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.  The easiest way to become a licensed architect is 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.
  • 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 Architectural Experience Program (AXP)

An additional requirement to become an architect is experience in an architecture firm working under a licensed architect.  This is called the Architectural Experience Program (formerly known as IDP or 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 AXP:

  • In order to start logging hours you must establish a record with NCARB.  Currently there is an application fee of $100 and an annual renewal fee of $85 for licensure candidates.
  • 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 the required AXP Experience Areas and hours.  Typically the experience area of Construction & Evaluation is most difficult to get hours in.
  • Screenshot_082315_072707_PMCandidates must log the minimum amount of hours required under IDP.  Currently that is 3,740 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 5.0 version of the exam there are six separate tests.

Each exam is graded pass/fail.  Candidates are given a ‘likely’ pass/fail score before they leave the exam center and receive a final letter at a later date.

After passing all required divisions of the ARE, completing AXP hours, and fulfilling any additional state requirements, a candidate is able to apply for 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 Architecture Experience Program (AXP)
  • Complete all required hours for the state of initial licensure
  • Complete all required Architecture Registration Exams (ARE)
  • Complete any additional state requirement

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

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