Sale Ends Soon: Advance Your Engineering Career and Save $500 on FE and PE Exam Prep with PPI. Find Your Prep Course and Get Started Today. Shop Now »

ARE Exam Resource Center

Once you’ve earned an architecture license, you can officially call yourself an architect. There are several benefits of being a licensed architect, including qualifying for more job opportunities, being able to sign off on blue prints, and being able to design public health buildings.

Showing all 0 ARE Exam Articles

How to Become an Architect

What is an architect?

An architect is a licensed professional who plans and designs buildings and other structures and often oversees their construction. They undergo extensive training in the art and science of building design. Licensure is a requirement for architects as they are responsible for public safety. Architects work on a wide range of projects depending on their specialty which can include everything from building skyscrapers to schools. Architecture is a rewarding career path with competitive salaries and the unique opportunity to create innovative spaces that will benefit current and future generations.

What does an architect do?

Architects do much more than design aesthetically pleasing buildings. They are involved in every phase of a building’s construction, from its conception to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. On any given day, an architect might meet with clients, prepare construction documents, or visit a worksite. An architect’s specific responsibilities change from project to project, but common duties include:

  • Consultation - Architects meet with clients to determine a project’s requirements, objectives, and budget.

  • Design - Architects develop construction plans, which illustrate the structure’s appearance and outline the construction details. 

  • Documentation - Architects use advanced computer technology, such as CAD, to translate their drawings into feasible designs.

  • Construction - Architects oversee the construction of their structures and visit construction sites to ensure compliance with the architectural plans.

Architect vs. Civil Engineer

Architecture and civil engineering are similar professions with key distinctions. Both architects and civil engineers plan and design buildings. However, architects concentrate on the aesthetics of the structural work, including the look, feel, and functionality, whereas civil engineers focus on the structure’s safety. Architects and civil engineers often collaborate on projects, and both roles perform critical functions. Salaries for the two professions vary depending on factors like location and experience, but according to U.S. News & World Report, civil engineers earn a higher median salary than architects.

Skills Needed to Be a Successful Architect

Architects wear a lot of hats in their day-to-day work, so the skills needed to be successful as an architect are diverse. Some key skills you need to work as an architect include:

  • Design skills - Architects must combine visual appeal with functionality and have a deep understanding of design processes.

  • Numerical skills - Architects are responsible for designing safe and functional buildings, so they must possess an advanced understanding of math concepts, such as geometry and physics.

  • Problem-solving - Problems will inevitably arise during architectural projects. Being able to resolve design-related problems or legal issues is a crucial skill for architects.

  • Attention to detail - While attention to detail is important for most careers, it is especially critical for architects. Even the smallest miscalculation or overlooked detail can set a project back months.

  • Communication - Architects work within a team and often collaborate with experts in related fields. Strong interpersonal and communication skills will help architects effectively interact with others on the job.

  • Teamwork - Architects must collaborate with internal and external teams to complete a project. The ability to work well with others, whether it’s with clients, contractors, or construction managers, is another important skill for an architect.

  • Leadership skills - Architects have to take ownership of their projects and often manage junior architects and other contractors. Strong leadership skills will help architects motivate their teams to do their best work.

How long does it take to become an architect?

How long it takes to become a licensed architect depends on various factors, including your location and which degree program you choose. Architecture degree programs can take five to more than seven years to complete. According to data from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the average licensure candidate who completed their final requirement in 2020 took 12.3 years. 

How to Become an Architect

Requirements to become an architect depend on where you’d like to be licensed and the specialty you are pursuing. In general, you need to fulfill three requirements to become a licensed architect: education, experience, and examination. Below is the step-by-step process for becoming an architect.

1) Earn a degree from an accredited architecture program

The first step to becoming a licensed architect is to earn a degree from an accredited architecture program. There are two options for earning an architecture degree. The fastest way to become an architect is to earn a five-year undergraduate degree in architecture, known as the B.Arch. Alternatively, you can complete a two or three-year master’s program in architecture, the M.Arch, after earning an undergraduate degree in any subject. Whichever path you choose, ensure your program is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

2) Gain work experience hours in an architect internship

All U.S. states require architecture students to participate in an internship known as the Architectural Experience Program (AXP). During the AXP, interns work under a professional architect and get exposure to processes, technology, and all the other technicalities involved in the profession. The intern will need to document a total of 3,740 required hours across six areas:

  1. Practice Management

  2. Project Management

  3. Programming & Analysis

  4. Project Planning & Design

  5. Project Development & Documentation

  6. Construction & Evaluation

The AXP is an excellent way for architecture candidates to learn about the daily realities of working as an architect, make professional connections that may lead to job opportunities, and refine their career goals.

3) Pass the architect licensure exam

The final step to earning licensure is passing the Architect Registration Examination, or ARE, developed by NCARB. This multi-division exam tests your skills and knowledge of architecture. The current version of the exam is called ARE 5.0 and features six divisions. These divisions may be taken in any order but must be passed within five years to qualify for architecture licensure. Visit Kaplan’s ARE Exam Resource Center to learn more about the ARE 5.0.


Studying for ARE 5.0? Our NCARB-approved ARE 5.0 Exam Review includes advice, tips, and strategies to prepare you for exam day.


4) Apply to become a licensed architect

Once you’ve completed all the requirements for licensure, you can apply to get your license. It is illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services in the U.S. without an architectural license. The basic process for obtaining your license is similar in all states and territories, but requirements do vary. Be sure to check your state’s licensing requirements to get the most current details and procedures. You’ll need to transmit your NCARB record, submit an application, and pay the required fees to the jurisdiction where you would like to be licensed. 

5) Apply for architect positions

After earning your licensure, you can apply for architecture jobs. You may already have a job lined up through connections you made during your AXP, but if not, you can see opportunities on job boards like Indeed or Glassdoor. There are several different career paths for architects which are detailed below. Experienced architects can choose whether they work for a firm or be their own boss and start a private practice.

6) Earn an NCARB certification 

Licensed architects can earn additional certification through NCARB to advance their careers and qualify for new employment opportunities. This is an optional credential that more than 45,000 architects have chosen to pursue. Benefits of earning NCARB certification include free continuing education courses, the right to add the “NCARB” credential in your title, and the ability to apply for reciprocal licensure in all 55 U.S. jurisdictions.

7) Consider a master's degree in architecture

If you’ve already earned your five-year B.Arch degree, you do not need to pursue a master’s in architecture to become a licensed architect. Most B.Arch graduates choose to enter the job market immediately after completing their undergraduate degree. However, earning a master’s degree in architecture (M.Arch) is a great choice for architects who want to work in a research or teaching capacity. Individuals looking to switch to a career in architecture can supplement their undergraduate education with a master’s in architecture. The M.arch can take one to three years to complete, depending on the student’s undergraduate degree. 

