by Marc Teer, FAIA – Founder & CEO, Black Spectacles

For this essay, we are thankful to have Marc Speer, FAIA, Founder & CEO, Black Spectacles, provide insight on reasons to become licensed.

Are you weighing the pros and cons of becoming licensed? I am here to say it is not a bad idea. That’s the reason I started Black Spectacles and developed ARE test prep materials in the first place, because I know the importance of being licensed. It opens doors, gets you a higher paycheck, and gives you a credible email signature.

Money isn’t everything, but it definitely helps. According to the AIA Compensation Survey Salary Calculator, a licensed level three architect has the median base salary of $89,380, whereas an unlicensed staff member at the same level has a median base salary of $83,500. You’ll earn almost $6,000 per year more in compensation.

With any sort of accreditation, it makes you appealing to clients who are seeking out a more experienced team to work on their projects. If clients want you, firms will want you, increasing your employment opportunities. Being licensed makes yourself more marketable, and thus, the firm you work for more marketable.

In addition to landing a desirable job and getting paid more to do it, you can call yourself an architect and sign your emails as such. Being an architect means you are now responsible for the safety of the general public and that is nothing to scoff at, so bold, highlight and shoot laser beams out of that signature because you will earn it every day with what you do.

What if all of this talk about needing to get licensed to move up has overwhelmed you? Your personal calendar or availability might not allow for getting licensed right now, and that’s perfectly understandable. It is like going from your couch to summiting Everest – Jon Krakauer would advise against that. Do some planning to see when you can dedicate your resources to executing a solid study schedule before you take the leap.

For those ready to take that next step, brush up on your John Hancock, because after you pass that sixth division, you’ll be signing a lot of drawings.


Black Spectacles provides support through education and inspiration in every stage of your career – ARE prep, software learning and career insight from leading experts in the biz all help you get to the top of your game – and stay there.

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