A pair of very recent Auburn University grads become youngest licensed architects in the U.S.

Lighting Speed

A pair of very recent Auburn University grads become youngest licensed architects in the U.S.

Auburn University grads and newly licensed architects Hunter Swatek, left, and Tate Lauderdale. (Courtesy Auburn University's School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture)

Within just 10 months of graduating from Auburn University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (APLA) in 2021, Tate Lauderdale and Hunter Swatek have completed the architecture licensure process—a rigorous and, for some, barrier-filled undertaking that, on average, takes candidates seven years to complete, according to the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB). Lauderdale and Swatek, described in an Auburn news release as being “friends and coworkers” who first met their freshman year, were both 23 years old when they became among the youngest licensed architects in the United States. The average age of licensure candidates beginning the process is 29.

“We always were just motivating each other trying to get things done,” Lauderdale told Chattahoochee Valley–based ABC affiliate WTVM.

As detailed by the university, both Lauderdale and Swatek had accrued a “significant” number of Architect Experience Program (AXP) hours prior to graduating from the APLA.  The AXP mandates that candidates log 3,740 hours of work under the supervision of licensed professionals; it takes candidates four-and-a-half years on average to reach the required number of hours.

Lauderdale began logging his hours through an internship between his freshman and sophomore years at Alabama’s second-largest university before going on to work with the Office of the University Architect on a part-time basis (10-15 hours a week) for the next two years. Following a semester abroad, he took another summer internship and continued with AXP-qualifying part-time work during his senior year.

Swatek started in on his internships a touch later than Lauderdale, first working with a small firm during the summer between his sophomore and junior years. “After that, I pretty much interned every chance I had, whether it was winter break, summer or any other time off school,” Swatek explained in the news release. “When I studied abroad in Scandinavia during my fourth year, I had a big break from the end of the fall semester until the end of February, so that was almost like another full semester of internship.”

Both Lauderdale and Swatek submitted their AXP reports in January of this year. With the required professional experience under their each of their respective belts, they started in on the Architecture Registration Exam (ARE), a stringent, six-section test that pulls from both academic knowledge and professional experience gained through AXP. Per NCARB, it takes the average candidate a little under three years to complete the ARE in its entirety, with an average pass rate per test of 54 percent. All six divisions must be passed to achieve licensure.

As detailed by the school, Lauderdale and Swatek employed a measured approach to tackling the ARE: studying for each section for two to three weeks before taking each exam and then returning their focus to their full-time, post-graduation jobs before starting the process again. “To finish off the ARE, Swatek studied for about a month and then passed the last three exams within nine days of each other,” detailed the university in its announcement. “Lauderdale did the same, completing four exams in the span of three and a half weeks.”

Because Lauderdale and Swatek are mere mortals, they didn’t pass all ARE sections on their first attempts.

Both are now employed with Goodwyn Mills Cawood, a major architecture and engineering firm with multiple offices throughout the Southeast. Lauderdale works out of the firm’s Auburn office while he purses his Master of Real Estate Development at APLA; Swatek is a project manager based out of the Birmingham office.

A hearty congrats to Lauderdale and Swatek for shaving a few years off the licensure process, and to the local coffee shops that (presumably) assisted in fueling this remarkable feat.