Getting your license as a professional architect is hard work. Break it down into manageable steps by reading through our quick guide.
Preparing for architect licensing in California takes a significant amount of time, money, and effort. Many architects pursue multiple-state licensing to expand their practice's geographic footprint. This also provides them the mobility to pursue out-of-the-area opportunities.
Some industries are now in high demand for architectural work, such as healthcare and education. Real estate is limited, so repurposing, remodeling, and reinvestment in existing buildings have become big businesses. Converting them into green buildings is particularly in demand.
As a new architect, consider choosing a lower-level position while working on your long-term licensing goals, or one with fewer responsibilities. This not only provides the opportunity to participate in the IDP program, but it also offers opportunities to polish your skills.
Licensing for professional architects in California is governed by CAB — the California Architects Board. They also regulate the legal practices for that profession.
NCARB — the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards — is equally essential in this process.
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The California Architects Board considers three areas of each candidate's application:
If you hold a license from another state, Licensure by Reciprocity is available.
The required accredited education can be obtained through other means, such as undergraduate degrees, working under the direct supervision of a licensed architect. You can also use international education and work experience.
Participation in the NCARB IDP, or the Intern Development Program, as an architect intern is the next step.
NCARB manages the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). However, the application to take the exam is through the California Architects Board. You can take the ARE if you have 5 years of the required work experience or education and you are enrolled in an IDP program.
The test is made up of these 7 divisions, including:
The CSE exam is a computer-based test that focuses on California-based practices. The exam takes about 1.5 hours to complete.
To qualify for the CSE, you need:
The test covers the following areas:
For a complete list of all areas to be tested, please refer to the CSE homepage.
Your California architect license must be renewed every two years. It expires on the last day of your birth month at midnight in odd-numbered years. Renewal notices are sent out approximately 60 days before your license's expiration.
NCARB Certification is held in high esteem in the US. Most architects seek this certification once they are well-established as a Licensed Professional Architect in one or more US states. For foreign-educated professionals, this is handled through the Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect (BEFA) Program.
Increasing Your Chances for Success
Taking these steps can help you build your career further:
Even once you have your license, you should never stop learning. Soft skills, leadership training, and knowledge of tangential industries — like real estate and interior design — will give you an advantage. Start advancing your career by enrolling in our Design Class course, "Learn to Lead with Matthew Rosenberg," to learn core leadership principles.
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