Licensure Overview

The U.S. Constitution grants individual states the responsibility to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. The regulation of the architecture profession and the licensure of its practitioners are ways in which states exercise that power. Licensure is the highest form of professional regulation, and all 50 states require an individual to be licensed in order to call him or herself an architect.

State licensing boards, designated to oversee regulatory responsibilities in architecture, exist in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Together, the 55 boards form the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Each member board has the authority to set its own set of standards for licensure, and the criteria vary considerably among jurisdictions, but all boards require that a candidate for licensure satisfy standards for education, experience, and examination.

To satisfy their examination requirements, every NCARB member board requires interns to pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), owned and operated by NCARB. The ARE is administered on a year-round basis and consists of nine divisions: pre-design; site planning; building planning; building technology; general structures; lateral forces; mechanical and electrical systems; materials and methods; and construction documents and services.

Architects customarily work in several states and must be licensed to practice in each. Once licensure in a "home" state has been obtained, architects may seek reciprocal licensure in other states by demonstrating that they meet their education, training and examination standards. NCARB certification facilitates reciprocal licensure among its member boards. Not all registered architects are eligible for NCARB certification. Qualifications for the NCARB certificate include a current license issued by a member board and satisfaction of the NCARB education, training and examination standards. The education standard for the NCARB certificate is a professional degree from a NAAB-accredited program. The training standard is completion of the Intern Development Program (IDP) training requirements. The examination standard is completion of the ARE. Twenty-one states require the NCARB certificate for reciprocal licensure.

Related Links
NCARB and the Regulation of Architecture in the United States
Establishing an NCARB Council Record & Council Record Fees
Advantages of NCARB Certification
Canadian Requirements for Certification
Links to Canadian Provincial Registration Boards
Information for Foreign Applicants

Chronology of Architectural Licensure
The following chronology documents the formation of the professional and regulatory organizations; institution of state registration regulation; important committees, meetings, and conferences; as well as significant articles, publications, and reports related to architectural licensure.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is founded.

The AIA hosts its first National Convention.

The Western Association of Architects (WAA) is founded.

The WAA merges with the AIA.

Illinois becomes the first state to regulate the practice of architecture.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) is founded.

NCARB hosts its first annual meeting.

Vermont and Wyoming, the final two states to do so, move to regulate the practice of architecture.

A standardized national registration examination is developed by the NCARB.

Canada starts requiring the ARE for initial registration.

California begins administering its own licensing exam, the California Architect Licensing Examination (CALE).

Architectural Practice: A Critical View, by Robert Gutman, is published by Princeton Architectural Press.

"P/A Reader Poll: Internship and Registration" is published in the June issue of Progressive Architecture.

In June, California discontinues its CALE and reverts to offering the ARE.

Architecture: The Story of Practice, by Dana Cuff, is published by MIT Press.


A paper, titled "NCARB and How It Relates to Architectural Professional Associations," is published by NCARB. This paper explores how two principle considerations, federal antitrust law and public credibility, collectively define the extent to which NCARB can engage in joint undertakings with the other collateral architectural organizations.

"Can this Profession be Saved?" by Thomas Fisher, is published in the February issue of Progressive Architecture, offering a preliminary comparison of architecture with other professions.

"A White Gentlemen's Profession?" by John Morris Dixon, is published in the November issue of Progressive Architecture.

The Final Report of the AIA Licensing and Reciprocity Task Force is released by the AIA. This report identifies the need for the AIA to be a more effective advocate in the area of registration standard setting.

"Good Firms/Bad Firms" by Thomas Fisher, is published in the August issue of Progressive Architecture.


The last paper-based version of the ARE is administered during the week of June 17-20.

NCARB institutes the computerized ARE.

The Favored Circle: The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction, by Garry Stevens, is published by MIT Press.


In May, the first issue of what would later become ArchVoices newsletter is published.

In June, the Union of International Architects (UIA) Accord on Recommended International Standards of Professionalism in Architectural Practice is approved at the XXI UIA Assembly in Beijing, China.

"Common Good," an expose on NCARB, is authored by Eric Adams and published in the June 1999 issue of Architecture.

The AIA Board adopts a policy advocating that students of accredited degree programs be eligible to take and be prepared to pass the Architect Registration Examination immediately upon graduation. (Experience, in addition to the examination, would still be required of graduates in order to obtain licensure.)

For the first time, the 2000-02 AIA Firm Survey includes an employment category for "non-registered architects." Non-registered architects account for 17% of all staff at architecture firms nationwide.

In January, the Collateral Internship Task Force Final Report is published and presented to the Five Presidents' Council.

NCARB issues its 2000-2001 Practice Analysis Report in February, 'validating' the IDP and ARE. The report is based on an 18-month study called "A Survey of the Practice of Architecture," which garnered a statistically insignificant response from interns.

The NCARB Board rejects, 11-1, that students should be able to take the licensing exam immediately after graduation, as recommended by the CITF. It also rejects, unanimously, conferring the title of 'Architect' on new graduates, as recommended by the CITF Final Report.

Effective October 25, the Texas Board of Architects and Engineers allows interns to begin taking the ARE if they have completed a professional degree program and have completed six months' experience under the direct supervision of a licensed architect.