What degree do you need to become an architect?

To become a licensed architect, you need a professional degree accredited by the NAAB. You can earn a five-year undergraduate degree in architecture, the B.Arch, or after completing an undergraduate degree, you can pursue a master’s degree in architecture, the M.Arch. Some students choose to earn both the B.Arch and the M.Arch; however, this is not a requirement for licensure. If you have a four-year bachelor’s degree in architecture or another discipline, you can earn an M.Arch and qualify for architecture licensure.

What courses are needed to become an architect?

Architects are highly trained professionals, and there is a wide range of courses a student will need to complete to earn a degree in architecture. Prospective architects can start preparing for their careers as early as high school. While most high schools lack programs specific to architecture, taking AP courses in subjects like calculus and physics will help you build a strong foundation for the rigorous coursework ahead of you. During an undergraduate program in architecture, students take courses like design, freehand drawing, history of architecture, environmental systems, and advanced mathematics. A post-graduate program in architecture will build on those courses.

Do you need a degree to become an architect?

Most U.S. states and territories require a degree to become an architect. However, in some U.S. states, you can become an architect without a professional degree in architecture. For example, Hawaii, Colorado, and Washington don’t require formal education in architecture. To work as an architect in these states, you must have intensive work experience and pass a licensing exam. Experts recommend having a formal degree in architecture as it will help you qualify for licensure more quickly and can improve job prospects.

How do I become an architect without a degree?

Becoming an architect without a degree is possible in some U.S. states. The first thing to do is to check your state’s licensing requirements to see if you can qualify for a license without holding a degree in architecture. Aspiring architects without a degree will have to complete the AXP, pass the ARE 5.0, and have additional years of experience to obtain their license. 

An alternative way to be eligible to practice architecture is to complete NCARB’s Education Alternative program. NCARB offers two options for qualified candidates. Both paths enable architects to satisfy the education requirement for NCARB certification. 

  1. Two Times AXP: Document double the hours of the AXP’s requirements, a total of 7,480 hours.

  2. NCARB Certificate Portfolio: Submit a portfolio of your work to NCARB that demonstrates your learning through your experience as a registered architect.

Architectural registration, licensure, and certification

Architectural registration, licensure, and certification are often confused. Below we break down what you need to know about each of these credentials.

  • Architectural registration - To qualify for architectural licensure, you must first pass the Architect Registration Exam, or ARE. The current version of the exam is called ARE 5.0 and is developed by NCARB.

  • Architectural licensure - Your state licensing board will grant you a license to practice architecture after you meet all their requirements.

  • Architectural certification - Certification is granted by NCARB. This is an optional credential you can complete after earning licensure. NCARB certification offers additional benefits that will help you advance your career in architecture.

Architecture Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the job outlook for architects between 2020-2030 should increase by 3%. This is slower than the average rate for all occupations. Despite the limited employment growth, there should be 9,400 job openings for architects each year over the decade. Furthermore, job security for architects tends to be better than the national average for other occupations.


Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.


Architecture Salary Potential

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for an architect was $82,320 in 2020. Depending on location, education, and experience, architects can make $63,420 to $106,680 annually. U.S. News & World Report lists the District of Columbia, New York, and Minnesota as the best-paying states for architects.

Pros and Cons of Becoming an Architect

As with any profession, there are pros and cons to becoming an architect. Architecture is a challenging but rewarding profession that attracts passionate and creative individuals. Here are some common benefits and challenges of being an architect: 


✔ Architecture is a respected profession with good income potential.

✔ Architecture offers a healthy mix of office work and hands-on work.

✔ Architects work in fast-paced and creative settings.

✔ Architects improve the lives and living spaces of other people.


✖ Clients can be demanding or hard to work with.

✖ Architects must complete rigorous and ongoing training.

✖ Architects work long hours and overtime is often unpaid.

✖ Working as an architect can be stressful and competitive.

Different Types of Architect Career Options

There are several different career paths that fall under the umbrella of architecture. If you’re considering a career in architecture, be sure to do your research so you choose the specialty that’s right for you and review the education requirements for each career path. Some different types of architect career options are listed below.

Residential Architect

Residential architecture is among the most popular career paths for architects. A residential architect specializes in the designing and building of homes for residential use, including single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and apartment buildings. Some of the world’s most famous architects, like Frank Lloyd Wright, worked in residential architecture, and their homes are now designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Successful residential architects have the ability to think outside the box and are highly collaborative. They work closely with clients throughout the process, so having strong communication skills is essential for this career path.

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects plan, design, and manage public outdoor spaces such as parks, cemeteries, and campuses. Their goal is to create green spaces that are functional and aesthetically pleasing. These architects play an important role in environmental protection and assist with the restoration of natural places such as wetlands and streams. Landscape architecture is an ideal career for artistic and innovative individuals who appreciate nature and enjoy working with their hands. 

Commercial Architect

Commercial architects design larger commercial properties such as skyscrapers, schools, or anything that’s not a residential home. In some ways, commercial architecture is more complicated than residential architecture because commercial architects need to have a deeper understanding of building codes and engineering. Individuals who enjoy learning and are especially adept at business and computer literacy will thrive in this profession. Commercial architecture is an especially rewarding career because the buildings these architects create usually have a long legacy in the cities in which they are built. 

Interior Architect

Interior architects are licensed professionals who focus on the art and science of designing an indoor space. They possess strong interior design skills and technical knowledge of building methods and construction. Interior architects strive to make buildings beautiful and practical. Unlike interior designers, architects have to consider building codes, like plumbing and electrical systems, to make a safe and habitable living space.

Green Design Architect 

Green architecture is a philosophy of architecture that advocates for building with the environment in mind. Green design architects use sustainable energy sources, design efficiently to reduce energy use, and update existing buildings with new technology. They choose eco-friendly building materials and construction methods to safeguard the environment. For architects interested in creating spaces that minimize the harmful effects of construction projects, green architecture is a fulfilling career path.

Read Article
Posted by PPI - March 31, 2022
how to become an architect wider

What Order Should I Take ARE 5.0 In?

If you’re just getting started on your architecture licensure journey, it’s a great time to plan out what order you’ll take each division of the ARE 5.0

In terms of the time needed to prepare, you should expect to spend three months and 50 to 55 hours studying for each exam division. That means about six hours each week, which includes reading review materials, practicing exam-like questions, watching videos, and taking assessment exams. 

Here’s one method for mapping out your ARE 5.0 exam division timing. If taken in this order, you’ll save time and build the foundational knowledge you need to be successful.

