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

Formal Education

Becoming an architect typically involves the following steps:

  • Research Architecture Programs: Start by researching and identifying accredited architecture programs. Look for universities or colleges that offer Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) or Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degrees. Consider factors such as the program's reputation, curriculum, faculty, and resources.
  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture: Enroll in a five-year Bachelor of Architecture program or a related field such as architectural engineering. During your studies, you will learn fundamental architectural principles, design techniques, structural engineering, building materials, environmental systems, and more. Gain practical experience through studio projects, where you'll work on design assignments and develop your skills.
  • Pursue Internships or Apprenticeships: While pursuing your degree or after graduation, seek internships or apprenticeships at architecture firms or design studios. These opportunities provide practical experience in a professional setting and allow you to learn from experienced architects. Internships can also help you build a network of contacts in the industry.
  • Obtain a Master's Degree (Optional): Although a bachelor's degree is sufficient for entry-level positions, some individuals choose to pursue a Master's degree in Architecture (M.Arch.) for advanced knowledge and specialization. This may be particularly useful if you plan to focus on a specific area of architecture or if you aspire to teaching or research roles.
  • Complete the Architectural Experience Program (AXP): The AXP, formerly known as the Intern Development Program (IDP), is a program administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) in the United States. It involves completing a specified number of hours in various professional practice areas, such as design, construction documents, project management, and more. The AXP provides hands-on experience and prepares you for the licensing exams.
  • Pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE): The ARE is a multi-division examination that tests your knowledge and competency in various aspects of architecture. The number of divisions may vary depending on the licensing board in your country or state. The exam covers subjects such as site planning, building systems, construction documentation, structural systems, and more. Each division must be passed individually, and the requirements may differ between jurisdictions.
  • Apply for Architectural Licensure: Once you have completed your education, gained work experience, and passed the licensing exams, you can apply for architectural licensure through the licensing board in your country or state. The specific requirements vary, but typically include a combination of education, experience, and examination.
  • Consider Specialization and Continuing Education: After becoming a licensed architect, you may choose to specialize in a particular area such as residential architecture, sustainable design, historic preservation, or urban planning. Additionally, it's important to stay updated with the latest industry trends, building codes, and technological advancements through continuing education, workshops, conferences, and professional development programs.
Step 3

The Architectural Experience Program (AXP)

The Architectural Experience Program (AXP) is a comprehensive program designed to provide aspiring architects with the necessary practical experience and competency in various areas of architecture. It is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) in the United States.

The AXP, previously known as the Intern Development Program (IDP), consists of a structured framework that guides aspiring architects through a series of professional practice areas. These practice areas cover the essential skills and knowledge required for competent architectural practice. By completing the AXP, individuals gain the practical experience necessary to become a licensed architect.

Here are the key components of the Architectural Experience Program:

Experience Categories
The AXP is organized into six experience categories that cover different aspects of architectural practice. These categories are:

  • Practice Management: Understanding the business of architecture, including project management, contracts, and ethics.
  • Project Management: Overseeing the architectural project, including coordinating with clients, consultants, and contractors.
  • Programming & Analysis: Assessing the needs of the client and the project site, and conducting research and analysis to inform the design process.
  • Project Planning & Design: Developing and refining design concepts, incorporating client requirements, building codes, and environmental considerations.
  • Project Development & Documentation: Preparing detailed construction drawings and specifications that communicate the design intent to contractors.
  • Construction & Evaluation: Observing the construction process, reviewing progress, and evaluating the performance of completed projects.

Experience Hours
Within each experience category, a specific number of work hours must be completed. The total required hours vary depending on the jurisdiction, but typically range from 3,740 to 5,600 hours. You can document your experience as you work on architectural projects under the supervision of a licensed architect.

Throughout the AXP, you are required to work under the direct supervision of a licensed architect who serves as your supervisor. Your supervisor will guide and evaluate your progress, ensuring that you gain the necessary experience in each practice area.

Reporting and Documentation
As you gain experience, you will need to document your hours and tasks performed in the online reporting system provided by NCARB. You will record details of each project, the tasks completed, and the skills developed. Your supervisor will review and approve your experience reports.

Progression and Completion
The AXP is a self-paced program, allowing you to progress at your own speed. You can work on multiple projects simultaneously or focus on specific practice areas. Once you have completed the required hours in each experience category, your supervisor will validate your experience, and you can move on to the next step of the licensure process, which typically involves taking the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

Step 4

The Architect Registration Examination (ARE)

The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is a comprehensive examination that assesses the knowledge and competency of individuals seeking architectural licensure in the United States. Administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the ARE consists of multiple divisions or sections that cover different aspects of architectural practice.

Here are the key points to know about the Architect Registration Examination (ARE):

The ARE is divided into several sections, typically six or seven, depending on the jurisdiction and the version of the exam. The specific divisions may vary, but they generally cover the following subject areas:

  • Practice Management: Focuses on the business aspects of architecture, including professional ethics, project management, contracts, and legal responsibilities.
  • Project Management: Assesses knowledge of project delivery methods, team collaboration, consultant coordination, and contract administration.
  • Programming & Analysis: Tests understanding of client goals, site analysis, programming requirements, building codes, and regulations.
  • Project Planning & Design: Evaluates skills in schematic design, design development, space planning, and integration of building systems.
  • Project Development & Documentation: Covers the creation of construction documents, detailing, specifications, and material selection.
  • Construction & Evaluation: Focuses on construction administration, site observation, project closeout, and evaluation of completed projects.

