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How to Become an Architect

Bachelor's degree

Typically, there are 3 specific steps in order to become a licensed architect including: finishing a professional degree in architecture, working under a paid internship to gain relevant experience and finally, passing the Architect Registration Exam.

Education & Training

The majority of individuals becoming an architect earn a professional degree in architecture. Many architects utilize a 5 year Bachelor of Architecture degree program to secure their career. This program is suited for students who have no prior architectural training. Those who desire to earn a master's degree in architecture may take 1 to 5 years to finish, depending on the student's previous architectural training.

Many programs include classes in building design, architectural theory and history. Computer-aided design and drafting or CADD is another intense area of focus. Additional courses include: construction methods, structures, professional practices, liberal arts, math and physical sciences. The design studio is a huge component to the design studio. Here students learn to apply the concepts and skills they've acquired in the classroom in order to complete 3D models of their designs.

Many areas require that architects hold a professional degree in architecture obtained from one of the schools of architecture that are accredited by the NAAB or National Architectural Accrediting Board. Further information regarding state licensing requirements can be viewed at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.


Architecture graduates are required to complete a paid internship. Registration boards typically look to see a minimum of 3 years of experience prior to allowing the graduate to sit for the Architect Registration Exam. The majority of new graduates conduct their training period by working at architectural firms through the IDP or Intern Development Plan. Certain states allow some of the training to occur in offices of related careers including general contractors and engineers. Architecture students who finish their internships during school may count a portion of that time towards their 3 year training commitment.

Architectural interns may help design a part of a project; prepare construction CADD drawings, architectural drawings and documents. They may additionally build models, research installation criteria, building codes, the quality of particular finishes and write specifications for building codes.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Architects are required to be licensed. A professional degree in architecture needs to be obtained along with vital experience gained through a paid internship. Lastly, the Architect Registration Exam must be completed.

Continuing education requirements are an important way to keep a license. In certain places additional education requirements are mandatory. Requirements vary from location; however, extra education can be found through university classes, self-study options, conferences and workshops.

Many architects wish to become certified through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards or NCARB. This voluntary option enables architectures to become licensed across states. The NCARB is the primary requirement for reciprocity of licensing within state boards who are NCARB members. It is understandable to see why approximately 1/3 of licensed architects have this certification.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Analytical Skills: Architects are responsible for understanding the context and content of numerous designs. They need to grasp how mechanical systems for example are situated and how those systems will interact with building operations.

Communication Skills: Architects discuss and share their information and ideas via writing and oral presentations with other architects and their clients. They need to communicate with workers who prepare their drawings. Presentations explaining their designs are also common.

Creativity: The overall look of structures such as commercial buildings and houses is designed by the Architect. The final product needs to be functional and aesthetically attractive.

Organizational Skills: Detailed records pertaining to the project including: cost of materials, budget, and progress reports need to be recorded.

Technical Skills: CADD or computer-aided design and drafting technology is utilized frequently to create plans and is part of BIM or building information modeling.

Visualization Skills: It is vital that architects are able to see how components of a structure relate to one another. Being able to visualize how the completed building will look is an integral part of the process.