How Many Years Does It Take to Become an Architect?
In 2012, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) reported that architects took an average of 11 years to become licensed architects with independent or contracted practices within the industry. Typically, this includes 5 years to acquire a first professional undergraduate architecture degree with an additional 3 years of professional internships to complete the Architecture Experience Program (AXP) requirements.
Depending on the curriculum and length of the program an architect chooses to enroll in as a student, school for an architect can take anywhere from 5 to 7 years. In addition to a rigorous and time-investing education track, the path to obtaining an architectural license also requires relevant hands-on experience accredited by NCARB, as well as several exam credentials.
In order to become a licensed architect, students must earn their first professional degree in architecture. A first professional degree is a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Typical NAAB accredited degrees include a 5-year undergraduate degree or a 3-year graduate degree.
If a student is interested in working in the field of architecture as soon as possible, some students may choose to complete a 4-year undergraduate degree that is not NAAB accredited. This option allows students to begin working in an architecture firm but does not allow them to pursue their architecture licensure. Similarly, graduate students with an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field may choose to complete a 2-year graduate architecture degree that is not NAAB accredited and begin working in the field.
For highly rigorous students looking for the fastest path to pursue their architectural licensure, some students may choose to pursue an Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) degree. This highly intensive degree program allows students to take their Architecture Registration Exams (A.R.E) and begin logging internship hours towards their Architecture Experience Program (AXP) requirements while they are still a student. There are currently only 17 colleges offering this type of degree in the U.S. include NewSchool’s IPAL Graduate Architecture program. The goal of pursuing this degree is to allow students to earn their licensure upon graduation.
After completing a NAAB accredited first professional degree, NCARB requires that those seeking licensure complete 3,740 internship hours as part of the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), formerly known as Intern Development Program (IDP). The purpose of this comprehensive internship program is to give candidates the skills and knowledge for independent architecture practice. This ensures protection of the public’s health, welfare, and safety, keeping practice parameters current with NCARB’s most recent program implementations that parallel industry regulations.
As soon as licensure candidates complete a NAAB accredited degree program, they are eligible to establish an NCARB Record to begin earning AXP credits. 3,740 experience hours in specific areas must be completed in order to receive credentials for the AXP, which include practice management, project management, programming and analysis, project planning and design, project development and documentation, and construction and evaluation. Approved directors and firms are on a list of AXP Guidelines that can be found on the NCARB website.
The final step to earning architectural licensure is to complete a series of exams. The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is a test of candidates’ abilities and overall knowledge of architecture practices and principles, used by all 54 U.S. Member Boards in order to be employed in professional architectural practice. Candidates must pass all ARE divisions within 5 years of completing their first professional degree, while some firms require an even smaller timeframe to complete them all.
There are a total of 7 divisions that make up the examination, which can be taken in any order. They are as follows: Construction Documents & Services; Programming, Planning & Practice; Site Planning & Design; Building Design & Construction Systems; Structural Systems; Building Systems; and Schematic Design. The test-taking formats vary by each category, giving candidates an array of different tactics to study and engage themselves in throughout their architecture curriculum and experiences in and out of school.
In preparation for these exams, the NCARB has exam guides for these seven divisions that are downloadable from the website and contain both multiple-choice questions and vignette questions. Free publications are also available regarding the most up-to-date ARE guidelines, which thoroughly explain how to complete the ARE step-by-step. This can be found on the NCARB website as well.
Architecture is a highly rewarding and sought-after career path. However, in order to succeed, individuals must receive the proper amounts of education and hands-on experience, which typically takes around 8 to 11 years.