Becoming an Architect is Ridiculous Craziness


Often, when talking with family and friends, they ask when I am going to get my architectural license now that I am out of college (for the third and final time). Hopefully this post will enlighten them and others to the difficulties and expenses of actually becoming licensed… There is a reason Bill Brady was crazy… i think it had to do with his process of becoming an architect…

Click to read more after the break.

This is a little wordy, but keep in mind I am just explaining the basic steps for you… i’m the one that actually has to complete all of them.

I understand how both the federal and state governments would want to regulate who becomes an architect. However the legal red tape you have to crawl thru and the amount of the miscellaneous fees with various acronym named organizations is quite ridiculous in my opinion… I recently read an article by an Australian architect comparing the architectural registration process to the bureaucratic red tape of pre-Nazi party Germany… sad…

In theory the process is just a few simple steps… yet in actuality extremely complicated. I worked it backwards as if someone’s goal was to get registered as an architect… however each step is like a big BUT… you need to do this before that….

0. So your registered in a state as an licensed architect… now what
complicated part of 0
~ You will need to register (after meeting all requirements below) with the state.
~The state renewal fee for NH is $150 for two years. (first of many “fees”)
~ You might join the American Institute of Architects (or AIA)… like the actors guild, but for architects, and way less pay negotiations 🙁
~ AIA is broken into tiers of national, state, and then local, each requiring its own dues. (as of this post the national dues are $244 /year + state and local (NH is an additional $187 /yr)
~ you might need to contact the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (or NCARB) for an NCARB Certificate. They are a national privatized organization keeping tabs on architects (as well as fledgling architects I mention in step 3). An NCARB Certificate is the easiest way to transfer your license to another state.
~ It costs $675 to setup an NCARB Certificate and $190/year to maintain, plus $300 every time you transmit your record to another state board for a license in that state
~ You also need to continue your education with so many “learning credits” to hold on to your license

1. Before you can submit for an NCARB Certificate or Join the AIA You need to register in a state
complicated part of 1
Each States requirement might vary slightly, but 99.9% of them have these basic requirements… I’ll explain each further below.
~ 1. You need to have a professional architectural degree from a specifically recognized school.
~ 2. You need to work in the field as an “architectural intern” (more of like an apprentice)
~ 3. Once the above two have been met you need to take the Architectural Registration Exams (or ARE‘s)

2. Sit for the architectural registration exams (or ARE’s)
complicated part of 2
~ There are 7 exams (or sections) that are pass or fail…
~ The average pass rate is %59+/- for the last two years
~ If you fail 1 of the 7 sections you have to wait 6 months before you retake it.
~ You have 5 years to complete all 7 exams
~ each exam takes 4 to 6 hours
~ each exam costs $210 and can not be canceled, but can be rescheduled for $35
~ Although the exams are computerized and graded instantly, results do not get back to the tester for at least 6 weeks, more typically is 3-5 months according to the latest forums
~ California has an additional exam that is given oral to a few representatives of the California State Boards Committee for Professional Architects
~ The exams are very secretive. Independent study guides are fear-sly regulated, and very expensive.
~ Before you can schedule any test you need to obtain an authorization to test letter from your states Board of Architects

3. Qualifying to sit for the ARE’s… the authorization letter
complicated part of 3
~ To get one you 1st need to contact NCARB (same guys as above) to establish what is called an “NCARB record”. A document created that provesyou worked as an apprentice, and went to school for architecture.
~ you need to make a formal request to transmit your record to the state you are testing in
~ it costs $385 to transmit this record to the state you want to take the test in.
~ Once you pay the amount they “verify” your information and then send it, which has been know to take anywhere from 8 weeks to 3 1/2+ months. (keep in mind this is all electronic…instantaneous thru the internet… yet not)
~ Once the state receives you record, you need to fill out another form for the state requesting to take the ARE’s
~ (each state is different) The NH state form I filled out, among other things, requires you to re-fill-out most of the stuff that was on the NCARB record sent to them, and pay an additional $150
~Once the state receives their form and payment it is handed to the Board of Architects to approve. The Board of Architects for NH meet 4 times a year (I’m pretty sure anyway)… bummer deal if you they send back an incomplete form letter instead of an authorization to test letter.