ARE 5.0 Exam Divisions Order Map

Plan on taking these three exams first and relatively close together. They cover similar topics to one another, and they contain the foundational knowledge you can use for the other exams. You can take these three in any order.

2. Programming and Analysis (PA)

Programming and Analysis is a unique exam that integrates many topics that are central to architectural practice. Take this exam after PCM, PJM, and CE. If you’d like to plan out a short break in your studies, plan the break for either before or after the PA exam. 

3. Project Planning and Design (PPD), Project Development and Documentation (PDD) 

These are more challenging and longer exams. They are helpful if taken towards the end, once you’ve mastered the foundational knowledge in PcM, PjM, and CE. PPD and PDD cover a lot of similar material but during different phases of the project. PPD covers preliminary schematic design, and PDD covers construction documents. These should be taken relatively close together and at the end of your exam journey. 

While it’s unfortunate, failing certain exam divisions is fairly common for otherwise successful and smart candidates who then go on to become licensed architects. Have a plan in place if you don’t pass an exam division so that you’re not caught off guard. Some strategies you can use include:

  • Keep up the studying momentum! Take the next planned exam, and get back to the one you didn’t pass after that.
  • If you know you’ll need a break from studying after failing an exam division, plan on taking a two-month break. 
  • Remember that the biggest danger is not that you fail an exam division but that you lose studying momentum due to long, unplanned breaks. You can do this! 

Sample ARE 5.0 Study Plan

Here is a sample study plan you can use and modify as needed to become a licensed architect. 

Year 1: PcM, PjM, CE

PcM: study for three months, and take the exam at the end of three months.

PjM: study for three months, and take the exam at the end of three months.

CE: study for three months, and take the exam at the end of three months.

Take a three-month break, then tackle:

Year 2: PA, PPD, PDD

PA: study for three months, and take the exam at the end of three months.

Take a three-month break, then move on to:

PPD: study for three months, and take the exam at the end of three months.

PDD: study for three months, and take the exam at the end of three months.
Read Article
Posted by PPI - May 3, 2021
Man sitting in front of laptop with chin resting on his hand image

What We Updated: PPI's ARE 5.0 Exam Review

We are pleased to announce the upcoming second edition of PPI’s ARE 5.0 Exam Review, also known as “the Ballast book.” For this update, we took a comprehensive look at customer feedback, feedback from NCARB experts, and the ARE 5.0 exam specifications. We are confident that the resulting updates make this new edition the best comprehensive review for the ARE.

Want the updated ARE content now?

While we are finalizing the print version of the Ballast book, we’ve already updated the content in our online eTextbook and web book in the PPI Learning Hub. For a limited time, when you preorder our print book series, you will also get instant access to the eTextbook copy of ARE 5.0 Exam Review, as well as access to the Learning Hub and Video for any exam division..

What exactly changed in the new edition?

As with any new edition of a textbook, you may be wondering, “What exactly is changing? Is this really an improvement, or can I just use the old edition?” We are happy to walk you through our process and what we have updated, so you can have a better sense of what we did and why we are so proud of this new book.

First, we listened to customer feedback that our updates from the 4.0 to the 5.0 format didn’t go far enough with adding new content. We took that feedback seriously and made sure that for this new edition, we added needed 5.0-focused content to meet each exam objective.

We worked closely with NCARB to exhaustively review the Ballast book against every exam objective through the NCARB-Approved Test Prep Provider Program. This was a fantastic opportunity for us to work directly with the organization who administers the exam and determine precisely what we needed to add or clarify to ensure our book has complete coverage for all six divisions. At this time, NCARB has approved ARE 5.0 Exam Review for PjM, PcM, and CE divisions. We have submitted our revised content for the remaining three divisions and are awaiting their approval.

The author, David Ballast, wrote new chapters and sections to address the customer feedback and NCARB reviews. For many exam objectives, he wrote new sections to better address the exam objectives; for others, he rewrote existing sections so that it more clearly addressed the exam objective. This update was more than a handful of sections; we updated nearly every chapter with new content, even writing or rewriting entire chapters where it was warranted.

Due to the increase in content, ARE 5.0 Exam Review has increased nearly 200 pages from the previous edition. The new sections add depth of review and clarification of existing content to provide a comprehensive review of all ARE 5.0 exam topics. We also fully updated our interior design with new color-coded tabs, making navigation between the different exam divisions even easier.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

The Detailed List: What Exactly We Updated

PcM: Added and revised content to address the following exam objectives:

  • Objective 1.1: Added focused content on professional development for licensed professionals
  • Objective 1.3: Added content on general ethics information for the profession. Added content regarding NCARB’s Model Rules of Conduct as an additional resource
  • Objective 1.4: Added material related to how to appropriately respond to unknown conditions affecting health, safety, and welfare of the public
  • Objective 2.2: Added content related to conflict resolution and liability insurance for architects
  • Objective 2.3: Added information to more comprehensively address the exam objective and add a depth of coverage
  • Objective 4.2: Added specific information pertaining to evidence-based design. Added information to generally add a depth of coverage for this exam objective

  • Objective 2.2: Added information to complement the client reviews and regulatory submissions graphics in the book
  • Objective 3.2: Added information regarding payment schedules
  • Objective 3.4: Added content regarding sequencing and integrating of a consultant’s work in the overall project
  • Objective 4.1: Added information on budget information better connected to the project management division specifically, instead of solely referring to another chapter
  • Objective 4.2: Added coverage of financing issues
  • Objective 4.3: Added information regarding the standard of care and industry standards related to this objective
  • Objective 4.4: Added more detailed content related to code issues/matters. Added information related to other jurisdictions potentially having authority over a matter or issue, such as fire and public works
  • Objective 5.1: Added content to address the objective and add a depth of knowledge to address the objective
  • Objective 5.4: Added a depth of knowledge and more advanced knowledge to address the objective


  • Objective 1.1: Developed additional content directly related to the objective to ensure all topics were covered
  • Objective 1.2: Added content on hazardous conditions and added references to FEMA/NFRIP FIRM maps
  • Objective 1.3: Developed additional content directly related to the objective to ensure all topics were covered
  • Objective 2.1: Added content on how to use codes
  • Objective 2.2: Added depth of coverage to more adequately address this objective
  • Objective 2.3: Added content to address this objective
  • Objective 3.1: Added content related to utilities, access points, traffic patterns, and easements
  • Objective 3.2: Added depth of coverage to more adequately address this objective
  • Objective 3.3: Added material related to graphics
  • Objective 4.1: Removed extraneous material regarding technologies
  • Objective 4.2: Added material related to geotech, utilities, topography maps, demographics, and environmental data
  • Objective 4.4: Added material regarding vertical relationships, conveying systems, atriums, and other multi-level issues
  • Objective 4.5: Added material on the development of a preliminary project schedule and added specific examples. Deleted extraneous material not related to the objective
  • Objective 4.6: Added information regarding schedules. Added coverage of relationships with other building systems. Added coverage related to civil, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing
  • Objective 4.7: Generally added more content to address the objective and specifically added information on bubble diagrams


