How to Become an Architect?

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Thinking of becoming an architect in the United States? It’s a fun and challenging career that lets you indulge in your imagination and help bring creative ideas to life through design. Get familiar with some of the steps required to pursue this exciting career path below.

Architects help to establish the built environment around us. They design the homes we live in, the schools we learn in, the art museums we visit on weekends, and they get to enjoy the legacies of their work long after they’ve been completed. If you’re a creative and analytical person or have always wondered how those towering skyscrapers get built, this profession could be suited for you. If you want to know how to become an architect in the US, read on to learn about the standard requirements to begin this exciting and dynamic career path.

What is Needed to Become an Architect?

When it comes to gaining a license as an architect in the US, every state differs in regard to its requirements. However, no matter where you live, there are typically 3 core components that must be completed to gain professional licensure. Here is a general overview of what is needed to become an architect.

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Examination


Professional, licensed architects in the United States must first earn a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture – also called a B.Arch – from a university that offers an accredited NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) program. B.Arch programs will typically cover topics such as the history of architecture, building technology, structural systems, and other fundamental design concepts that you’ll need to understand in this field. If you decide to take this direct route with a professional degree, you will not be required to attend graduate school afterward.

Conversely, you could choose to pursue a pre-professional degree by taking a Bachelor of Arts or Science, majoring in another subject. However, these won’t qualify you for a license. After earning your Bachelor’s degree, you will need to attend a graduate school to earn a Master’s in architecture, also known as an M.Arch, in order to qualify for a license.


Once you’ve fulfilled the educational requirements, you’ll need to gain experience with an established architectural firm. This is conducted through the Architect Experience Program (AXP). It’s a requirement for almost all states and licensing boards throughout the United States. While putting your education into practice, you’ll set up an NCARB Record where you will document the hours spent training and developing your professional skills in the field.


The final step for gaining your architectural license is to pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), which is broken down into six divisions. All divisions of the ARE must be passed in order to get certified and you can take this at any time. This is a requirement across all 50 states in the US.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Architect?

If you’re wondering how long does it take to become an architect, this depends on the path that you choose. If you pursue a professional Bachelor’s degree in Architecture (B.Arch), this will take approximately 5 years. Alternatively, for those who choose to gain a Bachelor of Arts or Science, these typically take 4 years. However, candidates must attend graduate school after to obtain their Master’s in Architecture (M.Arch), which can take an additional 2 to 3 years on average to complete.

How to Become an Architect without a Degree?

Having a degree and certification demonstrates that you meet the highest standards as an architect in the US. It also makes it much easier to gain employment in this industry. However, it isn’t necessarily mandatory to have a formal education in certain states to become an architect. Areas like Hawaii enable aspiring architects to get licensed if they have 11 years of work-related experience. In Washington, you may also be allowed licensure after passing the ARE, along with 9 years of experience and completion of the AXP. Since the requirements and conditions can vary from state to state, it’s imperative to research and understand the particular requirements stipulated by the state that you live in or plan to work in.

Being an architect is a rewarding career and a lifelong pursuit. It allows you to combine creative ideas and designs and transform them into reality with structures that you can look back on as part of your legacy. If you’ve been dreaming of developing drafts and designs to help shape our physical world, there’s no better time to get started than now!

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