When Are You Eligible for the ARE 5.0?

  • 22 June, 2022

Before you start trying to schedule your first ARE 5.0 division exam, you first need to understand the three key components of getting your architect's license: education, experience, and examinations.

When Are You Eligible for the ARE 5.0?

1. Education

In most states, you must have a professional degree from a NAAB-accredited program in order to become a licensed architect. This is the most common route to licensure. If you already graduated from architecture program, hopefully you considered the NAAB-accreditation requirement when you decided where to go. If you are still looking at schools, be sure that the schools you are considering are accredited by going to the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) website and using the "School Search" tool1.

I would say that unaccredited architecture programs are quite rare, but they do exist. If you are considering one of them, just be sure you fully consider the implications that could have on getting licensed later on.

In a few states, it is possible to use additional years of professional experience (working as an unlicensed architectural designer) can be accepted instead of the education requirement. While this is possible, it is an uncommon path to licensure because these states typically require over nine years of work experience on top of the AXP experience requirement. If you are pursuing this route, check out your jurisdiction's licensing board website for specific requirements and reach out to them with any questions. The requirements for this method of licensure can be complicated so it is best to confirm that your plan will qualify.

2. Experience

In the past, the architect typically gained education and experience through apprenticeships under experienced Architects. NCARB continues this model by requiring documented professional experience in order to get licensed. This requirement is called the Architectural Experience Program, or AXP for short.

The AXP breaks down architectural practice into six experience areas (which match the six ARE 5.0 divisions) and ninety-six key tasks you should be able to perform once licensed. There is a huge variation in the number of hours required depending on the Experience Area, for example, Practice Management only requires 160 hours, whereas Project Development & Documentation required 1,520 hours. In total, 3,740 hours of experience are required to fulfill the AXP. That is about 2 years of full-time work! NCARB details these requirements in the Architectural Experience Program Guidelines2.

3. AXP Experience Area / Hours Required

Practice Management: 160
Project Management: 360
Programming & Analysis: 260
Project Planning & Design: 1,080
Project Development & Documentation: 1,520
Construction & Evaluation: 360
TOTAL: 3,740

First, you will need to establish an NCARB Record online. This is where you will verify your accredited education, record your AXP hours, and eventually schedule ARE testing appointments. Your AXP hours are recorded through Experience Reports, where you categorize the time you have spent working in each of the Experience Areas. At least half of your total AXP hours must be performed for an architecture firm (under a licensed Architect); this is called Experience Setting A. On your experience report, you will need to list a licensed Architect who supervises your work, and they will have to approve the hours you submit.

The other half of your hours can be performed in other settings, called Experience Setting O. These hours can be in a variety of settings, such as construction employment, design competitions, or work for other licensed professionals (like structural or MEP engineers). Even AIA Continuing Education for HSW (Health, Safety, and Welfare) or site visits with a mentor can count. There are many possibilities for Experience Setting O, and specific requirements for each, so please review NCARB's Architectural Experience Program Guidelines3.

4. Examination

Be sure to review your jurisdiction's licensing board's specific requirements, but typically you can begin scheduling ARE testing appointments after your education requirement is fulfilled.

Your education needs to be verified on your NCARB Record, so it is best to start this process early. In order to get it verified, you will need to go to the "Education" section of your record and click "Add University." Once you've inputted that information, you need to have your school send an official transcript to NCARB. Once NCARB receives the transcript, they will make sure it matches your information, and then your education will be officially verified.

In order to start scheduling, you will need to request eligibility through your NCARB Record. First, log in to your NCARB account and go to the "Exams" section of your NCARB Record. Click on the "Request Eligibility" button. You will need to select which jurisdiction you plan to get licensed in. This is not set in stone, so you can change your licensing authority when you are actually able to apply for licensure. This tool just confirms that you are eligible for the chosen specialty. Once you submit this eligibility request, it will be sent to your jurisdiction's board for approval. Most boards approve these requests fairly quickly but keep in mind that it could take a couple of weeks and is not an instant process. If there are any issues with your request, the board or NCARB will reach out to you to explain why.

5. Timeline

Getting all the steps we've discussed to become eligible for testing complete can really add up. I would suggest beginning the process as soon as you can. It is especially important to start getting your education verified early because that involves the Record Office of your school and NCARB's review to get it approved. There is no reason you should not get your education verified on your NCARB Record as soon as you can. Even if you think you won't start testing for a few months, the process can take some time so it's better to just have it done.

The "Request Eligibility" step usually is faster, but there is no harm in doing that as soon as possible either. The five-year rolling-clock rule, which requires that all exams be passed within 5 years to qualify, does not begin until you pass your first exam. The best course of action is just to get these annoying little steps out of the way as early as you can so that you do not hit any delays when you are actually ready to start scheduling your exams.


1 https://www.naab.org/accredited-programs/school-search/
2 https://www.ncarb.org/sites/default/files/AXP-Guidelines.pdf
3 https://www.ncarb.org/sites/default/files/AXP-Guidelines.pdf

About the Author: Genevieve Doman

Genevieve Doman is a licensed architect with over five years of professional experience working in Detroit, Chicago, and Seattle. She received her B.S. in Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from the Taubman College of Architecture at the University of Michigan

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