To become an architect, you need to develop competency in a wide variety of tasks necessary for the practice of architecture as part of NCARB’s Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®). At least half (1,860 hours) of your experience must be earned under experience setting A—that’s work completed under the supervision of a U.S. or Canadian architect, while working for (and paid!) by a firm lawfully practicing architecture.
But not all of your experience has to be completed under setting A! There are a number of opportunities you can take advantage of under experience setting O that can help you both round out your professional development and progress through the AXP.
Keep in mind, for your work to qualify for the AXP, you must be developing competency in one or more of the tasks identified in the AXP Guidelines. If you are developing competency these tasks as part of your job, some of your work may qualify for AXP in one of these opportunities listed. If you are not performing any of the AXP’s 96 tasks at your job, then review some of the opportunities you can do outside of a work setting. Let’s explore how to gain and report experience under the setting O areas.
Paid or Volunteer Work:
These opportunities include work completed outside the typical practice of architecture, while you’re either working for a firm or volunteering for qualifying nonprofits. For each of these opportunities, you must have a supervisor other than yourself who meets the requirements of the specific opportunity.
Other Work Experience Under Licensed Professionals
For this work opportunity, you must be paid for your work, and your experience can be earned completing tasks in any area of the AXP. You can report up to 1,860 hours of experience earned while working under the supervision of:
- An architect who’s licensed outside the U.S. or Canada and practicing architecture internationally (work performed outside of the U.S. or Canada)
For example, if you worked on an architecture project in Japan under the supervision of a Japanese architect
- A U.S. or Canadian architect not practicing architecture (work must be performed in the U.S. or Canada)
For example, working at an interior design firm under the supervision of a U.S. architect
- A U.S. or Canadian engineer or landscape architect (work must be performed in the U.S. or Canada)
For example, if you worked at a Canadian engineering firm under the supervision of a Canadian structural engineer
Design or Construction Related Employment
Under this opportunity, you can report up to 320 hours of experience earned while working in design or construction, so long as that experience is developing competency in the tasks identified in the AXP Guidelines.
Your supervisor doesn’t need to be licensed in any field, but must be experienced in at least one of the following areas:
- Analysis of existing buildings
- Design of interior space
- Review of technical submissions
- Management of building construction activities
So, if you spend a year working at an interior design firm, you could potentially report those hours. For this work opportunity, you must be paid for your work, and your experience can be earned completing tasks in any area of the AXP.
Community-Based Design Center/Collaborative
Under this opportunity, you can earn up to 320 hours volunteering for an NCARB-approved, 501(c)(3) organization completing building design or planning work—such as volunteering for your American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) chapter’s Freedom by Design™ project. For this work opportunity, you must be working as an unpaid volunteer, and your experience can be earned completing tasks in any area of the AXP.
To count toward the AXP, you’ll need:
- An organization that’s been pre-approved by NCARB—you can find a list on our website, and instructions for how to apply if your organization isn’t on the list
- Work that falls under the tasks and experience areas outlined in the AXP Guidelines
- The organization will have an architect designated as the supervisor. Verify who this person prior to submitting your experience.
Under this opportunity, you can earn up to 320 hours under the Construction & Evaluation experience area for working in construction. If you are working for a contractor or building company, you must be paid for this experience to qualify. However, if you are volunteering for a nonprofit organization, you do not need to be paid. So, if you spend a summer as a paid employee on a construction site or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, this is where you could potentially report those hours.
For this work opportunity, your AXP supervisor doesn’t have to be licensed to review and approve your experience reports. Your supervisor is whoever has direct supervision over your work and experience in the field (such as a foreperson).
Self-Directed or Mentor-Supervised Work
These opportunities include self-directed experiences such as continuing education, as well as opportunities to gain experience under the supervision of a qualified mentor. You don’t need to be employed to complete any of these opportunities. NCARB will review and approve these hours once reported.
CSI Certification: CCCA and CSS
Under this opportunity, you can earn experience by completing one or both of the following Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) certifications:
- Certified Construction Specifier (CCS): 40 hours in Project Planning & Design
- Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA): 40 hours in Construction & Evaluation
Under this opportunity, you can earn up to 320 hours in any experience area for completing and submitting a design competition entry under the supervision of a mentor. The work must align to at least one AXP task, and you’ll need to submit a Design Competition Verification Form to NCARB to report your hours. Entries submitted while employed by a firm count as long as your work would not fall under any other work setting. Entries submitted as part of an academic requirement do not qualify. Your mentor must be a licensed U.S. or Canadian architect. Read more details in the AXP Guidelines!
Site Visit With Mentor
Under this opportunity, you can earn up to 40 hours in the Construction & Evaluation area for visiting construction sites with your AXP mentor. Your site visit should be interactive and include discussion of design decisions and drawings. Your mentor must be a licensed U.S. or Canadian architect.
There are two experience opportunities that allow you to earn AXP credit for completing continuing education courses. Under both opportunities, NCARB serves as your AXP supervisor.
- NCARB’s Professional Conduct CE Series: Up to 10 hours in Practice Management if you complete all 5 courses (they’re free for candidates with an active NCARB Record!) Your hours will be automatically approved by NCARB once you pass the test.
- AIA CE: Up to 20 hours per experience area for completing AIA courses that qualify for Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) credit. NCARB will approve your hours after you submit an official AIA transcript—contact AIA if you need assistance obtaining a transcript.
What if I earn experience working under the supervision of a U.S. or Canadian architect while working abroad?
This experience counts under experience setting A, so long as it meets all the other requirements outlined in the AXP Guidelines.
Can I ever review and approve my own experience?
No. There is no AXP opportunity where you can review and approve your own experience reports.
What’s the difference between the “Design and Construction Related Employment” and “Construction Work” opportunities?
Design and Construction Related Employment includes work similar to what architects perform (building design and construction administration), where your supervisor is not licensed as an architect, engineer, or landscape architect. Construction Work includes actual construction, such as labor performed by contractors. If you spent a summer working for a construction firm that does design and builds, you could earn experience under both opportunities.
What does it mean to be “employed by a firm”?
To be employed by a firm, you can be either a traditional W-2 employee, an independent contractor employee receiving a 1099, or have some other connection to the company, so long as you are paid for your work. In addition, there must be someone who can serve as your supervisor (can be a business partner or above you in the hierarchy). A supervisor cannot be someone you employ or have hired.