How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Architect?

If you’re an undergrad in architecture, you may be wondering: how long does it take to become a licensed architect? While this is a fairly common question, there are specific requirements you must follow in order to pursue this career path. In this article, we’ll address the training you’ll need, as well as how long it will take for you to complete your education, along with other helpful facts and statistics.

How To Be A Licensed Architect: Training Requirements

While there are numerous ways to meet the educational requirements for the profession, becoming a licensed architect requires both education and experience. However, the most direct path to earning a professional architecture degree is through a program accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB). There are many excellent schools that offer a professional degree in architecture.

Specifically, there are three degrees recognized as professional degrees by the NAAB:

  • Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch)
  • Master of Architecture (M.Arch)
  • Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch)

It should also be noted that while another degree, Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, is also an option for individuals pursuing a career in architecture, NAAB does not recognize and/or accredit this degree or second professional degrees.

What To Expect: Licensed Architecture Coursework

B.Arch programs take at least five years to complete. Students enrolled in these programs can expect a variety of coursework in general education, including calculus and physics. Architecture courses focus on design, the history of architecture, construction methods, building materials, and building structures. The B.Arch curriculum usually features several studio courses where students complete design projects. In these courses, they will not only learn how to draw sketches and drafts by hand, but also create 3-D models using computer-aided design (CAD) software and building information modeling (BIM) software.

M.Arch programs admit students from diverse educational backgrounds, including those who have completed a pre-professional program in architecture, along with individuals who possess a bachelor’s degrees in other relevant fields. This program can take three years or more to complete and may include such courses as architecture design, building structure and materials, and architectural history.

Similar to a B.Arch program, students will be required to complete several studio courses focusing on different themes, like tectonic, adaptive, and urban design. Students are also expected to complete a thesis before graduation. Most Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture programs place a strong emphasis on global experiences, and either encourage or require students to complete at least one study abroad experience. Less commonly, some individuals may wish to pursue their Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch), which is a very rigorous and difficult architect degree option accredited by the NAAB.

Upon completion of a professional, accredited degree program in architecture, the next step in a prospective architect’s training process is to complete an internship via the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), which is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Throughout their internship and beyond, interns work under the supervision of a mentor who is a currently-licensed architect.

Obtaining Your Education & Licensure In Architecture: FAQs

Below, some frequently-asked questions regarding architectural licensure and education:

Q: How Many Years Does It Take To Become An Architect?

A: While the number of years it takes to become an architect differs between undergrads on a scholastic level, there are also various individual factors to consider. Besides the type of degree you choose to pursue, there is also the matter of your personal and professional status (such as family obligations, if you have children, or an existing career), as well as the resources available to you with regard to time and money.

In theory, an individual may earn a U.S. architecture license in under eight years, with a five year B.Arch and three years of AXP (an internship program which can begin during school), given a quick completion of exams (ARE). It can take a bit longer for architects who earn a M.Arch or D.Arch degree before starting their practice. Realistically, the path to architecture licensure is actually much longer for most people. In fact, NCARB reports that for those earning their U.S. architecture license in 2012, the average time to licensure was over 11 years. This is slightly down from recent years, but it is still well over the minimum time of 8 years.

Q: What Are The Certification Requirements To Become A Licensed Architecture?

A: All 50 states require architects to obtain a license in order to practice legally. Earning your architecture license means meeting education, experience, and exam requirements. While these requirements may vary slightly from state to state, in most cases, architects must complete a professional, accredited degree program, complete their AXP, and pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE).

The NCARB offers a voluntary certification program for architects who earn a professional architecture degree, complete their AXP, and pass the ARE. Architects in many states must meet these certification requirements in order to obtain a license, so earning the certification can make it easier to move (and practice) from one state to another.