Paying Your Dues

This being an odd-numbered year, it’s time once again for that biennial task of renewing one’s license. It’s a part of the licensure process that is often forgotten by many, including me — I literally just hauled out my charge card and paid my $100 renewal fee, with only days to go before the June 30th deadline. Two more years of licensure, in the bag — cha-ching!

Also, I'm pretty sure I'm overdue for an oil change...

Also, I’m pretty sure I’m overdue for an oil change…

I wanted to bring it up here, while its fresh in my mind (since I will most likely forget about it for another two years), because it’s one more thing to consider — after NCARB’s renewal fees, seven divisions of the exam, paying to have your record transmitted to the state board, and the cost of your stamp, it can seem like the cost of achieving a license will simply never end. It’s not that much money (it works out to less than $1 per week to maintain my status as a registered architect, a pittance when you get right down to it), but it’s one of those things that doesn’t get spoken of when we talk about how important it is to get licensed. Fees are a part of life, but that doesn’t stop people from having some odd reactions to them — I worked with a young woman who told me she planned her exam schedule so that earning her initial license fell on the odd-numbered year, giving her an extra 12 months before having to pony up for that first renewal. (And if you can plan that far ahead, my anal-retentive hat is off to you.)

Like many bills, it never seems to come at a good time, but I’ve never once grumbled about renewing my license. I consider it an investment in myself, and the effort that went into achieving it. Here’s to two more years of practice! (Maybe I should mark the calendar now…)

The Home Stretch

So you’ve earned your degree, completed IDP and passed all seven divisions of the ARE.  Congratulations!  You’ve officially earned the right to call yourself a registered architect.  My hat’s off to you.  This is a monumental achievement in your career, and I hope that you’re celebrating (and being celebrated!) in the proper manner.  There’s only a little bit of paperwork left between you and your formal license.


Robert Redford rounding third as Roy Hobbs in “The Natural” (1984)

First, check out the Licensure Board Requirements on NCARB’s website.  Hopefully you’ve already done this at the outset of your IDP process, but this is an excellent time to refresh your memory.  This is a great resource, showing each jurisdiction’s specific requirements in a   “Nutrition Facts” format.  Very clear and easy to read.Next, you need to make a formal request that NCARB sends your record to the state licensure board.  Click “Request Transmittal” to get that ball rolling.  This does not happen automatically!  The only constant between your record (maintained by NCARB) and your test scores (maintained by the state’s licensure board), quite frankly, is you.  Don’t drop the ball here!

Then head over to the Pennsylvania Licensure Board’s website for the specifics.  There’s an application form and a small fee for this on the state’s side (which varies from jusridiction to jurisdiction — in Pennsylvania it’s $40).  Once they’ve received your application, the fee, and a copy of your record from NCARB, they will then process your request and issue you a registration number.  This could take a while, but the important part is not to let that bother you!  Remember — the hard part is behind you!  (I’d also recommend following up with a phone call — or three — to make sure that they’re received everything and that your license is in process.)

Now, how do you actually get your stamp?  Answer:  Call a rubber stamp company.  I did a quick search for rubber stamp manufacturers in Pennsylvania and was surprised at how many there actually are (note to self: if architecture should tank, go into the rubber stamp business). You should call first and make sure that they produce professional seals for registered architects.  Here in the Pittsburgh region, we use Bunting, Inc.  Give them a call and ask to speak with Cliff.  If you’re from the other side of the state, I’m sure they’d ship to you as well, but you could probably find one a little closer to you.

Word to the wise: when you place your order, ASK FOR A PROOF!  I’ve heard horror stories about mis-spelled names, incorrect license numbers, and even the wrong state seal (!!) on finished stamps.  Approve the proof first before the stamp is cast and there’s no going back.  And yes, there’s a fee for this service… but in light of everything you’ve already been through, it’s a pittance.

Yard Sale

Well, not really… it just looks that way.  This is what happens when one of the administrative assistants cleans out some of the office cabinets to prepare for a looming renovation project…

25 cents each… three for a dollar.

The long and the short of it is this:  the CEO of our firm is registered to practice architecture in a whopping 38 distinct jurisdictions.  (Two more, and he gets a free sandwich on his next visit!)  But seriously, folks… I found this to be pretty impressive.  It took not one, but two, cardboard boxes to hold all of his stamps.  That’s a lot of architectural authority.  For a firm like ours, one that has carved out a near-nationwide practice with our higher education work, that level of licensure has been invaluable.

Admittedly, this is an extreme case, and the vast majority of us will probably be very happy being licensed in a single state.  However, if you plan on practicing in any other jurisdiction beyond the one in which you receive your initial registration, you should look into reciprocity.  Reciprocity is the term used when an architect applies for registration in another jurisdiction, by certifying that their intial registration meets that jurisdiction’s requirements.  Considering that a license to practice architecture is administered by the state board, and that each state board’s criteria can vary (sometimes wildly), it helps to have a way of leveling the playing field.  One way of doing so is the NCARB Certificate.  The NCARB Certificate signifies to all member boards that you have met “the highest professional standards established by the registration boards responsible for protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.”  More to the point, by serving as a near-universal credential, the Certificate can streamline the reciprocal registration process in other jurisdictions.

Coincidentally, NCARB has recently offered a significant reduction in fees for reactiviting a lapsed record, which can equal some pretty significant savings for anyone who might be a little delinquent in their fees.