If you want to be an architect, earning your bachelor’s degree from one of the top undergraduate architecture degree programs is a great first step to launching your career. However, there are other important steps you must complete before you can officially call yourself an architect. This career path requires you to attain a license in the United States, which means you must complete additional training as well as taking a professional examination.
Architecture License Requirements
Every state in America requires architects to earn a license, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While each state can establish its own license requirements, most states ask aspiring architects to earn a professional college degree in architecture, complete an internship and earn a passing score on an exam.
Even once you attain your license, you still need to keep up with your education and training. In many states, you need to gain continuing education credits through college classes, professional conferences and other means of study to keep your license active and in good standing.
You must also meet additional requirements if you choose to apply for certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Unlike the required architecture license, this certification is voluntary. However, nearly one-third of architects choose to become certified, in part because certification makes the process of becoming licensed across multiple states easier, the BLS reported.
Interning in an Architectural Firm
Even the best undergraduate architecture degree program can’t teach you everything you need to know about designing buildings in a classroom setting. While many architecture schools do include a strong focus on gaining hands-on experience in the design studio, it’s still not quite the same as working in a real-world setting like an architectural firm.
To make sure that new architects have the skills needed to safely and successfully design buildings and structures, every state in America requires that aspiring architects complete a long-term internship. Most of these internships are paid and last three years, the BLS reported. Though students can find opportunities on their own, they typically go through the NCARB’s Intern Development Program. In addition to spending time cultivating their skills in an architectural firm, interns may also work in engineering offices or general contractors’ offices.
Because completing an internship is mandatory in all states – and because candidates must complete this training before they can sit for the licensing exam – most architecture graduates begin their internship as early as possible once they finish school. In some instances, aspiring architects can count internships that they completed during college toward this training requirement.
The point of the three-year internship is to gain skills that will be valuable when working as a full-fledged architect. Interns handle all kinds of work responsibilities, from finding out the building codes a project must meet to developing the drawings and models of a building’s design. They work under the supervision of licensed architects who oversee and critique their work.
The Architect Registration Examination
After earning a degree and completing an internship, aspiring architects are finally on the last step to earning their license. They must earn a passing score on the NCARB’s Architect Registration Examination. All states use this multi-part exam to evaluate an aspiring architect’s knowledge of architectural practice and his or her skills in managing architectural projects.
Between the five years of undergraduate college studies, the three years of internship experience and the professional exam you must take to earn a license, becoming an architect isn’t easy. However, studying at a top undergraduate architecture degree program can make the path to an architecture career simpler.