When to start taking the AREs?

Updated: Jun 23, 2019



You might have heard some talks and whispers about this scary thing called ARE. It might have sounded like a pretty daunting thing to do. Do you think you’ll need to put yourself through that? Do you think being licensed would improve your life? Are you ready to become a better version of yourself?

You should start as soon as possible! Don’t wait for that perfect day when you “feel like” researching about the AREs, because that day will NEVER come. You will never be 100% ready. Today is the perfect day to do some initial baby research. Just a tiny step. Go over the NCARB ARE handbook, look what each exam is about. Reach out to friends and strangers to be your study buddies. There's a lot you can get done today.

I failed my first two exams. I made, but also heard many excuses: "Super stressed at work. I just feel too drained after work, I can't study.", "I have little ones and family. I just can't make time for studying.", "I think I just need more work experience before I can take these exams.", "My workplace doesn't really push us to take exams, so it's just been sitting on the back burner.".....

Those excuses are all little trolls preventing you from championing a great accomplishment in your professional career, that can impact other aspects of your life. Take a second RIGHT NOW and visualize yourself seeing "likely pass" at the end of your last exam. Feels pretty amazing, right? Between that moment and right now is A TON of work, though. A whole mountain to climb. But you know what wise Confucius said - A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So let’s debunk right now each of those lame excuses. Here we go!

Super stressed at work. I simply feel too drained after work, I can’t study. I hear you, friend, I hear you. Those work deadlines, office politics, relationships can all be super consuming. When we sprinkle into the mix a little bit of the impostor syndrome, faking happiness and friendliness, anxieties, etc it can all very quickly become vastly overwhelming. HOWEVER! You’re not all alone. There are hundreds of people that are going through the exact same process. We chose this profession because we love design and architecture, we pulled a decent number of all nighters in school, we found someone to pay us for our work (whether we are fairly paid or not that’s a different story)… There is one more thing separating us from being legally able to stamp drawings, and all the glory and challenges that go alongside - the license. It sounds like a real adult thing to do, right? So! Even though your feelings and grievances are probably entirely on point, you need to step up and make that sacrifice for yourself and your future. That’s what real heroes do. Leave tears behind, suck it all up, and focus on what’s ahead of you. Reach out to people that have started already, and/or are about to start. Once you finally start, you’ll be kicking yourself for not having it done sooner. I have little ones and a family / I am a single parent. I just can’t make time for studying. This is a real tough one. It’s so hard to be in the situation of having to choose between being a good parent, and getting licensed, especially when kids are small. It may seem selfish to be carving out studying time out of family time. HOWEVER! Try to think of it this way: By studying for exams and making that sacrifice now, you are actually investing in your kids and family’s future. One of the perks of being licensed is also being paid more. Think of all the fun times you will be spending with your family once you are liberated from exams and studying… licensed, with a higher salary, able to spend your vacation somewhere fun. Reach out to people that have already started, and/or are about to start. Once you finally start, you’ll be kicking yourself for not having it done sooner.

I think I need more work experience before I can take these exams. This is my favorite one. I used it for quite a while. After failing two exams, I was hiding away from the ARE for almost a year. Reason: I didn’t know how to study for this darn thing. HOWEVER! In reality, what you need to know is all written down in the NCARB ARE Handbook. You just have to learn how to read it like a proper critical thinker and a pro ARE exam taker. Not only can you pass these exams without having a ton of experience (because many people have done it), but studying for these exams will help you ask more intelligent questions at work. It will make you start poking around the unknown, and going beyond what is expected from your position. It will help you take the initiatives that truly count at work. Studying for the ARE will generally allow you to get the most out of your daily grind. Experience can definitely help you answer many questions on the exam, but without proper good old studying, you won’t be able to pass. Unless you decide to start taking exams after 10-15 years of being in business… unlicensed, watching those youngsters getting paid as much as you do… because they got the license. Reach out to people that have started already, and/or are about to start. Once you finally start, you’ll be kicking yourself for not having it done sooner.

My workplace doesn't really push us to take exams, so it's been sitting on the back burner. This is a tricky one, because it requires a bit of self reflection and paddling upstream. When you are surrounded by indifference, it’s hard to pursue something so big as ARE. HOWEVER! Ask yourself if your current job is the right environment for you. Consider the fact that, in case you get laid off, or you quit, you will be looking for a new job. There is a chance that the employer of your dreams is going to take into consideration licensed candidates only. You see where I am going? By putting off the ARE, you are putting your fate into someone else’s hands. When you have your license, you put yourself in a much better place when negotiating. Plus, do you really want to be working super hard on someone else’s drawings until you retire? Did you know that you (legally) cannot call and market yourself as an architect unless you are licensed? I know that deep in your heart you know what you need to do. Reach out to people that have started already, and/or are about to start. Once you finally start, you’ll be kicking yourself for not having it done sooner. And remember to seize the f**k out of today! Beyonce has just as many hours in a day as you do.


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