An accredited degree in architecture is required to get an NCARB certificate. Accredited degrees are Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Architecture, or Doctor of Architecture. There are a few paths you can take to get an accredited degree.
(Note: 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.)
Bachelor of Architecture (5 years)
This is the fastest way to satisfy the education requirement if you do not already have a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor of Architecture degrees are an intensely focused introduction to the field of architecture. Be careful not to confuse these with non-accredited, 4-year BS in Architecture or BA in Architecture degrees.
Master of Architecture (2-3 years)
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, or if you are looking for a broader education during your undergrad coursework, you should opt for the Master of Architecture. These are referred to as 4+2 programs and 4+3 programs. A 4+2 program is for people who have a non-accredited degree in architecture (or sometimes another related field such as interior architecture or design). They have a 4 year bachelors degree and a 2 year Master of Architecture (hence 4+2). The 4+3 program is for people with a bachelor’s degree in a unrelated field. Their master’s degree takes 3 years to complete. There are also 1-year master programs for those with a Bachelor of Architecture, but these folks already have satisfied their education requirement for licensure.
Doctor of Architecture (7 years)
These are very rare. In fact only the University of Hawaii offers it. Their 7-year program includes both undergraduate and graduate coursework. There has been some discussion of transitioning all accredited programs to a D.Arch program, similar to the J.D. model of law schools. This would probably be a 3- or 4-year post-graduate program, but this is still in the discussion phase and won’t happen anytime soon. Plan for one of the other options.