  • Reorganized content across the entire division to better align with exam objectives and for better clarity of reading
  • Revised detail to better apply the content to the exam objectives, particularly to address application and evaluation objectives
  • Deleted extraneous material related to historical events Revised existing examples to better match the difficulty and complexity of questions found on the exam
  • Objective 1.1: Added content regarding views, wind, topography, adjacencies, and how to site a building on a site. Deleted extraneous information not related to the exam objective
  • Objective 1.2: Added content regarding the ability to determine and apply sustainability applications
  • Objective 1.3: Added content regarding the character of site neighborhood, transit, amenities, and the scale of adjacent buildings. Added general content to cover the objective more fully
  • Objective 2.1: Added content regarding regulations that govern standard and accessible parking. Added a general depth of content for this exam objective and how to apply the content to the objective
  • Objective 2.2: Added information regarding how to compile into a code analysis. Added information regarding the application aspect of the objective. Generally added content to better cover the objective
  • Objective 2.3: Added information regarding how multiple codes are used together and how to discern which code governs when a conflict arises. Added information on how to use codes together. Added information on energy and mechanical codes
  • Objective 3.1: Added content regarding variable refrigerant flow. Added material on how to determine and select systems. Added information on waste piping
  • Objective 3.2: Added information regarding the evaluation and selection of appropriate systems and cost-effectiveness of buildings. Added information on how to make a comparison between systems to determine what’s appropriate
  • Objective 3.3: Added information regarding communications, fire suppression, and security
  • Objective 3.4: Added material regarding how to evaluate and apply the content to the exam objective
  • Objective 4.1: Added content to generally better cover the exam objective
  • Objective 4.2: Added content to generally better cover the exam objective
  • Objective 4.3: Added material regarding program requirements. Added content to generally better cover the exam objective
  • Objective 4.4: Synthesized information regarding building materials to address the objective. Added content to generally better cover the exam objective
  • Objective 5.1: Added depth of coverage to more adequately address this objective
  • Objective 5.2: Expanded content to address being able to adjust the cost estimate
  • Objective 5.3: Added depth of coverage to more adequately address this objective

  • Objective 1.1: Added content on architectural systems and how to integrate and use architectural systems. Added detail regarding curtain walls, windows, and flooring
  • Objective 1.2: Added content regarding electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. Updated content on mechanical systems
  • Objective 1.3: Added content related to foundations
  • Objective 1.4: Added material regarding conveying and security
  • Objective 1.5: Added content to generally cover the exam objective
  • Objective 1.6: Added material related to the coordination of activities
  • Objective 2.1: Added content regarding assembly, drawings, and update of drawings
  • Objective 2.2: Added content to generally cover the exam objective
  • Objective 2.3: Added content to generally cover the exam objective
  • Objective 2.4: Added content to generally cover the exam objective
  • Objective 2.5: Added more definitions of actions associated with the objective. Material updated to address how to incorporate, determine, and recognize topics related to the exam objective
  • Objective 3.1: Updated material to better explain what goes into specifications and what you exclude versus include
  • Objective 3.2: Added a depth of coverage for this exam objective
  • Objective 3.3: Added a depth of coverage for this exam objective
  • Objective 4.1: Added a depth of coverage for this exam objective
  • Objective 4.2: Added content to generally cover the exam objective
  • Objective 5.1: Added a depth of coverage for this exam objective, as well as additional details and examples

The Construction and Evaluation division of ARE 5.0 Exam Review was approved by NCARB as is, which means that the CE division of the Ballast book already comprehensively addressed all exam objectives.
Read Article
Posted by PPI - April 26, 2021
Man sitting outside next to stone wall working on a tablet device image

Six Tips for ARE 5.0 Exam Review Success

Taking the ARE 5.0 exam is an important part of investing in your career. Get the most out of your exam review time by following these six study tips. 

1. Familiarize Yourself with the NCARB Handbook

The NCARB Handbook provides an overview as well as several practice problems for each division of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE 5.0). Using this handbook will help focus your time on the knowledge areas where you need the most study.

We recommend creating a realistic schedule for your study times. To optimize your ARE prep, make sure to begin your review with a realistic study schedule. Consider going through the ARE 5.0 Review Manual, as well as the NCARB Handbook, to get a feeling for the scope of the divisions and how major topics are organized. Based on your review and a realistic evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses, it will be easier to plan your studies and ensure you spend enough time reviewing key topics for all six ARE 5.0 divisions.

2. Start Studying Early and Don't Study New Material the Day Before the Exam

Wrap up your architecture exam prep and stop reviewing a day or two before you take any ARE 5.0 division. Studies show that no amount of last minute cramming increases retention of information. Better yet, consider spending the evening before each exam division relaxing and be sure to get plenty of sleep. A light review of some of the areas you’ve already studied may be helpful on the morning of each exam division.

3. Learn Concepts First, Details Later

During your ARE prep, we recommend learning concepts first and filling in the details later, because once a concept is understood, the accompanying details are much easier to remember and apply during the exam. An exam tip from David Kent Ballast, FAIA, and Steven E. O’Hara, PE, authors of ARE Exam Review is that as an example, it’s much more advantageous to understand the basic ideas and theories of waterproofing than it is to try and memorize all the specific waterproofing methods and their details.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

4. Brush Up on Architectural History

Consider reviewing architectural history before taking any of the divisions, because historical facts may turn up in any one of the divisions. It will benefit you to know major buildings and their architects, specifically structures that represent an architect’s philosophy, “firsts” or “turning points.” For example you may want to know Le Corbusier and the Villa Savoye, according to Ballast and O’Hara.

5. Do a Dry Run With Practice Exams in PPI Learning Hub

A week or two before you are scheduled to take a division, complete a dry run by taking the practice exams in PPI Learning Hub. Try to simulate the exam experience as closely as possible. Set an alarm for the exam’s testing time. The target times for the divisions are: three-and-a-half hours for Division 1, four hours for Divisions 2 and 3, five hours for Divisions 4 and 5, and four hours for Division 6. Work through the entire practice exam with only your calculator, a pencil, and a few sheets of scratch paper. During the actual exam, an on-screen calculator will be provided.

6. Keep Your Five-Year Deadline in Mind When Scheduling Your Exams

To get your architecture license, you must pass all six architect registration examination divisions within a single five-year period, or “rolling clock,” which begins on the date of the first division you pass. Therefore, to a certain extent, how you schedule each division of the exam and your ARE prep is up to you. ARE 5.0 allows you to schedule the exams six divisions in any order.

You may choose to take the divisions one at a time, which spreads out preparation time and exam costs, or you may decide to take them all together in any combination. The choice is yours, but again keep the five-year time limit in mind, because if you have not completed a division within five years, the divisions you passed more than five years ago are no longer credited and must be retaken. The new five-year period then begins on the date you passed the earliest division within the most recent five years.

To learn more about NCARB's ARE 5.0 and what you can expect from the exam, explore more articles like this in the ARE Resource Center.
Read Article
Posted by PPI - April 23, 2021
Woman wearing headphones sitting at large conference table working on a laptop image

Preparing for ARE 5.0

Although ARE 5.0 is a difficult exam, passing it as the final step to architecture licensure is an important part of your architectural career. Becoming licensed gives you credibility, helps advance your career, and makes it possible to start your own practice. It also gives you pride in knowing you are a member of a distinguished profession.

You can find many tips on how to study for the exam in the ARE 5 Review Manual, but here is some advice I think is most important and a good place to start.

Remember that you don’t have to know everything an experienced architect needs to know; the exam tests what an entry-level candidate should know and what is important to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The exam also emphasizes contracts, AIA documents, and the responsibilities of the various people on the design and construction team.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

Study Tips for ARE 5.0 

To begin, focus on one division at a time. Although there is some overlap among divisions (codes and site design, for example), I think it best to do one at time. Here are a few other suggestions:

  • Review the ARE 5.0 Handbook. The description of each objective (not just the title) gives a good idea of what topics you will be faced with and whether the questions will be the U/A (understand and apply) type or the more difficult A/E type (analyze and evaluate). In just a few sentences, NCARB gives a good summary of what you are supposed to be able to do with your knowledge.
  • Then, try the problems from the ARE 5 Practice Exams and ARE 5 Practice Problems books or questions in the Learning Hub. You may want to try a random sampling rather than take an entire practice exam. Looking at the answers will give you a good idea of what you don’t already know. This can be a good way to pinpoint what areas you need to study more and those that you can leave for later.
  • Read the problems carefully. Often the inclusion of a single word may change the correct answer. I think this is especially true for the “check-all-that-apply” types of questions. The set-up for the case study problems also requires careful reading and knowing what resource documents are available.
  • On a check-all-that apply question, it is sometimes easier to eliminate the ones that are clearly not required.
Best wishes to you all,

David Ballast
Read Article
Posted by David Kent Ballast, FAIA, CSI, NCIDQ-Cert. No. 9425 - April 21, 2021
Man in an office sitting at desk in front of computer monitor image

About ARE 5.0 (Architect Registration Examination®)

Are you looking to become an official architect? If so, you will need to pass the ARE exam. Here is an overview of the ARE exam to help you prepare for this important career step.

What is ARE 5.0?

The ARE (Architect Registration Examination) is a multi-division exam designed to test your knowledge of the practice of architecture. Once you pass the ARE, you are officially an architect. The ARE is developed and administered by NCARB, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, a nonprofit organization. The exam consists of six divisions focusing on the knowledge areas needed to complete a typical architecture project. Before you can take the ARE, you'll need to check your eligibility, as each state has different requirements. Once you've decided to take the ARE, check with your jurisdiction to make sure you have a correct list of requirements for eligibility in your state so that you can make a plan for tackling them.

What are the benefits of taking ARE 5.0?

After passing the ARE, you are officially an architect. There are many benefits of becoming an architect, including opportunities for career advancement and pay increases, the ability to sign off on blueprints, and the chance to design public health buildings. Passing the ARE means your skills as an architect have been thoroughly vetted and deemed trustworthy. Prospective employers and the public can trust that you have adequate architecture preparation, including the necessary skills and aptitude to protect their health, safety, and welfare.

What are the current ARE 5.0 pass rates?

Division                                                                      2019 Pass Rates
Practice Management                                              49%
Project Management                                                63%
Programming & Analysis                                         52%
Project Planning & Design                                       42%
Project Development & Documentation               50%

Construction & Evaluation                                      70%

How much does it cost to take the ARE? 

Each division of the ARE requires a non-refundable fee of $235. The total cost of all divisions is $1,410.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

How is ARE 5.0 organized?

ARE 5.0 is a computer-based test and has content divided into six divisions that may be taken in any order. They are:
  • Practice Management (80 items, two hours and 45 minutes test duration)
  • Project Management (90 items, three hours and 15 minutes test duration
  • Programming & Analysis (95 items, three hours and 15 minutes test duration)
  • Project Planning & Design (120 items, four hours and 15 minutes test duration)
  • Project Development & Documentation (120 items, four hours and 15 minutes test duration)
  • Construction & Evaluation (95 items, three hours and 15 minutes test duration)

The structure reflects a project’s stages from the idea to the construction, which represents the actual work of a licensed architect. These divisions also align with the Architectural Experience Program.

How do I register for ARE 5.0?

Your jurisdiction’s board of architecture must approve your eligibility to test before you’re able to schedule an ARE division. Each jurisdiction has its own ARE 5.0 eligibility rules. Check and fulfill your jurisdiction’s requirements, found here, before requesting eligibility.

To take ARE 5.0, you’ll need an active NCARB Record. Within your NCARB Record, click on the “Exams” tab and go to “My Examination” to schedule exam appointments and more. If you’re not sure if you’re eligible to test, you can view your eligibility information in your NCARB Record.

How should I study for ARE 5.0?

Check out PPI author David Kent Ballast’s advice for studying for ARE 5.0 here. If you’re wondering which division to prepare for first, take a look at this map for taking each division. See all your options for review materials here when you’re ready to start preparing. 

How is ARE 5.0 different from ARE 4.0?

NCARB introduced two new questions types with ARE 5.0: hot spots and drag-and-place. Case studies are also a new feature on the exams, and the exams no longer feature vignettes.

What are Alternative Item Types (AIT)?

AIT questions provide opportunities to assess the technical knowledge of examinees using methods not available through paper-based testing. AIT questions have approximately the same degree of difficulty as multiple-choice questions. Please note there is also no predetermined or fixed number of AIT exam questions nor of the percentage of any one type of AIT question on an exam.

Multiple Choice
  • Select one correct answer from four given options
  • If you are unsure of what the correct answer is you should make an educated assumption. You will not be penalized for a wrong answer
Multiple Choice (Check-All-That-Apply)
  • Select all the correct choices from the list by clicking on each one
  • All of the correct answers (and only all of the correct answers) must be selected; there is no partial credit
  • If you change your mind, click on a choice to de-select it
Point-and-Click (Hot Spot, or Mark Location)
  • Click on a single target, or hot spot icon, to place on the base image in the correct location or general area
  • If you change your mind, click again on your choice to unselect, or click on the new preferred answer
  • These questions may ask you to sort, rank, place, or label items. Confirm whether all items need to be chosen or moved, then be sure to sort, rank, place, or label each one
  • After you have decided the proper sorting, ranking, placing, or labeling, click and drag an object to the target spot
  • If you change your answer, you can move an object to a different open spot in the target area, or you can move it back to the starting area
  • Read the answer specification carefully; it should state the number of decimal places for your numeric answer
  • Compute your answer, then round if needed to the required number of decimal places (0-4, round down; 5-9, round up)
  • Do not enter the units for your answer
  • Do not spell out a number, like “four”
  • If you change your mind, blank out the entire field before you enter another answer
Case Study
  • May be multiple-choice, check-all-that-apply, hot spot, drag-and-place, or fill-in-the-blank
  • You are able to click on browser-like tabs on top of the computer screen to go back and forth between the case study scenario and resource documents provided

Can I use my own calculator during the exam?

No. You may not bring a calculator into the testing room. An on-screen calculator is available in every division. A demonstration version of the calculator is available at the NCARB website. Plan to acquaint yourself with it before you take the exam.

Wondering where to start?

The requirements for taking ARE 5.0 differ by state.  Most states require exam candidates to have completed AXP hours (Architectural Experience Program) before registering. If you want to become an architect, check your jurisdiction’s requirements for ARE 5.0 qualification. You will likely start by participating in AXP. You’ll need to document your completion of 96 tasks in at least 3,740 hours across six experience areas, so it’s better to start the process as early as you can. If you’ve completed your jurisdiction’s requirements and you’re ready to start preparing for ARE 5.0, PPI Learning Hub is the best place to begin your review.
Read Article
Posted by PPI - April 19, 2021
Three colleagues looking at a laptop screen together image

ARE 5.0 Study Tips From an Examinee

We asked ARE 5.0 examinee Richard H. Wilson some questions to help you study for the exam more efficiently.

About Richard: Richard H. Wilson is an intern architect at Integrus Architecture in Seattle who is working on a combined 300,000 sq. ft. high school and middle school project. He is taking ARE 5.0 and has passed three of six divisions so far.

Richard has wanted to be an architect since he was a kid. He finished high school one year early to get a jump start on his architectural career at Portland Community College, which gave him a technical education. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from University of Idaho and Master’s in Urban Architecture from the University of Oregon, where the education was focused on sustainability.

In the future, Richard hopes to be the lead architect of the first commercial Space Port project.

A Conversation with Richard H. Wilson, Intern Architect

Q: What ARE prep materials do you recommend?

I recommend reading the NCARB ARE 5.0 Handbook thoroughly and keeping it nearby while studying. The handbook also provides a comprehensive list of book study resources near the end. The ARE Review Manual is useful and comes with practice material. I also recommend reviewing contract documents. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) provides printable, sample contract docs for ARE candidates that are extremely helpful. AIA has a resources page with video study materials and sample contracts here.

Q: How do you suggest examinees start their studying process?

“Chunking.” For about an hour each day, try reading a section of the ARE Review Manual (or other material of choice.) This can be a few pages at a time, or in-between bold titles, or between example questions in the book. Make flash cards while reading, make notes and sketches (for visual learners) in a notebook, highlight the related literature in the book, on printed contract docs, etc. Study these notes on the bus, at a cafe, during lunch at work, or wherever feasible. Repeating these steps for reasonable chunks of material allows me to strengthen important details along the way.

Q: What are some tricks you have discovered that have made a difference in your studies?

Stickers and highlighters are useful tools when used right; however, I find aimlessly using stickers and highlighting is not necessarily helpful, since stickers will drown in the sea of a thousand pages. The point of these tools is to identify content that needs to be studied, estimate the time it will take to go through that content, form a plan, and then start. Also, I find studying for long periods of time looking down at a book on a table creates neck and eye strain. Consider positioning the book vertically or using a computer monitor that is level with the eyes to avoid neck strain.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

Q: What is your most successful study technique?

I found the most successful study strategy is to generate practical application of the content that I study. What’s nice about the order of the exams is they generally follow the course of a normal project. My advice would be to:
  • Imagine a client
  • Write a contract
  • Identify a program
  • Pick a complex building site
  • Research local codes
  • Research building codes
  • Design a building
  • Then show off the results to your friends
Every question likely tests your ability to understand a real-life issue and respond to it. This is complicated because it can be convoluted. While reading and using flash cards are all good ways of looking at text and pictures over and over, I find nothing beats trying to solve real life problems.

Q: How do you recommend examinees schedule taking each exam division?

By using one-month testing intervals. For one month: read, review flash cards and sketch notes, watch supporting online videos, etc. Then dive into the practice materials provided by PPI and schedule that exam while practicing. Why one month? Because the amount of information to study is tremendous! Architectural practice experience doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in terms of the the way NCARB has constructed the exam.

Q: What do you recommend doing after completing an exam division?

I immediately go to my favorite cafe, reward myself, and then break out a notepad, because I’m not done yet. It’s important to reward our brains for hard work. Our brains will thus learn to identify an exam with a reward, which is an important life lesson.

Richard H. Wilson, M.ARCH, Assoc. AIA

Intern Architect

Read Article
Posted by PPI - March 30, 2021
Man working on a laptop with large bookcase behind him image

Tips for Architecture Students from David Kent Ballast, FAIA, CSI, NCIDQ

David Kent Ballast, FAIA, CSI, NCIDQ Certification No. 9425, owns Architectural Research Consulting, a firm offering information and management service to architects, interior designers, and the construction industry. Mr. Ballast taught interior construction and other courses at Arapahoe Community College for over 20 years. A licensed architect in the state of Colorado, Mr. Ballast has written many books on design topics.

What is most rewarding about being an architect?

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding things about being an architect or interior designer is the variety of work you are doing. One day it may be designing a hotel lobby, and another day it may be resolving a zoning issue.

What advice would you give someone pursuing a career in architecture?

One piece of advice when getting into a career of architecture or interior design is to learn everything you can and be able to perform a wide variety of jobs. This makes you more valuable as a worker and employed if times get tough!

What is the key to architecture success?

The key to being a good architect or interior designer is the ability to solve problems of any type. Architecture and interior design are right brain AND left brain activities; don’t get stuck on one or the other.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

Can you tell us about an interesting project you have worked on?

