I had many interesting conversations with architecture students while I was in Chicago. It was very interesting that many of them had similar questions to those I receive every day from the licensed architects who follow this blog. Some were concerned about finding a job. Others wanted to know about how to start their own firms. Many wanted to know how much it costs to do so. Not so surprisingly though, they all wanted to “save the world”.
Architects will be architects.
On two separate occasions, I was asked my opinion about competing with unlicensed professionals. These students are working to become residential architects and in many states, working with a licensed architect is not a requirement. How would they compete? How is that fair? Should those laws be changed? Should non-architects be permitted to use the term “architect”?
My answer to those students, as well as to anyone else concerned with this very volatile issue?
Architecture is a business. As with any other business, there are obstacles which require our talents, skills and determination to overcome.
Our architectural educations should be viewed more as personal improvement, building our skills and reinforcing our knowledge, and less as a ticket to professional exclusivity. The lessons we learn and the skills we acquire during our time in architecture school make us unique to any other people on earth. We are taught to see. We are taught to listen. We are taught to learn differently than the average person, and very differently than any designer that has not experienced the process of architectural education and achieved what we have achieved.
Our endeavor to licensure builds upon what we have achieved from our educations. As complex as the path through IDP (Intern Development Program) may be, it is intended to take us to the next level, to take what we have experienced in architecture school and prepare us for transition to the “real world” profession. Whether or not the IDP is currently successful in that mission is a debate for another day, but there is no doubt that completing the IDP is an achievement of epic proportion. The complicated rules, bureaucratic regulations and massive amounts of documentation, if nothing else, prepares us well for the realities of ever-evolving building codes, restrictive zoning regulations, architectural review and the increasing piles of paperwork required for construction approval.
The experience of cutting our way through the jungles of architecture school, climbing our way up IDP Mountain, reaching the ARE (Architect Registration Exam) summit and passing the many required exams, transforms one from basic designer to a professional Registered Architect.
Designers are born. Architects are accomplished.
Receiving our professional license makes us more prepared and better qualified for the services we are seeking to provide our public. The many years of focus and dedication to become a licensed architect provides us the opportunity to become better communicators, better managers, as well as better designers. It does not entitle us, though, to exclusive access to our chosen markets. That sense of elitism will be the cause of our downfall as a profession.
The argument that the term “architect” should be legally reserved for licensed professionals is a waste of time. As individual small firm architects, we have more important tasks requiring our attention. We have businesses to build, clients to serve and families to feed. If we want the term “architect” to be given the respect it deserves, than as a profession we need to earn that respect, not legislate it. Stop fighting the use of the term “architect” and start creating value.
Build a strong, healthy, profitable business and create a unique marketing position to separate your firm from every other competitor, licensed or not. We have a unique marketing opportunity as registered architects. We have a clear and distinct advantage over unlicensed professionals. The accomplishment of our education and the achievement of our professional license should be used as an integral part of our marketing and sales systems. The unique skills acquired during our time in the “jungle” and ascent to the “summit” should be honored by the lives we improve and celebrated in the works of architecture we create.
Work hard. Provide services that your market demands better than others may provide. Stop investing your energy in trying to change the behavior of others. You can’t change the behavior of anyone but your own. Invest in yourself, overcome the obstacles before you and succeed.
Be better.I’d love to read your thoughts on this topic? Should all buildings be designed by architects? Should the term “architect” be reserved for licensed professionals? What do you think? ***
photo credit: _Hadock_ via photopin cc