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Certified Architect: Certification and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an architect. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Aspiring architects need to earn a professional bachelor's degree, or they can a professional master's degree if they hold a bachelor's in a separate field. You'll also need to complete an internship in order to become licensed, which is mandatory in all states. Certification is voluntary, but recommended.

Essential Information

Architects are licensed professionals who design the buildings people occupy every day. A professional degree and state license are mandatory, but certification is also available and can help architects stand out in the field or aid in acquiring multi-jurisdictional licensure.

Required Education Professional bachelor's or master's degree in architecture and an internship
Other Requirements State licensure; voluntary certification offered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 7%*
Median Salary (May 2015) $76,100*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Architect Certification Information

Certification doesn't provide the state-required licensure to practice architecture; however, credentials exhibit professional aptitude and may increase employment opportunities. Architects may seek certification through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), which may aid in expansion to multi-state projects. Other benefits of NCARB certification include continuing education discounts and the right to add 'NCARB' to an architect's title, demonstrating aptitude of professional standards.

Certification Requirements

NCARB offers a few processes for earning certification. The standard route requires a candidate to hold a professional degree from a college or university accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board or Capital Area Asset Building Corporation. Applicants must complete NCARB internship programs, pass architecture proficiency exams and obtain licensure from a state board. Specific application procedures vary depending on the status of a candidate's NCARB records.

An alternate route allows licensed architects who do not hold an architecture degree from an accredited school to earn certification. Along with completing an internship program, this process involves participation in a Broadly Experienced Architect (BEA) program to satisfy the education requirements. Candidates for the BEA must be registered with an NCARB member board and have 6-10 years of experience, depending on previous education. Similarly, the Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect program is available to licensed architects from other countries, who hold professional degrees from approved schools.

Certified Architect Career Information

Industry and Work Environment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of architects worked in architectural, engineering and related services in 2015. Others worked in the federal and state government and building construction industries. While architects spend most of their time in offices, they may visit construction sites frequently to monitor progress. They generally work long hours, nights and weekends in order to meet strict deadlines. In 2015, the BLS reported that many architects worked over 50 hours each week, particularly when facing deadlines.

Salary Information and Occupation Outlook

In May 2015, architects (except landscape and naval architects) earned a median annual wage of $76,100, according to the BLS. Architects were expected to see a 7% increase in employment from 2014-2024, due in part to the need for housing in increasing elderly, retired, student and southern U.S. populations (BLS). Despite average job growth, the BLS anticipated high competition for entry-level positions - an effect of the large number of graduating students entering the field. Outlook will be best for candidates with internship experience and knowledge in sustainable design, per BLS projections.

A professional bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a certified architect, though a master's degree may enhance your standing. Licensing is compulsory and with the exception of a paid internship, which is also mandatory, requirements can vary by state. A certification through the NCARB is voluntary but can serve to increase your marketability.


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