Why It’s Never Too Late to Earn an Architecture License

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Retrofit.

It’s an exciting time to be an architect. Employment rates are expected to grow by 7 percent over the next decade—particularly as shifting demographics, consumer behaviors, and emerging technology influence how we approach the built environment. Which is why it’s the perfect time to get back in the game and earn an architecture license.

Demand for spaces that protect not only the public’s safety, but also their health and well-being, is transforming the AEC marketplace. And possessing the knowledge and skills to effectively design, build, and manage these projects has never been more important.

In light of these trends, it comes as no surprise that the number of professionals working toward an architecture license reached an all-time high in 2015. Yet, we all know someone who had to put their licensure goals on hold—whether to care for family, join the military, pursue new career opportunities, or any number of personal reasons.

Recognizing Diverse Experience

Many of these professionals continue to build successful careers in the AEC field, perhaps as designers or project managers, gaining vital experience along the way. Often times, they will reach a point where completing the Architectural Experience Program™ (AXP™) in the traditional way—documenting 3,740 hours through six categories—is no longer feasible.

Recognizing this, NCARB recently launched an online option for experienced design professionals, called the AXP Portfolio. Through this path, candidates looking to earn a license can satisfy the AXP’s requirements by submitting exhibits of work that demonstrate competency across 96 tasks.

These tasks, which are defined under the AXP’s six categories, are drawn from all phases of architectural practice and represent the skills an architect needs to practice independently—including preparing contract documents, developing project budgets, conducting site visits, and everything in between. Candidates will work with a current supervisor to complete their portfolio, ensuring they possess the skills and knowledge needed to practice independently.

Getting Started with the AXP Portfolio

To be eligible for the AXP Portfolio, professionals must:

  1. Be able to document two years of applicable experience that is older than five years, one of which must have been under the direct supervision of an architect; and
  2. Have a current architect supervisor who can approve the portfolio.

Candidates will also need to meet their licensing board’s education and examination requirements, which in most cases, involves passing the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®).

Through the AXP Portfolio, NCARB’s goal is to open doors for experienced professionals looking to become licensed. This option is a reminder that it’s never too late, or a better time, to fulfill your career goals and gain the independence licensure provides. Learn more about earning a license through the AXP Portfolio.

About the Author

Harry joined the Council in April 2006 as the assistant director, Record services. Harry became the director of IDP when the Council was reorganized in 2007, and began overseeing education-related programs in 2012. His experience includes 15 years working in architecture-engineering firms and seven years working in facilities planning and design. His practice of architecture, while varied, focused on the college and university market sector. In 2017, Harry was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows.

Harry earned a B.Arch. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University before moving to he Washington metropolitan area. He is licensed to practice architecture in Virginia, has been certified as a construction documents technologist by the Construction Specifications Institute, and holds the NCARB Certificate.