Meet AIA Pennsylvania’s NCARB Licensing Advisor: Kathryn Doyle

Kathryn is a graduate of Penn State University’s Stuckeman School where she obtained her Professional Masters of Architecture degree. This was following her undergraduate degree at the Boston Architectural College where she participated in a cooperative learning environment and gained valuable on the job training while pursuing her degree. Her studies allowed her to find a position with HUNT Engineers Architects and Land Surveyors, where she had been a project designer for the past two years. Kathryn is currently pursuing licensure to be completed Spring 2019.

NCARB’s architect licensing advisors are local professionals, educators, and students who volunteer their time to help others pursue licensure and reciprocity. These volunteers often provide candidates with their first glimpse into the licensure process, lending help and guidance along the way. Similar to a supervisor or mentor, candidates look to their advisors for insight into completing the AXPpassing the ARE, and meeting licensure and reciprocity requirements.

Why did you want to become an architect?

  • Originally, I didn’t! Architecture was never on my radar if you were to ask me in high school what I thought I would be pursuing as a career. I was dead set on being a forensic pathologist based on years of interest in the field following a report I did in the 7th grade. But once I actually started the process in college I found out that making Chemistry and Biology my primary focus was not going to be the best path for me. I ended up trying a number of different majors for a few semesters before I realized that I had an interest in building and architecture. I had grown up watching my grandfather in his woodshop and was always fascinated about the process of making something from nothing the way he did. One thing led to another and after  the first architecture related class I took I was hooked. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. I still may not know quite precisely where my career will lead me but I know I am on the right track.

Where are you in your licensure process?

  • I am on the tail end of my journey to become an architect. It has taken me a little longer than some but I am certainly glad I went through the process I did. When I realized architecture was my passion, the school I was attending at the time only had a landscape architecture program. I ended up taking as many courses as I could in that program before I could transfer to the Boston Architectural School where I started their B.ARCH. program. The BAC was a great first spot for me as I had no background or portfolio to provide and their program allows for a student like me to have a chance to experience architecture and see if it would be a good fit. Overall I spent 5 years at the BAC and earned a Bachelors of Design Studies. In that time I worked for 3+ years in a small firm outside of Boston gaining valuable training and earning AXP hours. I knew I wanted to pursue my license so I made the decision to return to school to obtain an M.ARCH. degree in order to be eligible to earn a license in a shorter amount of time. I graduated in 2017 and started with HUNT Engineers Architects and Land Surveyors, where I worked for about 10 months and then took my first ARE. Over the course of 2018 I successfully completed 4 of the 6 exams and nearly logged all of my AXP hours. My goal is to have all the requirements complete by the Spring of this year.

Why do you feel it is important to get licensed?

  • I always considered licensure important to my career because I saw it as “the freedom” to choose my next step. There are many aspects of architecture that I am eager to explore and having my license gives me the chance to pursue other opportunities. It is also important to our profession. The responsibility is great but the reward is greater. When it comes to architecture that can not only serve a purpose but advance our society we have the opportunity to be facilitators of that advancement as licensed individuals. The architecture profession relies on the emerging professionals of today to continue to embark on future endeavors tomorrow.

What would you say to your peers on the fence about pursuing licensure?

  • There are a lot of factors that might encourage or discourage an individual to obtain their professional license. To those that are considering pursuing licensure, I would advise that they look into the process and understand what is required so you know what to expect. I would also talk to others who are in the same position in their career as you are. It will be a different experience for someone who has just graduated with a B.ARCH. degree versus someone who had been working in the commercial construction field for a few years. Lastly, I would want them to know that there are resources available so that you don’t have to make the decision alone or go through the process alone, if you have any questions just start asking them.

What advice do you have for candidates going through the AXP process?

  • The advice that always stuck with me when it came to earning my AXP hours was two fold: don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, and document beyond the requirements. There are categories listed in the AXP guidelines that may not occur naturally for a young emerging professional or even a more experienced designer, these are the opportunities that are important to talk with your mentor or supervisor about. It may not be something that happens right away but if they know what areas you need to gain more experience in it will be more likely that the opportunities may arise. Secondly, even if you complete the required hours based on your testing jurisdiction, it is wise to continue to report your hours. You never know where life or your career may take you and if pursuing a reciprocal license is on the horizon you want to ensure you still have all the requirements met.

Do you have any study secrets or advice on staying motivated when it comes to the ARE?

  • My favorite study tip took me back to high school SAT Prep. I had forgotten how to test when I started studying and looking back over some of the tips for good testing practice helped focus me when I was taking the ARE’s. The most critical for me was to practice focusing on what the questions are asking and how they are asking it as well as remembering that every question counts as a point. It was better for me to answer all the questions with my first instinct. If I don’t know an answer within 10 seconds I mark it for review and come back if I have time but I always take my best guess.
  • It definitely can be challenging to stay motivated to study when life and work are still happening all around you. My best practice is to give myself enough time prior to an exam to study but also maintain a work/study/life balance I am comfortable with. Additionally I have found that taking a break from studying can be beneficial for me. If i am trying to process too much information in a short amount of time then I do not remember it well. For me this means a longer time between exams to allow for maybe only 30 mins of studying in a night. Each person is going to study a different way and it is important to take time to learn what works best for you.