July 05, 2017

SIU Carbondale joins accelerated architecture licensing initiative

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s architecture program is part of an initiative that will allow students to pursue their licenses while in school. 

The university’s School of Architecture graduate program was accepted into the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) initiative. SIU Carbondale is one of 26 programs from 21 colleges and universities now in the program and the first in Illinois to participate.  The university will also be the first in the nation to offer the IPAL initiative online. John Dobbins, interim director of the School of Architecture, expects the program to start in fall 2018. 

The state must still approve allowing SIU’s Masters of Architecture students who enroll in the IPAL program to take the licensing examination before they finish their professional degree, and the university is adding classes that specifically focus on topics included in the licensing exams, Dobbins said. 

The IPAL initiative began in 2015. According to the NCARB, the program reduces the time students need to meet licensing requirements, which includes work experience. In 2013, for example, the average was 14 years, but recently released data has the average now at 12.5 years. Dobbins agrees, saying that condensing the time needed to complete the program in Illinois – where the requirement is 3,740 work experience hours – could reduce the time for a degree to possibly seven years. 

Melding the education, work experience and exam with a faculty mentor to help guide students through the process is vital, Dobbins said. IPAL allows accredited programs to incorporate the Architectural Experience Program and the opportunity to take the Architect Registration Examination into a school’s curriculum. 

“Students will have one cohesive experience to become licensed,” he said. “Currently, the way it has worked forever is people are kind of on their own to figure everything out and get all of their requirements met in the three areas.” 

Dobbins said he also sees a benefit for faculty as being the “next evolution of architecture education to link everything together in a way that has never been linked before.” 

Andy Wang, dean of the College of Applied Sciences, is also pleased the program received the IPAL certification. The initiative enhances the visibility of the identity of the School of Architecture and the Master of Architecture program and brings education and experience requirements into the architectural curriculum, he said. 

“This is a perfect integration of academic degree programming with professional exam requirements, streamlining the costly and often time-consuming process from academic degree to licensure,” Wang said. “I commend John Dobbins, interim director of the School of Architecture, for his great effort making this happen.” 

The university’s existing Master of Architecture program is a hybrid program, which classes offered online and on the weekends in St. Louis or SIU Carbondale. Most courses, including the new IPAL offerings, will be completely online, he said. 

The potential savings in time required to obtain an architecture license and lower comparative tuition rates should help attract more students to the program, Dobbins said. There are about 70 students in the Master of Architecture program, with about 50 of those students completing their work online.