Gaines Group Architects
Deborah Smith

Deborah Smith is a Licensed Architect!

Congratulations to Deborah Smith on passing her exams, jumping through all the hoops, and achieving her goal of becoming a licensed architect. We are proud of her accomplishment and look forward to seeing her continued work in our design community.

Deborah Smith

So Deborah, tell us a brief summary of the process to become a licensed architect?

It breaks down into three parts:  education, experience, and exams.  You have to attend either a 5 year Bachelor of Architecture program, or a 4 year Bachelors degree + Masters of Architecture program. I decided to go to the best university in all the land, Virginia Tech, which had a 5 year degree.

After you obtain your degree(s), you need to work in the architecture field for 3-5 years and keep track of how many hours of experience you gather in a variety of categories from project planning and design to practice management.

Exams can be taken while getting experience hours or after depending on your preference.  I waited to take my exams until I had gotten all of my hours, mostly because I was also taking MBA classes, but I feel that all of my years working in a firm helped tremendously during the process.  The number of exams has changed over the years, but they all cover the same insane amount of material.  The newest version of the licensing process has 6 exams, though in the transition from the old version there was a short window where 5 exams (3 of the old version + 2 of the new version) managed to cover all of the requirements.  I took the 5 exam route, because who really needs extra exams in their life?

After all of these boxes have been checked, which took me a total of 12 years including college, you get to sit around and wait about a month for your records to be reviewed and passed onto the state licensing department.  It’s the longest month ever, but worth it to be able to call yourself a licensed architect.

What did you think of the exams?

They were tough. It took me 9 months to pass 5 exams even with 5 years of experience.  I managed to pass them all the first time, which is not the norm as many of the exams have a 50-60% passing rate. I thought I was going to fail each and every one until I actually got the results… my co-workers, family, and friends can attest to this.  The exam process definitely points out any weaknesses you may have in certain subjects and makes you a better architect overall.

How much did you study?

I studied about 8 weeks for my first exam, then around 4-6 weeks for the rest.  I would take a mini break in between each exam and also took the Christmas season off from studying.  My goal was to be done in a year, so I’d only miss one summer of freedom.  And I did it just in time for vacation this month, which will include no studying or thinking about exams whatsoever!

Now that you are licensed, what are your plans?

I’m going to Disney World!….just kidding…I’m enjoying the fact that I don’t have to study, working in the garden, paying off my student loans and my car, and dreaming of some big travel plans in the next year or two.

How awesome is it to work with Charles?

It would be SO awesome…if only he didn’t go to UVA.


Deborah Smith

Deborah Smith received her Master of Business Administration degree from EMU

Deborah Smith received her Master of Business Administration degree from EMU

Congratulations on your achievement at Eastern Mennonite University.  We are very proud you and appreciate your hard work invested to achieve this goal!

Deborah Smith
Deborah Smith Graduates from Eastern Mennonite University 
HARRISONBURG, Va. (June 3, 2016) – Deborah Smith from Harrisonburg was recognized as a member of the 2016 graduating class of Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va.
Smith received a Master of Business Admin.

eastern mennonite universityEastern Mennonite University is a Christian liberal arts university of about 1,500 students, located in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley. EMU is guided by the peace principles of Mennonite Church USA, educating students to serve and lead in a global context through cross-cultural study and an interdisciplinary curriculum. Established in 1917, the university offers over 40 undergraduate majors and six graduate programs offering nine master’s degrees. Eastern Mennonite Seminary is part of the university, as is the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, which helped launch 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee. See more at: