What it takes to become a Licensed Architect

Since I was a sophomore in high school I have known that I wanted to be an architect. (Thank goodness I stopped playing the trumpet and took a drafting class instead) I took every class related to drafting and architecture that my school had to offer plus lots of math and art courses.  Not that I knew exactly what that path would entail but I knew the basic road to my goal; college (BS & MArch), intern hours, exams, license. Sounds simple – right?

Currently I am an intern architect. Everybody knows a bit about what college can entail but not everybody knows what it takes beyond that point. Depending on the state that you live in and want to practice architecture in you have several options on how you proceed. All require intern hours and taking exams. I have chosen to go through NCARB. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, NCARB, is recognized in many states and countries. They also make keeping track of all of your hours fairly simple, and of course this is all done for a fee.

It takes approximately 3 to 5 years of interning to finish the Intern Development Program (IDP). We are required 5600 hours to complete IDP The hours are spread across, pre-design, design, project management, and practice management. These hours are periodically reviewed and approved by your supervisor to assure that you are correctly logging your hours.

At the magical number of 2000 hours you can begin taking your exams. But first you must prove that you have met the magical number by requesting  “authorization to test”. Sounds very formal, but it is a simple form mailed off to your local board of architects. Once you are authorized you may begin exams…this is currently where I am on my path. This is the only portion of my path that I have been dreading and from discussion with other intern architects, I am not alone. The idea of sitting down and studying is not appealing. The idea of paying $210 for 7, 4 to 6 hour long tests that are pass or fail is not appealing.


I have concluded that I just need to sign up for one and force the issue of studying. Luckily AIA Asheville has a wonderful service that it provides to its associates. They have a full set of the Kaplan Study guides available for check out. Not sure which exam I will start with but I am going to go and take the Beta Practice Tests that NCARB is offering on their website. At least this should give me some idea of what I am in for.

Once all of my exams are done and all of my hours have been met I send all of it to the board and in return they send me a pretty certificate saying that I am now a licensed architect. Of course if I actually want to practice architecture I must pay fees and such but that is par for the course with any professional profession.

My first year at Form & Function Architecture has taught me so much. In the up coming year my goal is to take at least two, hopefully three or four of my exams and continue earning all of my hours. So in about 2 years be looking for that title of “Architect” beside my name. I have been working towards that goal since I was 15. It has been a long but wonderful path.