Photography: Ezra Stoller © Esto
The United Nations renovation, featured in Record's September issue, is one of the most popular courses this year.

When it comes to continuing education, few architects get a free pass. From recently licensed practitioners to Pritzker Prize–winning architects, most need to fulfill state licensing requirements by completing a minimum number of education credits. Bernard Tschumi, Deborah Berke, and Frank Gehry each filed credits through Architectural Record's continuing-education portal this year. (It's really them. We checked.)

Courtesy Tim Kwiatkowski
Kwiatkowski won Record's Millionth Test-Taker Sweepstakes.

Furiously trying to complete the requirements before the end of the year has become a proud tradition since the American Institute of Architects started the program in the mid-1990s. Record receives an avalanche of Web traffic each December, when the number of completed tests doubles.

And sometimes, riding the late wave has its advantages. Tim Kwiatkowski, a vice president at Illinois-based FGM Architects, recently won $5,000 in Record's Millionth Test-Taker Sweepstakes. He took eight tests in mid-October, mostly on his iPad in the evenings after work, and landed the 1 million slot after reading an article on slip resistance for floors. "I e-mailed my boss after I heard I won, and said, 'See, procrastination does pay off,' " says Kwiatkowski, who runs the firm's 30-person office in O'Fallon, Illinois, outside St. Louis. "I'm a nuts-and-bolts person—I love writing specs and reading about all the different properties of materials."

Record's program started in 1997, around the time when states began requiring continuing education for licensure. But the architecture profession was a relatively late adopter: In 1995, when the AIA introduced the requirements to its membership, continuing-education requirements for lawyers, doctors, and accountants had been on the books for decades. "There was pushback, and a lot of the membership didn't like it, but after the states started requiring it, it became a fact of life," says Deane Evans, a professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology and a McGraw-Hill consultant who helped start the AIA program. "The AIA thought it would enhance the image of architects—their national reputation—if they showed they were keeping up with their skills and knowledge base."

Architectural Record, published by McGraw-Hill Construction, is the largest single provider of continuing-education credits, offering 300 courses, which are taken by 30,000 architects and designers annually. The popularity of various topics has waxed and waned, though sustainability has topped the list for several years, along with building-envelope design, residential design, and products and materials. Since 2008, the most widely read CEU articles have covered topics ranging from urban forests and water efficiency to the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.

Graham Hogan, a senior associate at Antoine Predock Architect in Albuquerque, says he gravitates toward articles about sustainable design, and often reads them on airplanes during his frequent work trips. "It's just so convenient. If you're really busy, it's hard to work those things into your schedule," says Hogan, who snagged the 1,000,001 spot in the sweepstakes, winning an Eero Saarinen Womb chair from Knoll. He fulfills approximately 80 percent of his continuing-education requirements through Record. "I think it's a good thing, personally. It's a bit of a hassle sometimes, but I certainly support continuing education—and if I can get a great chair out of it, all the better."