AREs, Unemployment & Career Paths


Hello All,

I figure the point of my career I'm at would yield some valuable discussion and insight to others in a similar or not too far behind point. 

Here's my situation:

  • Designer I (3-5 yrs)
  • Finished AXP - just passed my first ARE (PjM)
  • Recently laid off from an ideal, medium sized design firm, felt somewhat underutilized 
  • Found out I was underpaid vs. similarly experienced colleagues (they were also laid off) 
  • Quick rebound of job applications - currently waiting for 2nd interview / conversations with each of 
    • PM role w/ a typical developer (likely pay bump / less fun work/possibly worse hours)
    • super sustainable firm (another ideal arch firm to land) 
    • several connections who work at other developers, trying to further parlay or network into some kind of freelance or other position

After the layoff and before passing my first test, I was somewhat discouraged from trodding further down the well-red-flagged traditional path of a typical staff-designer to Arch I / PA. Before diving head-first back into the work + studying grind, I thought to consider just collecting unemployment and using the greater time availability to study and (minimally) subsidize some of the test costs, and try to full-out blitz the rest of the exams (Amber Book approach). In addition, I'm thinking if it'd be good to give some due-diligence efforts to expanding into alternative-practice via a career consulting firm that just launched and is somewhat intriguing (Out of Architecture). Other than RE development, I could see myself doing some form of 3D or environmental design/graphics work for a boutique kind of agency or some larger entities (Nike, adidas, fintech/housing start-ups, etc.). 

My end goal is to start a fully-in house architecture, development, & placemaking firm. I'm also considering if it's worth re-entering an under-paid architectural role, while I'm finished AXP and nearing licensure, when I could work in an adjacent industry and use that extra salary to better offset the costs of studying and the tests themselves. I think a development PM / architectural concept support role is most in line with the end goal, and I'm hoping a developer would be somewhat supportive of me finishing licensure, and would hopefully place me in a less expendable seat at the table than mid-sized firm design staff. 

Anyways, not seeking any specific solutions, but more so putting this out there to hear if anyone else is a few steps ahead or behind a similar point as this one in their careers and has any insight, thoughts or questions. 

Jan 30, 23 1:57 pm

Side bar, I have heard OOA charges insane prices for basically a pep talk. They have a decent job board that has tangential relationship with architecture but I do not think you need to use consulting services for career help. Just a FWIW.

Jan 30, 23 3:36 pm  · 

Yeah, when I looked back at their site, everything looks well until you see it's $750 for 90 minutes of their time. I've been just DMing people on Linkedin and getting the same chat / insight for free. But I joined their slack and will definitely keep eyes on the job board .

Feb 8, 23 9:12 am  · 

I'm a little ahead of your timeline, but not by much. This summer will be 5 years out of school & I got my license about two years ago. I've been working for someone else running small commercial projects independently & my primary goal has been to soak up as much of that process as I can so that down the line I have a specific skillset to to build on. Rather than stirring too many pots at once & only having a surface knowledge of things.

Jan 30, 23 3:49 pm  · 

One thing I've realized having recently finished the licensing process (in 2 countries, no less) is to A) prioritize completing the license, whether you think you will use it or not, and B) working in an architecture firm while doing so tends to be a good driver of pushing to complete this. Going developer side with a license (as opposed to still 'being in the process of getting it') lets you point to a tangible asset on your resume. I find there is also more support / encouragement to do so in the architecture firm world, compared to adjacent jobs.

Jan 30, 23 4:10 pm  · 
2  · 

Yeah - since passing the first exam I feel resolved to continue since I'm increasingly close to getting it done. It would be a greater waste of effort to go cold on the license after 8-10 years of combined education and work experience.

Feb 8, 23 9:56 am  · 
t a z

Are you a Certified Igloo Designer now?  /s

Apropo of nothing, as I haven't seen any hard numbers, I've always thought arch firms may qualify for a better rate on E&O insurance based on the percentage of staff that are licensed.

Jan 30, 23 6:23 pm  · 
1  · 

It is not a guarantee that insurance rate is going to be better based on percentage of staff that is licensed. Sometimes it is better, sometimes it is not. It really depends on the insurance carrier and even if it did play a role in the rates, other factors plays into the rates as well.

Feb 8, 23 3:52 pm  · 

Typically insurance rates are based on the amount of work you do, the cost of the work you do, the number of architects you have signing your CD's, and the amount and extent of coverage the firm wants. The last two are the driving factors behind the cost of EO insurance.

Feb 8, 23 4:17 pm  · 
2  · 

Thank you for adding that.

Feb 8, 23 6:14 pm  · 

Insurance is weird. I swear insurance companies consult a magic 8 ball to come up with premiums . . .;)

Feb 8, 23 6:20 pm  · 
1  · 

Other key factors: past claim history and risk factors (based on industry/profession legal case histories relating to type of projects, local legal atmosphere, etc.). Then there is how much weight to each factor the insurance carrier gives to each factor.

Feb 8, 23 6:23 pm  · 

Like I said, magic 8 ball ;)

Feb 9, 23 10:16 am  · 
1  · 

I wrote my prior response before I saw your "magic 8 ball" comment but I agree with you.

Feb 10, 23 2:33 am  · 

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