CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become an architect.

Step 1

Is becoming an architect right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do architects do?
Career Satisfaction
Are architects happy with their careers?
What are architects like?

Still unsure if becoming an architect is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an architect or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

Bachelor’s Degree / Master’s Degree

It is important to choose a degree program that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.)

Typical components include:

  • History of architecture
  • Fundamental design concepts
  • Properties of materials
  • Interior space and proportions
  • Structural systems
  • Environmental systems
  • Building technology
  • Project management
  • Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD)
  • Building information modeling (BIM)

While earning their undergraduate degree in architecture, students often have the opportunity to participate in competitions hosted by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

Master of Architecture (M.Arch)

These graduate-level programs are generally open to applicants who have earned a B.Arch. degree and want to specialize in historic preservation, design theory, solar design, or another related field.

Typical components include:

  • Theoretical, technological, historical, and cultural aspects of design
  • Ecologically sustainable building practices
  • Historic preservation and urban planning

Architecture School Tips:

Architecture school is very rigorous, and you won't have much of a life during your school years. Projects take much longer than you think they will — figure on two or three times longer than what you estimate.

For the first couple of years, your work will all be done by hand (hand modeling and hand drawing). Draw everything and everyday, it is important to draw as much as you can. This will help you in the long run. The later years will introduce computer modeling. Learn how to render well; it is one of the most useful things you can put on your resume and in your portfolio.

Try to get as much work experience as possible, as soon as you can. An excellent place to work is at a construction company, as you will learn a lot about the buildings you are designing and will become a much better architect with that understanding. Make the best impression you can during your internships - you need to start building relationships/connections with people early on.

Develop an appreciation for art and influences outside of the realm of architecture. Try and keep an outside perspective, it will help open your mind to possibilities and shape your career.

Step 3

Architectural Experience Program (AXP)

To become eligible for state licensing, architecture school graduates must complete a three-year training period under the supervision of a licensed architect.

The Architectural Experience Program (AXP), previously called the Intern Development Program (IDP), was developed and is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). It is comprised of four main experience areas: pre-design, design, project management, and practice management.

Step 4


In addition to earning a degree and completing the AXP training program, architects must pass the NCARB’s Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

These are the seven exams which make up the ARE:

  • Construction Documents and Services (CDS)
  • Programming, Planning, and Practice (PPP)
  • Site Planning and Design (SPD)
  • Schematic Design (SD)
  • Structural Systems (SS)
  • Building Systems (BS)
  • Building Design and Construction Systems (BDCS)
Step 5

Continuing Education

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards ‘offers architects an independent, cost-effective way to earn continuing education hours’ through its Monograph Collection.