ARE Live: How Much Does it Cost to Become a Licensed Architect?

In this episode of the ARE Live podcast, Mike Newman walks listeners through the cost of becoming a licensed architect.

It’s a long and expensive process, but NCARB is working hard to change that.

In this episode of the ARE Live, Black Spectacles founder Marc Teer was joined by licensed architects Mike Newman and Frank Heitzman to talk about the Architectural Experience Program - AXP (formerly the Intern Development Program - IDP) and the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) and how they relate to the process of becoming a licensed architect. This is Part 4 of the podcast in which they discuss the fees involved to get licensed, and the ways in which the industry is working to reduce the time and cost of the process.

Listen to the entire podcast here:
How to Become a Licensed Architect with Both the AXP and the ARE

There are a lot of fees involved with getting licensed. People complain about the fees all the time, which NCARB is trying to change. But it's difficult for NCARB to offer everything without fees.

The Architectural Experience Program - AXP (formerly the Intern Development Program - IDP) is affordable. It is $350. And you can break it up so that you pay $100 while you’re in school, and pay the rest after you graduate, or when you're ready to take the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). It is expected of you to complete the AXP within three years, although only two years’ worth of actual experience is required now. But after three years, they tack on an additional $75 per year for keeping your records in their system.

So let's say you pay the $350, and you're ready to take the ARE. The ARE is pay-as-you-go. It's $210 per division, and there’s seven divisions total. So that’s $1,470 in total, if you were to take each division only once.

Many large firms will actually reimburse you for that cost once you pass because they want you to be licensed. This is one thing people who are working towards licensure misunderstand. Architects don't want to keep you out of the profession. They're trying to bring you in because it helps their firm to have more licensed architects on staff.

If you're a firm of 30 people, and you can say that you have 15 licensed architects on board, that's a great selling point for the firm. Much better than if you only had three.

It might sound a bit funny that NCARB holds onto your records, but it is helpful.

Let’s say you get licensed in Wisconsin, then you move to Colorado. Can you work there? There are ways that you can get reciprocity and be able to become licensed in the Colorado. This works because NCARB is holding onto your records. There can be some complications, however. Always check out what kind of reciprocity your state has, because it's not all the same across the board.

Every state accepts the certification from NCARB. So once you pass the ARE, you can become licensed in your state. Then you can apply for NCARB certification, and as long as you have a Master’s degree, you’ll get it. You can take that certification to whatever state you want to be licensed in, and they will honor it. California is the only state that requires an additional test, which relates to their state code. But other states will accept it as is, because they know that that's the highest level of achievement in terms of licensure.

And part of the reason that there's all these fees is to help with that process.

Frank Heitzman has been certified since 1975, but has only utilized that certification once. He once had a job in Georgia, and his client asked him to get a license for the state. Because he is NCARB-certified, he was able to get one right away. So having that certification can come in handy and get you in the door for projects.

How does the process work for those who received an education overseas?

If you’re a graduate of a university from another country, you can become licensed in the United States or Canada, by going through the Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect Program.

It's similar to the Broadly Experienced Architect Program in the sense you have to work for an architect who is licensed in this country for a certain number of years. And you have to go through an interview process and have your degree made equivalent to an NAAB-accredited degree. You have to be able to show your transcripts. You have to be able to show your portfolio of work.

It is an expensive program. It’s probably going to cost you about $5,000 to go through the entire process.

So, here again, NCARB is trying to make it easier for people with foreign degrees to become licensed in this country. What they're proposing, which will most likely go through next summer, is that foreign architects' degrees will be accepted as they are, without having to go through the equivalency program process. And that they have to go through AXP and the ARE, just like any architect who is licensed in this country. Transcripts and portfolios will be gone. What’s left will be a really good and easy way for foreign architects to become licensed in this America.

American needs architects. We are short of architects right now, which is a sad situation. People are beginning to worry about the quantity of architects in 5-10 years from now. As the principals of firms begin to retire, they need to be replaced by the younger members of the firm, and there's just not enough of them who are licensed. So it's going to be a tough these next few years to make that transition. It's tough to make the transition with new technologies, but it's also tough to make the transition with filling those positions that are going to be opening up in the larger firms with licensed architects.

There’s a fair number of graduates, but there's not a lot of licensed architects.

It's slowly picking up, though. NCARB has been reporting an increase in the number of interns that are going through the licensure process now. For a long time aspiring architects were slowing or stopping the process altogether because they felt it took too long to become licensed.

You have to go through 6-7 years of school, do the AXP, and then take the exam, which takes forever to finish because you take maybe one division a month at the fastest, or maybe one division every six months.

And so it takes, literally, years. According to NCARB, the average person, from the time they finished school to the time they were licensed, it was around 20 years, which is amazing. And it explains why there's so few architects that become licensed these days. It's just too long.

But it is definitely doable. Especially now that NCARB has taken such an interest in shortening the process, it is becoming faster. The AXP has been shortened to two years from three. And there’s the new version of the ARE coming up. All of these things take some time, but there are ways to make it roll forward a bit faster. 


Watch the video here: 



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