How to Become an Architect

Three Methods:Prepare to Become an ArchitectFulfill Educational and Training RequirementsGetting Licensed as an Architect

Architects design and oversee the construction of buildings, homes and other structures used as shelters. They are highly educated, licensed professionals who are responsible for ensuring the safety and functionality of each project they undertake. This article provides a look at the architecture profession, the educational and licensure requirements for becoming an architect, and options for a career in the architecture field.

Method 1
Prepare to Become an Architect

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    Understand the profession. Architecture involves more than an aptitude for drawing or basic carpentry. Architects are involved in each phase of the process of creating a new structure, from conceiving the idea for the structure's design to communicating the plans to clients to overseeing the construction process and ensuring the final structure is satisfactory. Architects have the following talents and skills:
    • They are creative. Architects come up with original ideas for creating well-designed structures that complement their surroundings and suit their functional purpose. Every seemingly simple structure we encounter was dreamed up by an architect aiming for the sweet spot of beauty and functionality.
    • They are science-minded. Architecture is both an art and a science. In addition to designing buildings with elegance and beauty in mind, architects must understand how the different components of a building work together to create a sturdy, safe environment. An understanding of math and physics is essential.
    • They are good communicators. Architects must effectively share their vision for a structure with the client who will be constructing it. They are excellent at giving presentations, describing their ideas clearly and ensuring client satisfaction.
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    Decide what type of architect you want to be. Some architects work for firms and see projects through from conception to completion. Others use their talents and skills in different parts of the industry.
    • Landscape architects have a background in plant sciences as well as architecture, and focus on how spaces outside buildings play a complementary role.
    • Some architects focus only on design, making sure the plans for a building follow building codes and meet the expectations of the client.
    • Construction firms often hire architects as project managers who oversee the construction of structures.
    • Architects may focus on certain types of buildings, such as high-security facilities, hospitals, or schools. They may also work on restoration of old buildings.
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    Talk to architects. As you're deciding whether you want to become an architect, talk with licensed professionals to get a sense of what it takes to have a career in architecture.
    • Contact architecture firms in your area and ask if you can set up informational interviews. Ask for architecture program recommendations and other advice.
    • Find a part-time job or internship at an architecture firm to get an even better sense of what the field is like.

Method 2
Fulfill Educational and Training Requirements

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    Major in architecture. Research colleges and universities with strong architecture programs. Majoring in architecture will ensure you have the prerequisites you need to enter an architecture master's program.
    • Some schools offer five-year programs that allow you to combine your bachelor's and master's degree without the need to apply to separate programs. Make sure the program you choose is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).
    • Art, math, environmental design, and other relevant majors are also appropriate choices to prepare you for a career in architecture. Just make sure you've taken the courses required to apply to graduate programs.
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    Get a graduate degree in architecture from a program accredited by the NAAB. If you did not enter a five-year combined bachelor's and master's program, you will need a master's in architecture after completing your undergraduate degree. Some programs focus on innovative, modern design, some on restoration, and others on environmentally-friendly design. Research programs that meet your needs and personality.
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    Enter an Internship Development Program (IDP) administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Each state requires that potential architects complete an IDP before they are granted licensure. The programs are designed to give hands-on exposure in the areas of pre-design, design, project management and practice management.
    • Most IDP programs take about three years to complete.
    • It is possible to begin an IDP while you are still enrolled in school. Hours spent working in an architecture firm or completing school projects may count toward the IDP.
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    Pass all divisions of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). The ARE has sections relating to may facets of the architect profession, and assesses whether the architecture candidate has the knowledge and skills needed to perform an architect's role.
    • The test has more components than can be completed in one day. Candidates are required to schedule a day to take each section of the test until they are all completed.
    • Consider taking a seminar or study course to prepare for the ARE.

Method 3
Getting Licensed as an Architect

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    Obtain your initial license. Contact the architecture registration board in the state where you will be practicing to find out the requirements you must meet for initial licensure in addition to completing an IDP and passing the ARE.
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    Get NCARB certification. Once you have your initial license, fill out the paperwork required to certified. This certification shows that you have met the highest professional standards possible, and allows you to work with clients across more than one state.
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    Start practicing. Depending on your educational path and personal interests, join a firm that focuses on residential building, commercial building, or both. Consider operating as a consultant as a way to get your feet wet.


  • The educational, training and licensure requirements specified apply to architects practicing in the United States. Different requirements apply to those practicing outside the US.

Article Info

Categories: Architecture and Design Occupations