Godden Sudik Blog

What Makes an Architect?
Godden | Sudik Architects - October 28, 2019
Qualifications To Become an Architect

There is a common misconception surrounding the architectural field. Many assume that working for an architectural firm — or even within the field — gives claim to the title of “architect.” However, in order to be considered an architect in the United States, you must be licensed in at least one state. The process of licensure is a challenging process that can take years of commitment, but also comes with an extremely rewarding outcome and can be simplified into three steps — obtain a degree, gain architectural experience in a professional setting, and pass the registration exams.

Getting Your Degree

On average, it takes between 10 to 12 years to complete the requirements for licensure, with a good majority of that time dedicated to earning your degree. Programs vary across the U.S., but it is recommended to enroll in a National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredited school to obtain a professional Bachelor’s of Architecture, or you will also be required to obtain a Master’s of Architecture before you can become licensed in most states. There are currently 14 states, however, that still allow licensure without an accredited degree, including Colorado, Hawaii, and New York.

Hours and Experience

Once you have received your degree, the next step in the process of licensure is to begin accruing hours of experience under a professional architectural firm. Through registration with the AXP (Architectural Experience Program) and NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards), you can begin to log and record your hours of experience. With a total of 3,740 hours required, securing a job within the field ensures the necessary experience across six major areas, including Practice and Project Management, Programming and Analysis, Project Planning, Design, Project Development and Documentation, and Construction/Evaluation. If you choose to forgo the professional accredited degree (in the states that allow it), you must complete an additional 3,800 hours for a total of 7,540 hours of experience within the architectural field. An additional benefit to an accredited degree is the ability to begin your Architectural Registration Examinations (ARE’s) immediately after graduation in some jurisdictions. If you choose the alternative route however, you must finish all your AXP hour before taking the exams.

Taking Your Exams

The ARE 5.0 has six divisions which align with the six different categories of the required AXP hours. Designed to assess both architectural knowledge, as well as ability to manage projects, the exams test your knowledge of structural systems, design, and project coordination, with additional tests required for areas with extreme weather or site conditions such as Florida or California. Each test ranges from 2 to 4 hours, totaling over 21 hours for all six exams, with questions ranging from fill-in-the-blank, to multiple choice, to case studies.

Once you’ve checked all these boxes, from obtaining your degree, to completing your hours, and passing your exams, you can then seek your state specific architectural license.
Each jurisdiction has specific requirements to becoming a licensed architect and it is important to have a clear understanding of what is required by the state of which you choose to pursue before starting the process. A list of requirements for each state can be found at NCARB’s website (ncarb.org).


Related Questions

How many architects are there in the U.S.? NCARB announced in June of 2019 that there are currently 115,316 licensed architects in the United Sates. California leads all states with 21,828 practitioners followed by New York and Texas.

Colorado has approximately 7,804 practicing architects, so hurry and start the process of becoming a licensed architect and join a field of talented individuals with careers of endless opportunities and world impacting designs and projects.