What it Takes: Becoming an Architect / by John Caveney

We all know about architects, but what exactly does it take to become one?

Architect's are responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of the community.  They have to ensure that the buildings they are designing are structurally sound, improve on the built environment, and, above all, are safe.  So how can you be sure your architect can handle all of this? 

For starters the practice of architecture is regulated - meaning that in order to call yourself an architect you need to be registered in the state where you practice.  What does it take to become registered? Let's take a look:

In a nutshell before one can earn the title of architect they need to complete:

  1. A professional degree of architecture from an accredited college or university
  2. Earn 5,600 hours of professional experience
  3. Pass all 7 of the architectural registration exams
  4. Be interviewed by the state licensing board
 A small sample of ARE study material

A small sample of ARE study material

Item One - To most people this should make a lot of sense.  You want to make sure your doctor passed medical school, the same holds true for architects.  Architects typically are in school an average of 5-7 years before they graduate with a degree. By the time they graduate they can hold titles like; designer, design coordinator, and project coordinator.  If they want to hold the title of architect they need to pursue steps 2-4.

Item Two - Have you ever heard that it takes 5,000 hours to master a skill (10,000 hours if you're Malcolm Gladwell)?  The idea that you need to work under a licensed architect for 5,600 hours is similar in concept - you are learning the way things work to master a set of skills. The way materials come together, how building codes function, how to present in front of boards, and how to draw properly are only a handful of tasks needed to be mastered.  As the list goes on, these are all items that need to be understood before you can call yourself an architect. Think again about your doctor, you want to make sure they completed all of their residency hours (dealing with real patients in real situations) before they go off on their own to diagnose you!

Item Three - This is the critical step that needs to be completed.  Unfortunately, this also deters a lot of potential candidates from becoming architects.  After 5-7 years of school potential young architects then have to sit for 7 professional examinations and pass each.  This process is becoming simpler, but on average it can take someone an additional 2-5 years to complete.  Lawyers have the Bar Exam, architects have the ARE. It's a seven step exam testing candidates competency ensuring they know their stuff.

Item Four - Not all states require this, but it is a good way for the state licensing board to find out if architectural candidates are of sound ethical mind and act in a professional manner.  This is a simple process, but again, it is another step that must be taken.

Here at CAC we are strong advocates for our designers to become licensed. We believe that it is an important step for professional growth - and pretty rewarding.  Ready to talk to one of our architects?