Licensure vs. Certification. What’s the Difference?

Licensure and NCARB certification are often confused, but it’s crucial to understand the differences, whether you’re embarking on the path to become an architect or already licensed! So, let’s start with the basics.

A license is granted by your licensing board and enables you to legally offer architectural services.

Before you can officially call yourself an architect, you have to earn a license from one of the 55 U.S. licensing boards, which include the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each of the licensing boards set requirements for licensure in their jurisdiction, but they all involve completing these three core components:

  • Education: Earn an architecture degree from a National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredited program, or otherwise meet your jurisdiction’s education requirement.
  • Experience: Gain and document the required experience. All 55 U.S. jurisdictions accept the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®), but some require additional experience.
  • Examination: Pass the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), which is required in all 55 U.S. jurisdictions.

Your license will give firms, clients, and the public confidence in your skills and ability to properly protect their health, safety, and welfare.

Unlike your license, your NCARB Certificate is granted by us, and serves as an official credential that demonstrates you’ve met national standards to practice—offering additional benefits that will help you advance your career.

Following initial licensure, obtaining an NCARB Certificate ensures you can get the most out of your career in architecture. It provides mobility and signifies that you have met important standards accepted by most licensing boards. With an NCARB Certificate in hand, it will be simpler for you to get licensed across jurisdictions—allowing you the freedom and flexibility to further your career and connect with clients regardless of location.

Once you’ve earned certification, you can take advantage of all of these benefits:

  • NCARB Credential: You can use the letters “NCARB” after your name. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love credentials?
  • Reciprocity and Mobility: Thinking about moving to a different state in the future? The Certificate makes it easy for you to obtain a license in a new jurisdiction.
  • Competitive Edge: Setting yourself apart from other architects can be key for your career; the greater flexibility you’ll enjoy as a Certificate holder is often an important factor for firms when hiring and promoting.
  • Security: As an NCARB Certificate holder, you won’t have to worry about record keeping—all your information is stored on our secure server, ready whenever you need it.
  • Free Continuing Education: Earning continuing education hours in Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) has never been easier, thanks to NCARB’s online Mini-Monograph Series—free for Certificate holders.

So, while licensure and certification come to play at different stages, they go hand-in-hand to ensure you make the most of your professional career in architecture.

Ready to expand your professional reach? Learn how to apply for an NCARB Certificate!