6 Steps for Becoming an Architect

As an architect, you might get a chance to design a wide variety of buildings. The structures that you envision could translate into houses, government offices, and hospitals. You won’t just concern yourself with the aesthetics when you design, though. You will also think about factors like functionality, legal issues, safety, and practicality. Ensuring a satisfactory result each time usually means you must partake in all parts of the building process. That means, from its conception to the building’s construction, you’ll have a say in every matter. Prepare yourself for long hours and deadline-oriented work.

But that is for after when you become an architect. How do you get there in the first place?

The 6-Step Architect Path

It’s a six part process, which consists of:

  1. Education, which usually means studying and obtaining an accredited architecture degree
  2. Experience, which refers to documenting your on-the-job experience. This generally happens under the supervision of a licensed architect
  3. Exam, which you must pass and clear for all the aspects of your profession
  4. License, which usually depends on the state you will be working in
  5. Certifications, which are optional but quite useful
  6. Maintenance of the said certification means you must keep studying and even specialize

Now, while the process may be a bit lengthy, the rewards that will be yours at the end are more than worth all the hard work.


To work as a licensed architect, most states require the candidate in question to hold a professional, accredited degree. The body setting the standard for accreditation is the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). According to them, you may choose from any of more than a 100 architecture schools.

Currently, an aspiring architect can opt for these degrees:

  • Complete at least 150 credit hours to receive your Bachelor of Architecture (BArch)
  • Finish at least 168 hours – 30 of those must be at the graduate level – to receive your Master of Architecture (MArch)
  • Finalize at least 120 undergraduate and 90 graduate hours of credit for a Doctor of Architecture (DArch) degree

Your courses will be covering building systems and technology, environmental planning, project management, and structural elements.

We’d also recommend looking into the competitions that will challenge your powers of innovation. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture hosts these events where students must follow a theme, like creative steel usage or sustainability, to come up with astonishing structures. You don’t only get an opportunity to win by pitting your genius against others in these competitions. You’ll also be adding more experience to your resume. Additionally, the judging panel often provides valuable feedback on the participant’s designs. Thus, you’ll get to learn from them!

Experience for a Would-Be Architect

The Architectural Experience Program is a prerequisite for licensure. Since it is an internship, you get to join the workforce even as you learn. Almost every state will require you to complete the program before you can sit for their exam.

In this thorough program, you’ll face different settings. In all those situations, you gain professional experience as you apply the knowledge and skills to practice your craft. A professional architect will supervise you while you work. You may be involved in preparing documents, designing projects, and research specific building codes for architectural firms.

You clock in a substantial amount of field experience hours – divided into several different categories. How you perform is submitted to NCARB, so there is record of it.

The Architect Registration Exam

The ARE is a requirement that must be fulfilled in all 54 jurisdictions within the US. You will be sitting for exams formatted differently and answer graphical vignettes and multiple choice questions on:

  • Construction Documents and Services
  • Site Planning and Design
  • Structural Systems
  • Programming, Planning, and Practice
  • Schematic Design
  • Building Systems
  • Building Design and Construction Systems

Due to the lengthy nature of this exam, it can take you at least 2 to 2.5 years to finish. But the best part is that this a self-guided test. So, you will be keeping your own schedule when you take it. Even so, you must train yourself to handle massive amounts of information. You’ll find the test is nothing like attending architectural school.


The jurisdiction you’re located in will determine whether you must sit through additional exams or give interviews. It will also affect the registration requirements. So, we’d recommend contacting the board itself and verifying what you need to do.

You’ll find that continuing your education is a running theme in the field of architecture. Even after receiving your license, there are other certifications to gain and work needed to maintain them.

Obtain Architectural Certification

Every NCARB certification – voluntary though they may be – you take will mean you must demonstrate professional aptitude. But as you clear these, it will make obtaining reciprocal licensure from other states easier for you.

Maintain Certification

As we mentioned, it is essential for architects to renew their licensure regularly. You do it through continuing your education credits. This happens either on a biannual or annual basis. But it isn’t just about passing. In your case, staying in touch with educational material can mean you also stay au courant with the industry’s trends and technological innovations. You can also specialize in various advanced sub-categories through the NCARB’s wide variety of offered options. Those include:

  • Architectural acoustics
  • Fire safety
  • Energy-conscious architecture

Architects get to design both the interiors and the outlook of buildings. Thus, you construct spaces where people will work, live, shop, and play. Accomplishing an objective means you consider its function and then factor in the desires of the client. You must also focus on completing the job’s cost and the client’s budget.

What’s more, your structural specifications must follow the appropriate building contracts and the architectural plans. Architecture is more than just sketching plans; it is about designing living spaces. Keep exercising your creativity and continue your education to win each time!

Have other plans in your head? Discuss them with us or find the right options for them here.

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