Education and Training Required to Become a Licensed Architect

One of the most common questions I hear from clients is “what does it take to become a licensed architect?” The answer is relatively simple to explain but difficult to complete.

Most states have adopted a common process for architectural licensure:

The first item is education, you need an accredited degree from a NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) approved program. This degree is either a Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Architecture or Doctor of Architecture degree. If a degree is called anything else, it isn’t an accredited degree. Generally going the Bachelor’s route is a 5 year program and a Master of Architecture takes 2-3.5 years depending on your undergraduate education.

Then, there is the internship, and yes, interns are paid. 🙂 The internship is a process that takes a minimum of 3 years during which the intern completes the Intern Development Program through NCARB. The IDP requires experience in all of the common aspects of the job of a licensed architect including design, construction documents, construction administration, management and professional/community service. Many interns take longer than 3 years to complete their internship.

The last requirement for licensure is the completion of a series of exams. The Architectural Registration Exam is a series of 7 tests over approximately 34 hours. The exams cost $1470, the exams can be taken at your own pace and the pass rate for each section is about 70%. After completion of the ARE, some states have their own additional exam. In most states you can only takes the ARE after completion of the IDP, but some states now allow you to take the ARE prior to completion of the IDP.

Upon completion of the accredited degree, IDP and ARE the candidate is eligible for licensure. The application is made to your state and generally takes several additional weeks. At the end of the process, you are a licensed architect in that state and eligible to apply for reciprocal licenses in other states.

In additional to this primary route, there are several states that will allow additional experience to substitute for the NAAB degree.  Colorado is one of theose states. States have different rules for reciprocal licenses from other states and foreign architects.

In total, the process generally takes a minimum of 8 years but most candidates take longer than the minimum. Among my peers, it is probably closer to a 10-12 process.


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