4. Before your NCARB Record gets transmitted, you need to complete it
complicated part of 4.
~ Two major parts of you NCARB Record verify you have transcripts from an accredited school and have apprenticed under the Intern Development Program (or IDP) which is a documentation program made by NCARB.
~ IDP verifies you worked so much (5600 hours), under so many licensed architects, under so many various portions of the architectural field.
~ The IDP report is broken up into various categories, with various headings under each catagory (ei. Design and construction documents needs 2800 hours, under which 80 hours needs to be design development, 1080 hours needs to be Contract documents, 120 hours of code research, etc….)
~ IDP hours can only be accumulated if you are working under a licensed architect, hours under a supervisor that is not licensed do not count towards the IDP requirements.
~ You usually can not start the IDP processes until you complete your schooling (reguardless if you worked for an architect for 25 years, and the guy next to you taking the exams 2 1/2.
~ not only is it a chore for you to complete, but you have to get your boss to log in to a website to create a “mentor account” so they can verify that you worked for however many hours you reported.
~ You have to report experience in chunks of 6 months or less, if you did not report experience past 6 months ago it will not count towards the requirement.

5. Attend an accredited school of architecture
complicated part of 5
~ by accredited school I mean that just because your school has a history of architecture program that’s accredited by the US department of Education does not mean it is accredited as a “professional degree” in architecture that will count as one of your requirements for your NCARB Record to take the ARE’s
~ Schools are accredited by another agency, National Architectural Accrediting Board (or NAAB)
~ Out of the 4146 +/- colleges in the US, only 117 have NAAB accredited architectural programs
~ There are no to very little community collages with an accredited NAAB program… so $$$$$
~ Architecture school has a huge workload… a lot of all night-ers… do not expect to be parting… unless it s free alcohol and you bring your sketchbook along!!!

That’s the process in a nut shell… pretty easy… so the next time I see you at a gathering or something you’ll understand why its taking so long to for me to become an architect now that I am out of school…

After commuting an hour to night school a couple of nights a week to Boston for my Master’s In Architecture, I’m currently at the second to last step before I am an “architect”… which is the ARE testing phase… fun, fun…

Summary of bunk in this post…
Acronyms Organizations = 5
Fee’s Before the exam = $535
exam fee’s = $1470
Fee’s associated after getting licensed
~State license /yr (varies, NH shown) $75
~AIA Dues /yr (varies, NH shown) $431
~NCARB Cert. (setup+transmittal+1 year) $1165*

* These fees assume your going to spend the $975 to create and transmit your NCARB Certificate at least once and pay the $190 /yr to maintain

3 Replies to “Becoming an Architect is Ridiculous Craziness”

  1. Thanks for the info and Wow its a dam shame because since I was a child wanted to be an architect and throughout my life I have been working with architects on and off as often as I can as a staff architect so I know the routine etc. but what I really hoping is for my ideas to become reality. Not interested in producing working drawings because that’s boring. But I don’t think I could put myself thru that bumpy road again getting a degree is just too weak and subjective. What happen to me is very sad but that’s a story I will one day publish. Anyway, I am very talented I have a portfolio that is jaw dropping and even more these days. I just need to collaborate with someone to get my work out there and the rest will be history!

  2. You forgot to mention that your IDP supervisor may decide not to help you become licensed, because there is no real incentive or reason for him to. Its only worse if you are good at what you do, then you could be more competitive with him. I have told my supervisor that I would accept recieving only 2/3 of the hours that I had worked as going towards my IDP process, because he was so nitpicky that he decided I didn’t know enough about the categories to deserve the hours. If I had studied the material 1 hour beforehand, it would be easy to know. Now, I have been laid off by that firm, and I have sent him e-mails, and called him to try to work with him, and he won’t even respond. Looks like my 6 months of experience is just going to never be recorded…

  3. Intern… that does suck. I completed my IDP before NCARB implemented the 6month rule and all that supervisor non-sense. Its hard enough to do all the bureaucratic paperwork hoops they make you jump through in the process to become an architect, I never thought how much harder it could be if you have an asshole supervisor like it sounds like you do. Luckily most people I know have employers that want them to carry on the profession, or at very least do not stand in their way to becoming licensed. You should look into any local Young Architect Forum chapters (YAF-AIA) in your area and talk to them about your dilemma… perhaps they can recommend or approach your supervisor. If your supervisor is not the principal of your firm, perhaps you can jump ahead and let them know your supervisor is cramping your style. receiving 2/3 of the actual hours your practiced seams ridiculous to me… you should take credit where credit is due. Good luck with your supervisor… let us know if anything changes in your situation

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