The Path to Architectural Licensure Just Got Shorter

To those outside the architectural profession, the thought of being called an “intern” after earning a degree that took a minimum of five years (and many sleepless nights) might seem a bit anticlimactic. That title clings to us for an average of more than seven years, according to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB): five years to complete the Intern Development Program (IDP), and another two-plus years to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). And those are just averages because, well, life happens, so it’s conceivable that there are plenty of 30- or 40-somethings out there who are technically still interns. I count myself among them.

While most of us interns would prefer to call ourselves architects like, yesterday, the truth is we have to earn that right. However, NCARB is making some changes to help us make that happen a little sooner. The NCARB Board of Directors approved proposals—pending approval by individual state boards—to streamline the IDP in two phases:


The NCARB Board of Directors votes “Yes!” to approve changes to the IDP at the annual meeting (courtesy NCARB).

The first phase, beginning in June 2015, will streamline the program by focusing on the core hours and eliminating elective hours. The IDP currently requires interns to document 5,600 total hours of experience, comprising 3,740 hours of core requirements and 1,860 elective hours, which can be satisfied by engaging in activities outside the office, such as teaching, research, and hands-on construction work. Under the new program, interns will only be required to document 3,740 total hours. In the meantime, NCARB encourages interns to continue reporting their elective hours, and well, we should be doing those things anyway.

With the reduction in hours, NCARB predicts that the average time to complete the program should drop from five years to roughly three-to-four years. “Streamlining of the IDP requirements will reduce complexities while ensuring that intern architects still acquire the comprehensive experience that is essential for competent practice, and result in a program that is both justifiable and defensible,” said NCARB President Dale McKinney, FAIA.


Michael Armstrong, the chief executive officer of NCARB, speaks at the annual meeting (courtesy NCARB).

The second phase begins in mid-2016, when NCARB will overhaul the IDP program again by replacing the 17 core experience areas with six broad practice-based experience categories. The new divisions of ARE 5.0 (the future version of the exam, which is currently 4.0) will also align with these six categories.

I’ve already completed the IDP and taken a few exams, so these changes won’t directly benefit me, but they just might motivate me to get back aboard the ARE train and finally schedule that next exam. And you should, too, because who wants to be an intern? “Architect” just sounds so much cooler. To learn more about the IDP, ARE, and upcoming changes, visit

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