These Auburn grads became two of the youngest licensed architects in the nation—learn more here

Tate Lauderdale Became One Of The Youngest Licensed Architects In The Country.
Tate Lauderdale is one of the youngest licensed architects in the country. (Hunter Swatek)

Hunter Swatek and Tate Lauderdale each graduated from Auburn University in 2021 and then became licensed architects less than a year later, despite the licensure process usually taking over seven years. Read on to learn how they did it.

How do you become a licensed architect?

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Hunter Swatek is also one of the youngest licensed architects in the US, and now works at one of the largest firms in the Southeast. (Hunter Swatek)

The National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB) works to standardize the licensing process for all prospective architects across the country. The licensing process has two main parts: the Architect Experience Program (AXP) and the Architecture Registration Exam (ARE).

To complete the AXP, aspiring architects must log 3,740 hours of work under the supervision of licensed professional architects. Part of the reason Swatek and Lauderdale were able to become licensed so quickly is because they both logged a majority of their hours during their time as undergraduates at Auburn.

The ARE is comprised of six different sections designed to test candidates’ knowledge from academic and professional experience. Candidates take each section individually, normally studying for months at a time. Architects must pass all six sections to become licensed, a feat that takes 2.6 years on average.

How Tate and Hunter did it

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After graduating in May of 2021, Swatek and Lauderdale each obtained their architecture licenses in about ten months. (Hunter Swatek)

Each logged a majority of their AXP hours while they were still students. The two encouraged and supported each throughout their time as students and beyond.

“We really fed off of the success of each other and were constantly figuring out ways to better ourselves. We take a lot of pride in doing things right while also doing them efficiently. This friendship has come a long way since freshman year. Now, Hunter and I talk probably three times a week to get advice from each other about anything and everything.”

– Tate Lauderdale, Architect, Goodwyn Mills Cawood

Lauderdale ended up landing an internship for the summer following his freshman year after attending an internship fair. When he returned to school the next fall, he was hired to work part-time in the Office of the University Architect. He continued to work 10-15 hours a week for the next two years, all of which went towards completing the AXP. Lauderdale completed one last summer internship before his senior year and then spent the next school year logging hours.

Swatek didn’t begin Auburn’s architecture program until the fall of his sophomore year and didn’t get his first internship until the summer following his sophomore year. After that summer he interned any chance he could get. By the time he graduated, he and Lauderdale had clocked roughly the same amount of AXP hours and would both be done by January 2022.

Another reason Swatek and Lauderdale were able to complete the licensure process so easily is because they were each taking the ARE and working at the same time.

Because they each had full-time jobs, they had to navigate the challenge of balancing work and studying.

“Carving out time specifically for studying was the biggest challenge. We usually keep our schedules pretty jam packed so being deliberate about study efforts was crucial.”

– Hunter Swatek, Architect, Goodwyn Mills Cawood

They both figured out that the best strategy was to study for a section for 2-3 weeks, pass it and then return their full attention back to work. In order to knock out the last three sections, Swatek studied for around a month and then passed the sections within the span of about nine days. Lauderdale adopted a similar approach, completing his last four sections in about four weeks.

“I had 5 different jobs and had to sit for one exam multiple times before it was all said and done. Although it was difficult, it was really rewarding to know that I was working towards my goals, and finally checking a big one of the list (licensure) was a huge weight off my shoulders.”

– Tate Lauderdale, Architect, Goodwyn Mills Cawood

What they’re up to now

Swatek and Lauderdale are both employed by Goodwyn Mills Cawood, one of the largest architecture firms in the Southeast. Swatek is working in the firm’s Birmingham office while Lauderdale is at the Auburn branch.

Swatek offers some advice for aspiring architects.

“As fun as the design parts and studio classes are, paying attention in the business and environmental oriented classes is very important. Also, wait until you’re 100% all in to start your exams. It’s very difficult to dip one foot in the water and have success.”

– Hunter Swatek, Architect, Goodwyn Mills Cawood

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Lily Plowden
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