Guide on How to Become an Architect

how to become an architect

One of the questions that I get asked all the time from aspiring designers is “How do I become an Architect?”.  It’s a pretty broad question, but I’ll attempt to answer it in as succinct and detailed a way as possible.  Just note that the requirements I’ll enumerate below pertain to the US and vary slightly per state.  With that being said… Let’s delve into how to become an architect!

Selecting an Accredited College or University

The first step is selecting the right college.  To become a licensed architect you need to have graduated from an accredited architecture program.  There are two typical ways of doing this.

  • Obtain a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) NOT a Bachelor of Science in Architecture – This is typically a degree that takes 5 years to obtain.
    or
  • Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Architecture (4 year degree) and immediately enroll in a Master of Architecture (1-3 years) (M.Arch) program – This entire process can take 6-7 years although I have heard of individuals getting their M.Arch in the same amount of time others have gotten their B. Arch.

There is an organization that grants and maintains accreditation called the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB).  On their website you can search through their list of accredited architecture schools in each state.  This should be your guide when selecting a college to attend.

The Intern Development Program (IDP)

An additional requirement to become an architect is experience in an architecture firm working under a licensed architect.  This is called the Intern Development Program and is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).  To date these are the important things to note about IDP:

  • In order to start logging hours you must establish a record with NCARB.  There is an application fee of $350 and an annual renewal fee of $75.
  • You can establish your record and start logging hours after you have graduated high school.
  • In order to obtain core hours you must work under the direct supervision of a licensed architect who must sign off on your hours.
  • You must log the minimum number of total hours required by your state of initial licensure (as you can see below hours required for Pennsylvania is 3 years)
    Architecture Licensure PA
  • You must log the minimum amount of hours required for each of the different categories.  Because of this, it is possible to have more approved hours than the required total but still have remaining hours.  Here is a full list of IDP Experience Areas and hours.  Typically the experience area of Construction Phase: Observation is most difficult to get hours in.
  • Screenshot_082315_072707_PMCandidates must log the minimum amount of hours required under IDP.  Currently that is 3740 hours which is around 2 years of full-time work.

The Architecture Registration Exams

The final step in how to become an architect is passing the Architecture Registration Exams (ARE).  In the current 4.0 version of the exam there are seven separate tests.

  • Construction Documents & Services (CDS)
  • Site Planning & Design (SPD)
  • Programming, Planning, & Practice (PPP)
  • Building Systems (BS)
  • Building Design & Construction Systems (BDCS)
  • Structural Systems (SS)
  • Schematic Design (SD)

Each exam is graded pass/fail within 2-6 weeks of taking the exam (although it seems like the results actually come out the next week on Thursdays).

At the end of 2016 NCARB will be rolling out ARE 5.0 which is consolidating the current 7 exams into 6 new exams.  From that point until 2018 it will be possible for candidates to continue on the 4.0 track or switch to the 5.0 exam.  Because of the translation between exams there is a small window of time where candidates can achieve licensure by taking only 5 exams.

After passing all required divisions of the ARE and completing IDP hours a candidate is awarded licensure for the state in which they have requested initial licensure.  That means that they only have authority to practice within that jurisdiction.  To gain licensure in different states, an architect can apply for reciprocity in other states.  This may or may not require them to take additional exams.  For example, California requires an additional “Supplemental exam” in order to receive licensure in that state.

Quick Overview of How to Become An Architect

  • Graduate high school
  • Receive a degree from a NAAB accredited college or university (B. Arch. or M. Arch.)
  • Complete all required hours for the Intern Development Program (IDP)
  • Complete all required hours for the state of initial licensure
  • Complete all required Architecture Registration Exams (ARE)

Have any questions about how to become an architect?  Leave them in the comments below.

24 Comments

  1. classboat01 October 17, 2018 at 7:37 am #

    Hello there and thanks for your information, I have certainly picked up allot new info from right your post. You are also provided information about best tips for exam,Which is very helpful to me and other people also.

  2. mikemoreno September 5, 2018 at 3:48 am #

    thank you very much, verry helpfull…

  3. jogesh12345 August 14, 2018 at 1:55 am #

    Very effective and informative article.Thanks for sharing such an important tutorial.

  4. FLMIMA August 11, 2018 at 9:20 pm #

    Really helpful website

  5. Rumi July 15, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.

  6. RJennings April 28, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you for this website. The practice questions are helpful.

  7. Scott March 22, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

    Taking this test on Saturday. Last 4.0 exam to complete for the trio, then on to 5.0. This site is my go-to place when organizing what materials I’ll be studying

  8. shozab January 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi , very good article.

    thanks for sharing, keep up the good work

  9. dyba January 27, 2018 at 1:08 am #

    Good advice. Best of luck to all!

  10. KendraShirley January 16, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    This is my favorite site for practicing for my tests! Great advise and super helpful.

  11. reximagetrim January 16, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    Nice post to read. A complete guide that can help all of us.

  12. tylerstockholm December 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Nice one… very helpful! Thanks!!!

  13. Aartiwalvekar November 21, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Nice post

  14. Aartiwalvekar October 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    Great post!

  15. Tony August 30, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    In the NCARB ARE 5.0 handbook they reference Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods in both of their example questions for cost estimating. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific chapter on cost estimating, it’s woven throughout the content.

  16. Spencer August 30, 2017 at 1:15 am #

    What is the best reference for cost estimating for PDD.

  17. Amy July 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks! Great advice

  18. Tony June 29, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Deciduous trees should only be used for shade (especially in temperate climates). Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and will have little protection against wind in the winter when it is most needed. Likewise, the leafless trees allow solar heat gain in the winter when it is desired, and shade in the summer.

    Coniferous trees are only to be used to block wind and views. Since they don’t lose their needles, they work great for these two items year-round.

  19. Shahid Logan June 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    Hello. My name is Shahid. This comment is for anyone who would like to reply. On the Siteplanning test. To block the wind, can you use a Deciduous tree or must you use a Coniferous tree?

  20. Mike January 4, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Tony,

    I need to take 5.0 PPD & PDD. Do you plan on posting notes such as “Caroline’s Notes” that you had posted for the various 4.0 exams for either of those sections? I found those notes to be some of the best resources in studying for the 4.0 sections. If so any idea when? Thanks

  21. Stephen October 17, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi Tony,
    Any updates on the SS exam ? If there’s an expected release date ? Thanks

  22. DesignerHacks October 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    Paige,

    We are releasing practice exams for the SS exam later this fall.

    Best,
    Tony

  23. Paige October 4, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Will you have SS questions on here at some point?

  24. Daniel September 9, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    Great post, very helpful with the lists of suggested materials, I just passed CDs in July and am taking PPP in November so I definitely needed the list.

Leave a Reply