So, You Want to Be an Architect?


As a recent graduate of Jefferson University with a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree, I have started my first job and am progressing toward my goal of becoming a licensed architect*. Many people do not realize that simply graduating college will not make one an architect. In fact, there are a few steps involved post- graduation, and they will take a few extra years to complete.

Here are the Steps:

  1. Graduate from a NAAB accredited architecture program. This can be done through a 5-year professional Bachelor of Architecture degree, or a 4-year pre-professional Bachelor of Architecture degree + a 2-year Master of Architecture degree, or a 4-year non architecture degree + a 3-year Master of Architecture degree. Finances and time play a large role in the difference between each of these programs, yet all of them will allow you to start your journey of becoming an architect. I chose a university that offered a 5-year program, as it was more cost effective, and I was anxious to gain hands-on work experience.
  2. Complete the Intern Development Program (IDP) as administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), which requires a minimum of 3,740 professional practice hours across 6 experience areas. Experience areas include practice management, project management, programming & analysis, project planning & design, project development & documentation, and construction & evaluation. These hours can start being recorded as soon as you graduate high school. To get started you must create an account with NCARB, so that you can keep track of your hours. All hours must be supervised by an AXP supervisor or mentor.
  3. Pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). This is the last and most important step in becoming an architect. If you have graduated with a professional degree and have completed the experience areas for the Intern Development Program, you can start taking the exam. The exam is divided into 6 separate sections, and tests on topics associated with health, safety, and welfare as it relates to architecture. Taking the ARE requires a lot of practice, experience, and studying. Not all people get it on the first try, and multiple tries take a hit to your wallet, so make sure you are prepared and ready to take the exam.

If you plan to own your own practice, becoming a licensed architect is a must. Obtaining a license will also allow you greater opportunities for professional advancement, and greater earning potential.

Becoming an architect is not easy, but we hope you find the satisfaction and rewards are worth the hard work!

*The steps listed are requirements for Pennsylvania jurisdiction. Visit to see how your state of licensure may differ in terms of requirements.

-Sydney Hitchens, Architectural Designer