to get licensed. The state board issues you your license, and as such, their requirements trump NCARB. Maintaining a good rapport with the state board is always a good idea, too… they might be able to help you out of a bind, like they did for Joe, reopening his eligibility to test so that he could finish as planned.