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Learn to Be an Architect: Education Roadmap

Learn how to become an architect. Research the education and career requirements, licensure, and experience required for starting a career in architecture.

Should I Become an Architect?

Architects design buildings and structures for public and private spaces. After meeting with clients or prospective building owners, these professionals prepare drawings and blueprints with designs based on their needs and wants. Architects often work long hours, and travel to work sites might be required.

Prospective architects must complete a professional degree; these usually come in the form of a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) program or a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) program. Acquiring experience and passing a licensure exam are also required to work as an architect. The table below lays out the requirements to become an architect.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's or master's degree
Degree Field Architecture
Licensure Licensing is earned after passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)
Experience Complete 5,600 hours for Internship Development Program or obtain at least 3 years of relevant experience
Key Skills Creativity and visualization skills, architects must also be organized and have strong communication skills, as well as adept at computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software
Salary $58,835 per year (median from September 2015)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards

Step 1: Earn a Professional Architecture Degree

The first part of a Bachelor of Architecture program provides students with a strong background in architecture, while the second part covers advanced study in the field. Students learn about architecture design, building structures, critical topics in architecture, architectural technology, and design communication. The latter half of the program allows students to choose electives of interest and learn how to complete an architectural proposal or portfolio.

If someone has graduated with a bachelor's degree in a field other than architecture but wants to become an architect, he or she can enroll in a professional master's degree program in architecture. A Master of Architecture program is roughly three years in length for such students and also prepares them to take the licensure exam.

Success Tip:

  • Begin interning while in school. Starting an internship while in school will count toward the minimum 3-year experience requirement and help qualify you to work as an architect sooner after graduation.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Each jurisdiction in the U.S. requires licensure applicants to complete an experience requirement. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has an Internship Development Program (IDP) that nearly all jurisdictions accept as standard. Most states require at least 3 years, and the IDP includes 5,600 hours. This experience can be gained through an internship at an architectural firm or through other work settings and supplemental experiences. During an internship, individuals may assist licensed architects with preparing models and drawings.

Step 3: Obtain Licensure

After graduating with a degree and gaining the requisite experience, aspiring professional architects must pass the NCARB's Architect Registration Examination. The exam covers 7 divisions involving planning and practice, site design, building design, schematic design, structural systems, building systems, and construction documents. Applicants can take them in any order and should expect a combination of graphic vignettes and multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and check-all-that-apply questions. Obtaining licensure will enhance job opportunities and career growth for architects.

Success Tip:

  • Complete practice programs. The NCARB offers practice programs for each section that cover the same topics as the licensing test.

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