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Becoming an Architect

Are you interested in becoming an architect? The process of becoming a registered architect requires a bit of knowledge, planning, and decision making.  Our guide below will get you started.  Also, feel free to contact AIA Rochester for more information - our mentors are happy to answer your questions and provide guidance.

Three Es: Education, Experience, and Exam

There are three elements to satisfy in order to become a registered architect: Education, Exam, and Experience.  Let's examine each of these in depth.


As a student interested in architecture, the first decision you will need to assess is whether your high school courses are preparing you for a college admission.  Talk to your guidance counselor if you haven't already to make sure that you are on a college preparatory course of study, which involves four years of math, ETC 


The next step to consider is where to pursue your university education. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) publishes a list of accredited architecture degree programs.  NAAB accrediting teams routinely visit architecture programs to ensure that each program is teaching to the standards set forth in architectural education. There are currently 176 NAAB-accredited programs in the U.S.  Thirty eight states* require architects to obtain a degree from a NAAB-accredited program.


There are a few options for your educational route, and all require more than a 4 year undergraduate degree. 

  • The traditional route is the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) degree, which is a four year undergrad plus one year professional degree (4+1). Note, this is not to be confused with the preprofessional Bachelor of Science in Architecture

  • Another common route is a Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree (4+1.5 to 4+2). 

  • A third route to architecture generally involves students who have changed direction in career and carry an undergraduate degree in another field. These students can pursue a three year Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree (4+3). 


*There are 55 jurisdictions in the U.S. which license architects - all 50 states plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands.  Some states so not require a NAAB-accredited degree. New York State does not require a NAAB-accredited degree to become a registered architect, but students should think ahead to where they might want to live and work in the future when selecting a degree program.   

When selecting your school, there are a few questions to ask yourself. (PATH TO ARCHITECTURE)


All architects need to pass an examination to become registered.  The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards prepares the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) for candidates in all 55 jurisdictions in the U.S.  The ARE has six divisions, or individual tests, that are aligned with aspects of the profession and designed to ensure that candidates have the knowledge and skillsets to uphold the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

In New York State:

  • Students enrolled in a professional B.Arch/M.Arch first degree program may begin taking the ARE after completion of their third year in the program.

  • Students in a professional M.Arch program who have earned a prior undergraduate degree may begin the ARE after the completion of their first year in the program.


All six divisions of the ARE must be completed in a limited timeframe.  Per NCARB: "After you pass an ARE 5.0 division, your passing score on that division remains valid for an initial five-year window from the date you took the exam—this is known as the rolling clock. If you haven’t completed the ARE before the rolling clock period for a division ends, the passing score for that division will expire, and you will need to retake that division." Certain extensions are granted upon request, including medical reasons, birth/adoption of a child, or military service requirements.

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