Architecture Licensure Overview

Becoming an architect requires very specialized knowledge and training in both technical and aesthetic design principles.  In order to call yourself an architect, you must be licensed to practice architecture.  This is a many year process and requires persistence and a love for the profession.  Licensure is controlled by individual state boards.  However, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (or NCARB, for short) has worked to standardize the licensure process between states.  There still are some differences between states, but the basic steps are the same.  There are three main components to getting an architecture license, and they are outlined below.

After completing these three requirements, you can receive your NCARB certificate.  Many states will grant you a license once you have an NCARB certificate.  Some states have additional requirements.  Be sure to check your state’s requirements, which can be found here.  There are alternate methods of becoming an architect, but this is the fastest and easiest, especially if you are just starting.  If you have significant experience in the field, but have not started licensure, you may want to look into whether your state has alternate licensure paths.


In order to get licensed, you must have a accredited degree in architecture.  You can get one of the following:

Bachelor of Architecture (5 years)

Master of Architecture (2-3 years depending on field of Bachelor’s degree)

Doctor of Architecture

Some states allow non-accredited degrees or work experience (or a combination of the two) to count towards this requirement.  Check with your jurisdiction for the specific requirements.


You must also complete an internship program to qualify for a license.  The Internship Development Program (IDP) is designed to give future architects the diverse experience necessary to be successful in the field.  It requires 5600 hours of work experience in various training categories.  It takes a minimum of three years to complete this requirement, but most interns take longer.


While you are completing IDP (but after you’ve completed the education requirement) you can begin to sit for the Architect Registration Exam (ARE).  This is a seven part exam.  Individual sections can be taken in any order, but all sections must be passed within five years of your first exam.  Of course, you can finish your exams in a much shorter time period if you choose.