Knowledge People

Becoming an Architect

Ryan Hier


It’s official: I’m an architect.

This year, three architects in the BVH family – Zach Soflin, Michael Harpster and myself – have attained licensure. I successfully completed my exams in August, and just last month had my licensure ceremony at the Nebraska State Capitol. Family and friends joined me as I was given a largely-framed certificate I’ve been pursuing for years. It’s official: I’m now an architect.


Let me back up to how I got to this point. When I started at BVH as a full-time employee three years ago after my student internship, I immediately jumped in with both feet. As an aspiring architect in need of diverse experience, I was extremely eager, if not a little naïve. Mistakes were made and drawings were initially overlooked. But whenever I stumbled, my more seasoned teammates were always there with keen eyes to point me in the right direction. That’s how I learned: by doing, rather than by simply observing.

As I continued towards licensure, I was granted more responsibility in the studio. I flexed my muscles through design, documentation and detailing – all while preparing for exams and, more importantly, for the responsibility that comes with licensure. With my stamp, I would be responsible for the end-users’ experience of my design. And not just for myself, but the other people on my team, too. No pressure, right?


The exam process itself pushed my mental faculties to the limits. Each exam is an average of four and a half hours, not including the study time, which usually averages four to six weeks per exam. Since I was getting invaluable real-world experience by being on project teams at BVH, I needed to continue project work while juggling my exam study. For those reading this who aren’t familiar with the process, the amount of information that one needs to know and could be asked on these exams is immense.

At the end of the day, I am grateful for the network of like-minded young professionals in the studio who are united towards a common goal. While we didn’t hold group study sessions, knowing that there were at least two other people going through the same process was encouraging. We could celebrate each other’s triumphs, work through the hardships and provide a much-needed reality check when the going got tough. And the going got really tough at times. That camaraderie is invaluable.

The approximately three years it took to finish the licensure process is a small, yet significant portion of our professional careers. Having received our licenses, we can now focus on our design passions, propelling the profession forward and, momentarily, breathe a sigh of relief.

And I must say, after completing 3,740 experience hours and passing seven exams, it feels good to breathe that sigh of relief.