One of the most interesting projects I have worked on was the rehabilitation and remodeling of a large indoor amusement park and shopping mall. It was a large team effort, and, among other things, I ended up detailing the ceiling of the new bumper car ride! You must be flexible and able to do new things in the design professions.

What advice would you give an interior designer?

Interior designers should know as much as possible about architecture; it makes you a better designer and able to team with architects.

What career advice would you give a recently licensed architect?

As career advice, I would say don’t get typecast in one specialty if you don’t want to; learn much, and follow your dream.
Read Article
Posted by David Kent Ballast, FAIA, CSI, NCIDQ - March 25, 2021
Man with quizzical expression sitting with laptop in his lap and hand on his chin image

ARE 5.0 Requirements and Eligibility

Once you've decided to take ARE 5.0, you'll need to find out what your state requires to be able to sit for the exam. Requirements are set by your state's jurisdiction. Every state will require a combination of education and experience before you can get started with the ARE, but the specifics vary. You'll need to check with your jurisdiction to confirm exactly what will be expected of you before beginning the exam process.

Here are a few of the most common things that jurisdictions require before you can start testing.

What Education Do I Need to Take ARE 5.0?

Most states require that you obtain a professional degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The NAAB evaluates architecture programs in the US to make sure that graduates of these programs gain necessary technical and critical thinking skills that a career in architecture demands.

There are many schools that offer architecture programs that are not NAAB-accredited, but graduates of these programs may face more requirements in order to earn licensure later. To find out if your current or prospective school has a NAAB-accredited architecture program, search for a NAAB-accredited school here.

A new option for licensure aimed at college students is available from NCARB. IPAL, or Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure, allows students to complete the education, experience, and testing requirements while still in school. See if your school participates in the IPAL program here.

What Experience Do I Need to Take ARE 5.0?

No matter what jurisdiction you're in, you'll have to complete work experience. NCARB offers a program to help exam candidates gain valuable and necessary experience that prepares them for successful exam prep later. It's called the Architectural Experience Program (AXP). The AXP helps you record and track your professional experience by providing you with six experience areas and specific tasks that fall under each area. Not by coincidence, the experience areas have the same names as the six ARE 5.0 divisions. After completing the AXP, you'll be on the right path to begin preparing for ARE 5.0.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

Next Steps

Check with your jurisdiction to confirm exactly what is required for eligibility in your state. You'll also need to start your NCARB Record, which will help you track your journey to licensure.

Ready to start studying for the ARE? Pick out your review materials here and read up on more exam tips in the ARE Resource Center.



Read Article
Posted by PPI - March 17, 2021
Woman holding tablet device image

AXP Portfolio: The NCARB Update You Can't Miss

The recently introduced AXP Portfolio program from NCARB recognizes that not all careers follow the same trajectory. Now, individuals with non-linear career paths have the opportunity to complete the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and become licensed architects.

The AXP Portfolio is NCARB’s way of reaching out to those who left the profession before becoming licensed so that they have an opportunity to explore licensure again. This program is designed for those who have previously worked in an architectural firm but have decided to pursue other career or personal opportunities in lieu of becoming licensed within the traditional timeframe.

Individuals who have not logged every hour of their professional activities can now obtain their license through this new program. Candidates must have a minimum of two years of full-time architectural or building-related work experience, acquired at least five years ago. One of these two years must have been full-time employment in an architecture firm under the direct supervision of a licensed architect. Candidates may apply for the AXP Portfolio program online by submitting a summary of their work experience. When approved, rather than tracking and reporting hours, AXP Portfolio candidates submit exhibits demonstrating proficiency in all experience areas.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

Through this collection of work products, reports, drawings, and contract documents, the applicant must prove that his or her work experience is comparable to that acquired in a traditional AXP setting. The work included in the portfolio may have been performed while employed in a variety of roles and is not required to have been completed under the supervision of a licensed architect. Portfolio submissions are then reviewed by a licensed architect supervisor who meets the criteria established in NCARB’s AXP Guidelines.

In addition to satisfactory review of the portfolio, candidates must fulfill all of the educational and examination requirements for the jurisdiction in which they intend to practice. Most states require a professional degree (B.Arch or M.Arch) from an institution accredited by the National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB). All states require successful completion of the Architect Registration exam (ARE), and some require passing scores on supplemental exams.

The AXP Portfolio is accepted in most states with the exception of about a dozen. Candidates should verify the requirements for the state in which they plan to become licensed before pursuing the AXP Portfolio option.
Read Article
Posted by Holly Williams Leppo, AIA, NCIDQ-certified, LEED AP - October 1, 2020
Woman sitting at desk looking at computer monitor image

Understanding Your Role as an AXP Mentor

At the heart of NCARB’s Architectural Experience Program (AXP) is the master/apprentice relationship that has always been an integral part of architectural education. AXP candidates are required to work under the tutelage of an AXP supervisor—an experienced practitioner who is directly responsible for the young professional’s work. But AXP also advocates that candidates build more informal relationships within the greater architectural community by suggesting that candidates select an AXP mentor.

The AXP mentor’s primary responsibility is to advise the young professional in a thoughtful, impartial way. This person acts as a sounding board for questions, concerns, and frustrations and provides guidance as the candidate navigates the first few years of employment and the AXP. Successful mentors are willing to devote a few hours a month to having coffee or lunch with their mentee, are open to sharing experiences from their own careers (both good and bad), are good listeners, and are familiar with AXP and the requirements for licensure.

AXP candidates are not required to have an AXP mentor, but if they choose to select one, the mentor must be a licensed architect in the US or Canada. Architects employed by the candidate’s firm, working for other firms, or pursuing projects in other fields are all good candidates to serve as mentors; however, when choosing a mentor, the candidate should consider what they are hoping to get out of the relationship. Do they want someone who can show them the ropes at their new firm? Someone who specializes in a niche that they’d like to pursue? Or someone with a common background who can help them navigate the AXP, ARE, and licensing process?

There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing a mentor who works in the same firm. Colleagues can guide the candidate through the firm, answering questions about project procedures or office politics, and can provide more hands-on involvement with the candidate’s day-to-day work. It may be easier to schedule opportunities to meet. On the other hand, the candidate may not feel that they can be as open and honest with a co-worker as they can with someone not employed by the same company.

If the mentor works outside of the candidate’s firm, this relationship becomes an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions about how other firms function, to learn about project types that their current employer may not pursue, and to have a third-party advisor who can help with tough questions like how to negotiate a raise or increased responsibilities, how to manage difficult work relationships, or when it is time to move to a new firm.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

So how does an AXP candidate find a mentor?

