Are you interested in pursuing an education in architecture and a career as an architect? Are you working full-time? Are you married? Do you have kids? How do you navigate both family and career? How long will it take? Is it worth it? Are you too old?
First and foremost, you are NEVER too old to pursue an education and a career you love!
Seeking an architectural degree as an older student isn’t going to be a breeze, but it is certainly doable and most definitely rewarding. Regardless of what age you begin, there are steps you must follow to become licensed and to be able to call yourself an Architect.
The Basic Checklist on How to Become a Licensed Architect
The licensure process will differ depending on your chosen jurisdiction, but the basics of initial licensure are similar. Keep reading below for more information and resources beyond this basic checklist, which was first found on the Licensure Basics page on NCARB.com.
- Earn an architecture degree from a NAAB-accredited program, or meet your jurisdiction’s education requirement.
- Gain and document the required experience. All 55 U.S. jurisdictions accept the Architectural Experience Program™ (AXP™), but some require additional experience.
- Pass the ARE®. All 55 U.S. jurisdictions require you to pass the Architect Registration Examination®.
- Meet any extra jurisdictional requirements. Some boards require additional experience or a location-specific supplemental exam before licensure.
- Have your NCARB Record transmitted to the jurisdiction where you would like to be licensed. Before transmitting your Record, you should contact your board to verify its individual requirements.
Find Out What’s Required
Before you start requesting your academic transcripts and filling out college applications, do your research to find out what is required to become a licensed architect in your state. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has a fantastic tool that allows you to click on your state and discover the specifics for architect licensing. Click here to try out the licensing requirements tool.
Follow Your Heart
Invest your time wisely and on what gets you excited and what you love. Seek out an architectural college program that fits your interests and your passion. For example, are you interested in commercial or residential architecture? High design or home design? Construction science? Historical preservation? Follow your heart and do what makes you happy.
On the other hand, if you don’t know what kind of design interests you yet, don’t worry. Many architects don’t find their desired specialty until they are in the workforce for several years.
Find the Right Program for You
Research architectural programs in your area or in the city where you want to live. If your state requires an accredited college degree, look for a College or School of Architecture that offers accredited undergraduate and graduate professional degrees. Search for and verify degrees through the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) website.
If you already possess a four-year college degree in a subject other than architecture, you may be eligible for a “career change” type Master of Architecture degree. This degree is typically a three-year master’s degree instead of a typical two-year master’s program. Ask the admissions adviser in the College of Architecture what your current degree can do for you.
Don’t Wait, Start Now
While you research programs, save money for tuition and books, apply for scholarships, and write essays, you can still take steps towards honing your skills as a future architect. Start by practicing drawing, sketching, painting, woodworking, and any other creative endeavor that exercises your hand-eye coordination and allows you to visualize objects and places in your mind.
Develop a curiosity for buildings, homes, and public spaces. Study architectural history, green building technologies, and the work of contemporary, current day architects.
Keep a sketch book with you and draw what you see. Classmate and friend, Jamie Crawley is an architect in Austin, Texas. He makes it a daily habit to sketch with his morning coffee. Check out his Instagram for inspiration.
Use Your Age and Maturity to Your Benefit!
Keep in mind that as an older student, you’ll come at your educational pursuit from a much bigger life perspective. You’ll be more mature than the other students and will already have the experience of juggling the stresses of life. You’re also more likely to find yourself spending your evening hours studying vs. attending late night social events, parties, etc. Instead, your intention will be to further your career.
Find your Groove
If you are a full-time parent juggling kids, home and work, you are already a multi-tasker! Plan your classes around what works with your family’s current schedule. To start, maybe only take one or two classes until you find a groove, then add additional classes, as your children get older. While design studio classes are best taken in person, some classes may be available online.
Network with Others
An added benefit of being an older student is that you’ll likely be more compatible with your professors (vs. students straight out of high school) because you’ll be closer to their age. You can discuss real life scenarios with them such as juggling family, home and your education.
Realize and be comfortable with the fact that you are not the first older student to go through this process. Find other older architectural students to network with via architectural groups at your college, on social media, or through community groups like Meetup.com. Look for the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) chapter at your school and the local chapter of the architects’ professional organization, the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
A integral part of becoming an architect is the PRACTICE of architecture. It takes years of working under the mentorship of a licensed architect to gain the experience credits required by the Architectural Experience Program™ (AXP™). AXP™ is administered by the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB). As soon as you get your first job while in school or after graduation, start keeping track of your hours at work and start an NCARB record so you get credit.
Study and Pass the Licensing Exams
Each state in the U.S. is unique in how they qualify and license their architects. Visit the NCARB website to get information on what your state requires to get licensed and how to pass the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®). Many local AIA offices have study groups and study materials available for members.
Keep your Eye on the Prize!
Keep your eye on the prize of accomplishing your goal. That will make all your hard work worth it and you’ll ultimately be able to do the work that you want to do. Most importantly, enjoy the journey. A year from now, you will know more than you do today. Take the first step and get going. Good luck!