Additional divisions, such as Structural Systems, Building Systems, or Sustainable Design, may also be included depending on the jurisdiction.

Exam Format
Each division of the ARE consists of multiple-choice questions, as well as case studies and scenario-based questions that require problem-solving skills. The exam is typically administered on a computer at authorized testing centers.

Exam Eligibility
To be eligible to take the ARE, you typically need to have completed or be in the process of completing the Architectural Experience Program (AXP). The specific requirements for exam eligibility may vary by jurisdiction, so it's important to check with the licensing board in your state or country.

Exam Administration
The ARE is a computer-based exam and can be scheduled and taken at authorized testing centers. You can typically schedule the exam at your convenience, depending on availability.

Exam Scoring
The ARE is a pass/fail examination. After completing each division, your responses are scored, and you will receive a pass or fail result. The passing score is determined by the licensing board and may vary between jurisdictions.

Exam Preparation
Preparation for the ARE typically involves a combination of self-study, review of reference materials, and practice exams. There are various study resources available, including textbooks, online courses, study guides, and sample questions provided by NCARB.

Exam Retakes
If you do not pass a division, you can retake that specific division. The number of allowable retakes and the waiting period between retakes may vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Step 5


There are several certifications available for architects, depending on their area of expertise and interests. Some of the most common certifications for architects include:

  • LEED Accreditation: The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accreditation is a certification program that recognizes architects who have a deep understanding of sustainable design principles and practices. The LEED Accreditation is offered by the U.S. Green Building Council and is highly regarded in the architecture industry.
  • NCARB Certification: The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) offers a certification program that recognizes architects who have met certain education, experience, and examination requirements. The NCARB Certification is highly valued in the architecture industry and is often required for certain types of architectural work.
  • AIA Membership: The American Institute of Architects (AIA) offers membership to architects who have demonstrated a commitment to high ethical and professional standards. AIA membership provides architects with access to resources, networking opportunities, and continuing education opportunities.
  • WELL Accreditation: The WELL Building Standard is a certification program that focuses on promoting health and wellness in building design. Architects can become WELL Accredited Professionals to demonstrate their expertise in designing buildings that promote health and well-being.
  • Autodesk Certification: Autodesk is a software company that provides tools for architectural design and drafting. Architects can become Autodesk Certified Professionals to demonstrate their proficiency in using Autodesk software.
Step 6

Helpful Resources

There are several resources to help architects stay informed, inspired, and connected within the industry:

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA): The AIA is a professional organization for architects that provides advocacy, networking opportunities, and resources for continuing education. Their website offers valuable information on architecture trends, design resources, and business tools.
  • National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB): NCARB is responsible for the regulation and licensing of architects in the United States. Their website provides information on the architectural registration process, exam preparation materials, and resources for professional development.
  • Architectural Record: Architectural Record is a leading publication in the field of architecture. It features articles, project profiles, and design inspiration from around the world. Their website and magazine are excellent resources for staying up-to-date with the latest industry news and trends.
  • ArchDaily: ArchDaily is an online platform that showcases a vast collection of architectural projects, news, and articles. It serves as a source of inspiration, offering insights into innovative designs, materials, and construction techniques.
  • Dezeen: Dezeen is another popular online architecture and design magazine. It features a wide range of articles, interviews, and videos covering architecture, interior design, and urbanism. It's a great resource for keeping up with contemporary architectural projects and trends.
  • BuildingGreen: BuildingGreen is a valuable resource for architects interested in sustainable design and construction. They offer in-depth articles, research reports, and product reviews focused on green building practices and materials.
  • The Architecture Lobby: The Architecture Lobby is an advocacy group that addresses labor issues and professional ethics within the architectural industry. They provide resources, publications, and organize events aimed at promoting equitable and sustainable practices in architecture.
  • Local AIA Chapters: Each state and major city in the US has its own AIA chapter, which organizes events, lectures, and workshops for architects. Connecting with your local AIA chapter can provide valuable networking opportunities and access to regional resources.
  • Continuing Education Providers: Many organizations offer continuing education courses for architects to maintain their professional licenses. Examples include the AIA's Continuing Education System, the National Building Museum, and professional development courses offered by universities and architectural firms.
  • Online Communities and Forums: Engaging with online architecture communities and forums can provide a platform for discussion, idea-sharing, and problem-solving. Platforms like Archinect, Reddit's r/architecture subreddit, and LinkedIn architecture groups can connect you with fellow professionals and offer insights into various architectural topics.
Step 7

Employment Opportunities

Architects have a variety of employment opportunities available to them, depending on their education, experience, and interests. Some common employment opportunities for architects include:

  • Architecture Firms: The majority of architects work in architecture firms, which can range in size from small practices to large international firms. Architects in these firms work on a variety of projects, such as designing buildings, managing projects, and overseeing construction.
  • Construction Companies: Architects can also work for construction companies, where they may be responsible for designing and managing construction projects.
  • Government Agencies: Architects can work for government agencies at the federal, state, or local level. They may be responsible for designing and managing public buildings, such as schools, libraries, and government offices.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Architects can work for nonprofit organizations, such as historic preservation societies or affordable housing organizations. In these roles, architects may be responsible for designing and managing projects that benefit the community.
  • Self-Employment: Some architects choose to start their own practices and work as self-employed professionals. This allows them to have greater control over the types of projects they work on and the clients they work with.
  • Academia: Architects can also work in academia, teaching architecture at universities or colleges. In these roles, they may be responsible for developing curricula, conducting research, and mentoring students.