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.
- 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)
- 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.
- Candidates 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.