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How to Become an Architect

Updated on July 7, 2012

So you want to be an architect? Architecture is a passion as well as a profession, but becoming an architect is long and difficult. In order to call yourself an architect, you must first get a license to practice. This process takes eight years at minimum, but it often takes much longer. Licenses are granted by individual states, but the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has worked to standardize the process. In most states, if you earn an NCARB certificate, you are eligible to become a licensed architect. The three requirements for getting your NCARB certificate are education, internship, and examination.


You must get an accredited degree in architecture. You can get a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture to fulfill this requirement. If you already have a bachelors degree (in architecture or something else) you can opt for a Master of Architecture. These are 2- to 3.5-year programs, depending on your experience in the field. Some states allow you to substitute work experience for the education requirement, but this usually requires a hefty amount of time in the profession. If you already have a lot of experience, look into it, but generally you need to go for the accredited degree.


You must complete a program known as the Intern Development Program (IDP), which takes at least 3 years to complete. During IDP you work at an architecture firm getting experience in all phases of building design. You must complete a minimum number of hours for various tasks including Code Research, Programming, Design Development, and Construction Documents.


The Architect Registration Exam (ARE) is a 7-part exam that test your competency in practicing architecture. It ensures that you are capable of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public before you receive your license. Each part tests a different aspect of the profession. You can complete these exams during or after IDP, as long as you pass them within a 5-year window.

Be sure to check to see if your state has additional requirements. If you complete all these steps, you can call yourself an architect!


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    • Bldg an Architect profile image

      Bldg an Architect 5 years ago

      Thanks! I got my BA in Architecture from UC Berkeley as well. I then went on to get my masters at Cal Poly Pomona. I'd suggest going back to school if you're planning to stay in the field. It will give you a lot more options!

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Very informative hub! I've only finished the very first requirement of becoming an architect. I received my BA in Architecture from UC Berkeley. I did plan on getting my master degree but couldn't because of some family obligations. I still think about it from time to time.