If you’re considering earning a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree, one of the highest paying master’s degrees, then you could benefit from becoming familiar with the IPAL program. Established in 2015 by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), IPAL stands for “Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure.” You don’t have to participate in the IPAL program to become a licensed architect, but doing so could save you a lot of time and allow you to officially become an architect faster.

Understanding the Process of Getting Licensed as an Architect

All states in the United States require architects to be licensed, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The process of getting your architect license is a lengthy one. First, you must earn a professional degree in architecture, such as a five-year Bachelor of Arts (B.Arch.) or a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree. It’s important that you choose a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, since about two-thirds of states require an accredited curriculum for licensure.

After earning your architecture degree, you need to complete a three-year paid internship to gain specific types of work experience that meets the NCARB’s Architectural Experience Program (AXP) requirements. You also need to complete a licensing exam, typically the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

All in all, it will take most aspiring architects at least eight years, and often up to 11 or even 12 years, to become an architect.

How IPAL Makes the Licensing Process Faster

What if you began working toward your other licensing requirements, like your AXP experience requirements and passing the six sections of the ARE standardized test, while you were still in school? That’s exactly how IPAL programs work, and enrolling in one such program could cut down your time to acquiring full licensure considerably – possibly to as little as six or seven years.

IPAL programs require students to start their internships early, often working part-time hours during the school year and full-time hours throughout summer and semester breaks. Students also prepare for and take sections of the ARE test throughout their studies, often completing as many as two exam sections per school year.

What Is IPAL

IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain

It’s not that enrolling in an IPAL program is easier than the traditional route to licensure. You still have to complete all licensure requirements. Doing so at such a rapid pace makes for an intense educational experience. For students who are eager to satisfy their licensure requirements early and become a licensed architect sooner rather than later, however, the extra work is worthwhile. After all, putting in this exceptional effort will save you years of lag time between graduating from a professional architecture program and getting your license.

Many students who pursue IPAL programs have an architecture degree from a program that isn’t accredited and have some employment experience in the field of architecture, according to the NCARB. However, prior architecture experience isn’t mandatory.

Choosing an IPAL Program That Works for You

Participating in an IPAL program sounds like a great choice, but you also have to look at how different programs are structured to decide which one is right for you. For example, some graduate architecture schools that participate in the IPAL program have multiple paths or options, depending on whether the student has completed undergraduate pre-professional studies in architecture or is brand-new to the field. There are schools that offer IPAL programs at the B.Arch. level as well as in both Level I and Level II M.Arch. programs.

Part of deciding whether an IPAL program is the right choice for you and what program to choose depends on where you plan to work. Not all jurisdictions in the United States accept architectural licensing requirements completed through IPAL, specifically the passing scores on exam sections completed prior to graduation, according to the NCARB. Further, some jurisdictions impose additional licensing requirements besides the professional degree, AXP experience and the ARE exam, such as a separate exam specific to that location. Consider where you want to at least begin your career as a licensed architect – even if you might not stay there permanently – and find out what licensing requirements apply to that area and which IPAL programs might be suitable for your career plans.

Across the country, 21 schools offer a total of 26 IPAL programs, according to the NCARB. These programs are all accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

Additional Resources

What Kind of Certification Do I Need to Become an Architect?

What Are the Differences Between a Level 1 and Level 2 Master’s in Architecture?

What Is the Difference Between a B.Arch. and an M.Arch?