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Mar 11

What Are The Requirements To Be An Architect?

With all of this talk about taking the ARE, it’s important to understand what are the specific requirements to be an architect. There are many different paths that people take to becoming licensed architects so there is certainly no set way you have to do things but it’s important to understand the process before you’re ready to take the ARE.

Here’s a look at some of the basic requirements needed before becoming an architect.

Education

There are many different degrees that you can get that vary depending on the program at that specific university.

Bachelors Degree – Bachelors degrees in architecture come in a variety of different ways such as: Bachelors of Science, Bachelors of Architecture, or even Bachelors of Arts. Most of these are the standard 4-year program but these degrees do NOT count as “professional” degrees. We’ll talk more about professional degrees and how they relate to the ARE and IDP in a little bit.

There are also programs that offer 5-year bachelor degrees that DO count as professional degrees. These are different than the standard 4 + 2 programs and you should research these schools and programs in more detail.

Masters Degree – It is almost necessary in most states to have a Masters degree in architecture to even become eligible for the ARE. This rule varies from state to state so it’s important to check with the state you’d like to become licensed in first.

Masters programs are typically an addition 2 years (unless your undergraduate degree is not in architecture in which case your masters program will be 3 years) and once you are complete you will have a professional degree in architecture. Most Masters programs require you to complete a thesis program your final year in school which specializes in one specific area of study for an entire year. Thesis projects can act as great preparation for the real world as well as a good way to prepare you for the ARE.

IDP

IDP stands for the Intern Development Program and is administered by NCARB (like the ARE). The purpose of IDP is to prepare prospective architects for the ARE by ensuring that they are getting the proper training in the real world. Once you have your degree in architecture, you can sign up for IDP and begin tracking your training hours or units.

Depending on if you have a professional degree or not, the number of training units will vary. Typically, if you don’t have a professional degree in architecture, it will take you roughly 5 years worth of training before being ready to take the ARE where as a professional degree will typically only require about 2 ½ years of training to complete IDP.

The purpose of IDP is to make sure that young “architects” (not technically) are trained in a broad range of skills before becoming eligible for the ARE. Through this program, you will track your hours doing a number of tasks including: schematic design, construction documents, project management, and construction administration. There are many more categories that require training hours through IDP so make sure you take a look at that.

To get started with IDP, you need to establish an NCARB record which can be done online through NCARB.

ARE

Once you have finally completed IDP, you are finally ready to take the ARE. If you’re not sure what is is, please see “What Is The ARE?” for more information.

In some states, you may be eligible for the ARE while you are still enrolled in IDP. This overlap in programs allows you to get a head start taking the ARE but certainly doesn’t allow you to skip IDP. It is still a requirement to become an architect that you complete IDP, whether it is before or after the ARE in some cases. Make sure you look at your specific state’s registration board for more information regarding this circumstance.

Even if you are allowed to take the ARE before completing IDP, it may not be a good idea to start the ARE since you are able to learn so much just by the experiences you see during IDP

Once you are complete with your 7 ARE exams, you are finally a registered architect. Simply complete some final paperwork with your state and with the AIA and you will be ready to practice architecture!


The process and requirements to be an architect are certainly not easy and require a lot of time and effort. The important part is to take your time now and make sure you understand the process of education, IDP and the ARE. The more you know about each of these requirements the better off you’ll be throughout this process.

Of course, for more information you can check out NCARB or your local state for the specific requirements for becoming an architect.

To see more frequently asked questions regarding the ARE, see our ARE FAQs here!