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Architect: Overview for Starting a Career in Architecture

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an architect. Get an overview of the requirements - including job duties, degree programs and certification - to decide if starting a career in architecture is right for you.

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Many architects begin their careers by first earning a bachelor's or master's degree in an accredited architecture program. In these programs, subjects such as structural analysis, architectural theory, and building technologies are taken. After school, architects are usually required to take part in the Intern Development Program, where they must complete 5,600 training hours in the field.

Essential Information

Architects design places such as office buildings, sports complexes and other structures. They must earn professional architecture degrees, complete extensive training periods and pass competency examinations in order to earn licenses to practice professionally.

Required Education Professional bachelor's degree or master's degree in architecture
Training Requirements Intern Development Program
Other Requirements State license
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7%
Average Salary (2015)* $82,850

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Architects

Architects generally complete either bachelor's or master's degree programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Most bachelor's degree programs in architecture last five years, while master's degree programs last 2-5 years depending on whether a student has an undergraduate degree in architecture or not. Coursework includes architectural theory and history, environmental design, computer-aided design, structural analysis, materials construction and building technologies. Calculus, physics, urban studies and visual studies courses may also be beneficial.

Training Requirements for Architects

After completing a degree program, aspiring architects in most jurisdictions are required to participate in the Intern Development Program (IDP). Individuals can register with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) to document their IDP experiences (www.ncarb.org). They must then complete 5,600 training hours. In addition to architectural work done under the supervision of licensed architects, IDP training hours can include internships completed while in school or, in some states, work done under the supervision of related professionals, such as contractors or engineers. Earning continuing education credits and participating in certification programs can also count toward the required training hours.

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Licensing Requirements for Architects

All states require licensure and use the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), which is administered by the NCARB, to assess the competency of those who wish to become practicing architects. Individuals are eligible to apply for the ARE after satisfying their education and training requirements. Some states allow for different combinations of education and experience, and some may allow architects to sit for the ARE before completing their IDP.

The ARE consists of seven different timed subject tests, or divisions, which can be taken in any order. Tests include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and illustrative questions. A few states require architects to pass additional examinations and complete interviews before the licensing process is complete.

Each state has its own requirements for licensure maintenance, but typically, architects must renew their licenses every two years. Most states require architects to complete a minimum number of continuing education hours to be eligible for renewal.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 7% job growth for architects in the years 2014-2024, which is about as fast as the national average for all career fields. The BLS also reported that, as of May 2015, architects earned an average annual salary of $82,850.

Aspiring architects in every state must complete a competency examination prior to practicing architecture. This exam may only be taken once all of the state requirements for education and training have been fulfilled. Job opportunities for licensed architects are expected to grow 7% in the 2014-2024 decade.

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