An architect license is a certification obtained from the state that grants permission for a person to work as an architect. To receive this license, an architect must have the proper education and training. These requirements are determined by licensing boards that set varying qualifications by state.
The first step to getting an architect license is to enroll in an architecture program approved by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Those considering a program not approved by the NAAB should contact Evaluation Services for Architects (ESSA), which is a division of the NAAB. They deal primarily with architects from other countries, but they can help determine if the program being considered will enable the student to eventually get an architect license.
Along with education, hands-on experience and training are needed to become a registered architect. This takes place through an Intern Development Program (IDP). Together with a mentor, the aspiring architect works in an architectural environment to observe, participate in and eventually initiate architectural projects. A sponsor in a different architectural setting works with the architecture student and the mentor. This training period typically lasts anywhere from one to five years, and upon completion, the student will walk away with a portfolio of work from architecture projects.
After the required education and training take place, the architect-to-be is ready to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Consisting of nearly 600 questions split into nine different parts, the test is a thorough examination of theoretical knowledge of architecture and the final step to obtaining an architect license. The format of the ARE is a combination of multiple-choice questions and graphs. The nine parts are pre-design, general structures, lateral forces, mechanical and electrical systems, building design/materials and methods, construction documents and services, site planning, building planning and building technology. All nine parts must be passed within five years to get an architect license.
Once all licensing requirements are met, the applicant must register with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Before the board can grant an architect license, the applicant must submit an application and fee, which varies by state and should be sent to the testing facility. Some states require a written summary of architectural rules and regulations. An architect license must be renewed every so often, depending on individual state requirements. To do so, additional credit hours must be completed and appropriate forms and fees be sent to the NCARB.