All states require prospective architects to be licensed by their home state licensing board (the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, or NCARB, provides a helpful list of links to state licensing boards as well as those in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands). Licensing requirements vary slightly state-to-state.
All state boards require architects to complete an internship before they are eligible to take the registration exam. In most states, the internship period involves three years of working under a licensed architect. All states except for Arizona use the standards established by NCARB's Intern Development Program, which include 700 training units in design and construction documents, construction contract administration, and management. Each training unit is the equivalent of approximately eight hours of work.
Once the on-the-job training, or internship, period is complete, prospective architects can take the ARE. A passing score for applicants who meet all other requirements may become licensed in their state. The exam covers nine areas:
- Building Design/Materials and Methods
- Building Planning
- Building Technology
- Construction Documents and Services
- General Structures
- Lateral Forces
- Mechanical and Electrical Systems
- Site Planning
In many states, licensed architects are required to complete continuing education hours. The New York State Education Department Office of the Professions, for example, requires licensed architects to complete 36 continuing education units in each three-year license renewal period. The Idaho Board of Architectural Examiners requires eight hours of continuing education annually in architectural health, safety, and welfare for license renewal.
An optional certification many architects seek out is one that is offered by NCARB itself. More than 30,000 architects have sought out the NCARB Certificate that facilitates license reciprocity between states and demonstrates that an individual has met NCARB's most stringent standards of competence.