Auburn University graduates have become two of the youngest licensed architects in the United States

Tate Lauderdale and Hunter Swatke are friends, co-workers, and 2021 alumni of the Auburn University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (APLA). They have one thing in common: They are also among the youngest architects to be licensed in the United States.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the coordinating organization of the 54 licensing authorities in the United States, works to promote common standards for licensing across state boards. NCARB administers the Architect Experience Program (AXP), the Licensing-Associated Required Experience Program, and the Architectural Enrollment Examination (ARE), which is the common licensing exam in all states.

According to NCARB, it takes the average architect more than seven years to complete the licensing process, and the average age for those who start exams is 29. Lauderdale and Swatke completed the process within 10 months of graduating when they were both just 23 years old.

So, how do they do that?

“It was just a really friendly competition,” Swatik said. “It comes down to the fact that we hold each other responsible.”

The first step to becoming a licensed architect is to complete AXP. This requires 3,740 hours of professional work under the supervision of licensed professionals.

Experience requirements include 96 tasks spread over six areas – practice management, project management, programming and analysis, project planning and design, project development and documentation, and construction and evaluation. The average candidate for licensure takes four and a half years to complete the AXP.

The second step is to pass the ARE Exam, a challenging six-section test based on knowledge of license candidates from both academic study and professional experience. Each architect must pass each of the six sections to complete the Arab Republic of Egypt. According to NCARB, it takes the average candidate 2.6 years to pass all six sections, and the average pass rate for each exam is 54%.

However, Lauderdale and Swatke somehow completed AXP and ARE less than a year after graduating from Auburn in 2021. With both under 23 years and 10 months at the time of licensure, they are among the youngest architects licensed to reach this goal .

Lauderdale and Swatke spent a large number of hours in AXP that were completed before graduation, although they earned it in different ways. Lauderdale went to an internship fair during his freshman year and was surprised to get a job in the summer.

As soon as he returned to school in the fall, he realized how good it felt to be recording AXP hours. He was assigned to work with the university’s engineer office and continued to work there part-time, 10-15 hours a week, for the next two years. After a semester abroad in Rome, Lauderdale completed another summer internship and continued to work part-time throughout his final year of school.

Swatek took a slightly different path, completing the pre-program studios in the summer after his first year to enter his sophomore architecture program. His first training wasn’t until the summer after his sophomore year, when he trained at a small two-person housing company.

“After that, I trained a lot at every opportunity I had, whether it was winter break, summer or any other time outside of school,” Swatik said. “When I studied abroad in Scandinavia during my fourth year, I had a big break from the end of the fall semester to the end of February, so it was almost like another full semester of training.”

As they neared the end of their final year, Swatek knew he and Lauderdale were about to finish their AXP hours together.

“By the time we graduated, Tate and I were generally in the same phase of our licensing hours,” Swatek said. “When we calculated it, we figured we would be finished by January 2022. We certainly had our last experience reports in January within three days of each other.

As for the exams of the Arab Republic of Egypt, there were ups and downs for both as they worked on passing the six sections. Swatek took his first test a few weeks after graduation and found it fairly easy.

“I studied a bit, and it worked and I thought this wasn’t that bad,” he said.

But when he and Lauderdale followed the same approach a few months later, they found that studying “a little bit” wasn’t enough to succeed.

“This was a reality check,” Swatik laughed. “We realized we had to prepare more than we thought.”

They found that professional experience was not as important for passing the exams as they might think and that studying one section at a time yielded the best results. They both study hard for two or three weeks at a time, then take and pass an exam and turn their attention back to their full-time jobs. Their professional responsibilities often dictated when they had time to study and when they had to focus on important projects at work.

To finish ARE, Swatek studied for about a month and then passed the last three exams within nine days of each other. Lauderdale did the same, completing four exams in a three-and-a-half week period.

“At times it was frustrating,” Lauderdale said. “We both failed the exams, and once I had to re-sit for an exam when there was a hurricane warning and they wouldn’t let me finish the exam. So, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it in the end.”

(Courtesy of the Alabama News Center)

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