By Fajer Al-Hendi
On my high school graduation ceremony day, I was smiling on the stage to receive my diploma – after taking my commemorative picture – suddenly I opened the diploma cover to find it empty! I turned my head towards the school staff, who whispered in my ear: “You need to pass the state literacy exam to receive your diploma.” Then, my smile was on one side of my face and the other side was struggling to hide my tears.
Four years of continuous hardship, challenges and honor roll in the best schools – the schools that US presidents prided themselves to mention their academic levels in their speeches. However, at the end and without any alarm, my diploma was pending on the school shelves! I was ready to free myself from the rigid school curriculum and transfer to what I used to visualize as the liberal study of architecture.
During my undergraduate and graduate architectural studies, the story was totally different. Throughout the academic period, the alarm was on from the beginning and continued repeating till the last day of learning. We were informed that the US law in all the states does not allow us to call ourselves ‘architects’ until we receive our architectural license. The procedure would be divided into two phases. The first phase would be based on collective hours of work that must be performed under the supervision of a licensed mentor that would be registered at the National Council for Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
The second phase is examinations for different sections of architectural practice through the NCARB. Finally, the architect receives their license. Furthermore, for those who achieve a PhD level in architectural studies, they too shall not refer to themselves as architects until they receive their license – otherwise it’s a waste of time except for academia.
The architectural license is an honorable privilege and must be maintained by adhering to laws, excellent performance, high ethical standards and keeping up to date through continuous educational credits accredited by NCARB. The above shall not be taken lightly to avoid forfeiture and loss of license. So long as we are in September and the sign of Virgo which carries the meanings of determination and perfection, do all of us want an architectural license akin to that of the US and the UK? Finally, it is not possible for an architectural license to be fulfilled by a “stroke of a pen” by an official.
The purpose of it is to maintain and protect public safety and to stay at par with international developments. Therefore, it must be renewed and updated regularly. If not, it will only be a license cover with an expired date – ‘an illiterate license’.