  • AXP supervisors can recommend colleagues or friends who may be willing to serve in this capacity.
  • Contact the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects—particularly the Emerging Professionals Group or Young Architects Forum—which may maintain a list of potential mentors.
  • Talk to consulting engineers, general contractors, and product representatives—they usually have contacts at multiple architecture firms in the area and may be able to suggest architects to contact.
  • Use LinkedIn or other online networking tools to find experienced architects with shared interests.
  • Check with your alma mater’s alumni association or career counseling office, who may be able to offer the names of other graduates practicing in your community.
  • Attend local continuing education events, lectures, or workshops and make an effort to get to know attendees from other firms.

All mentors can help candidates by providing advice about studying for the ARE and deciding which divisions of the exam to tackle when based on their work experiences, navigating the state’s licensing paperwork and procedures, and supplementing their architectural education by pursuing other certifications. The early years of an architect’s career are the perfect time to bulk up a young professional’s resume with additional credentials, by taking the LEED Green Associate or LEED Accredited Professional exams, expanding their knowledge of interior architecture by obtaining an NCIDQ certificate, or improving their familiarity with building materials and specification writing by earning CSI Certifications.

In addition, there are two experience categories in Setting O that the AXP mentor can endorse: design competitions and site visits. The AXP candidate can accrue up to 320 hours working on design competition entries and up to 40 hours visiting project sites accompanied by his or her mentor. Taking the time to visit work in progress and see the relationship between concept and construction is particularly important in the early years of practice, and a mentor may be able to provide more opportunities for field visits than the candidate can find within their own firm. Design competitions offer a candidate the opportunity to flex their design muscles on concepts that they conceive themselves. The mentor can offer valuable advice and constructive criticism throughout the competition design process.
Read Article
Posted by Holly Williams Leppo, AIA, NCIDQ-certified, LEED AP - October 1, 2020
Woman working on a laptop next to a window image

The Role of an AXP Supervisor

AXP candidates will work with a variety of professionals throughout the first few years of their architectural careers, but the most influential advisors will be their AXP Supervisor and AXP Mentor.

An AXP supervisor is the person who is responsible for direct oversight of the candidate’s day-to-day work. In a smaller firm, this may be the principal architect and candidate’s employer; in a larger organization, it may be a licensed architect serving in a project or team manager role who is overseeing the candidate’s daily efforts. The AXP supervisor must have the authority to assign tasks that will allow the candidate to obtain experience across the AXP practice areas. A supervisor may only sign off on work that he or she has personally overseen. Therefore, candidates may have more than one AXP supervisor during their training—for example, if they change jobs or are assigned to different work groups within the same firm.

At the conclusion of each reporting period, the AXP supervisor verifies the quality and quantity of hours logged by the candidate and the types of tasks performed and attests to NCARB that the records are accurate using the tools on the NCARB website. Architects who maintain an NCARB certificate may use their existing My NCARB account to manage reports; those who do not hold a certificate must establish a login to access and review the submissions.

AXP candidates can accrue experience hours in either Setting A, an architecture firm, or Setting O, which encompasses related design, engineering, or construction companies and other approved activities. When an AXP candidate is employed by an architecture firm, the AXP supervisor must be a licensed architect. If the candidate is employed in an organization that meets the requirements for Setting O, the AXP supervisor may be either an architect or another licensed professional, such as an engineer. (In some Setting O situations, such as community service or independent study, the AXP mentor may approve the candidate’s log submissions.)

Successful AXP supervisors understand that the first few years of a future architect’s career are a time for developing the tools they will use as licensed professionals and that these years bridge the gap between theory and practice. They recognize that the candidate will need guidance as they take on new responsibilities, time to learn new skills, and patience and counseling as they attempt, and possibly fail, at things they have never done before. Acting in this capacity for a younger licensure candidate, as a mentor or employer likely did for you at the beginning of your career, is a way to preserve the master/apprentice relationship that is integral to architectural education. The time commitment required for administrative duties is reasonable; expect to spend an hour or two each month checking in on the candidate’s progress, reviewing submissions, or offering advice.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

Ways an AXP supervisor can create an environment that promotes professional growth:

  • Encourage AXP candidates to track their time promptly and provide frequent updates on their progress. NCARB requires that hours be reported within eight months of the time that they are accrued to obtain full credit and up to six months’ worth of time can be reported in one submission. The AXP Guidelines suggest that candidates submit a progress report to their supervisor every two months to stay on track. Set a calendar reminder to ask the AXP candidate about their experience at regular intervals, and encourage them to schedule a time to meet with you to review their log and keep you apprised of areas in which they may need more assignments.       
  • Become familiar with the six practice areas included in the AXP, and understand which types of tasks fit into each category. Try to tailor work assignments so that AXP candidates have the opportunity to be involved with all phases of a variety of projects.
  •  Look for chances for the AXP candidate to shadow youproposal or client meetings, presentations, and site visits, among other out-of-the-office settings, all allow a young professional the opportunity to observe and begin to understand the variety of situations architects encounter in practice.
  • In states where candidates are permitted to sit for divisions of the Architect Registration Exam while enrolled in AXP, encourage employees to take exams as soon as they become eligible. The experience shown on the employee’s work experience reports may inform which sections of the ARE the candidate should take first. Firms may also support young professionals by reimbursing exam fees or the cost of study materials.
  • The AXP allows candidates to accrue experience in settings outside of the workplace, such as design competitions, community service projects, or through continuing education and certifications. When advertisements for these opportunities pass through your inbox, forward them to the candidate. If your firm’s budget allows, support these independent endeavors by allowing paid time away from the office or reimbursing registration fees after successful completion of a course or certificate program.
  • If the AXP candidate is a recent graduate or new to your area, tap into your network to help them find a mentor. An AXP mentor is a registered architect who can offer counsel, experience, and encouragement to the candidate and allow them to get to know architects outside of their own firm.


Read Article
Posted by Holly Williams Leppo, AIA, NCIDQ-certified, LEED AP - October 1, 2020
Woman working at a laptop with a window and a plant behind her image

All About IPAL: The Fast-Track to Becoming an Architect

Twenty-one US architecture schools now offer their students a faster track to becoming an architect and taking ARE 5.0: NCARB’s Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL). Students in IPAL programs will document the same number of hours of work experience, pass the same exams, and earn the same architecture degree as their non-accelerated counterparts—but they will have the opportunity to accomplish all of this before they graduate from college. 

California leads the way, with three participating institutions (New School of Architecture and Design, University of Southern California, and Woodbury University), but IPAL is making an impact in architecture schools from coast to coast, and NCARB has pledged to work with state licensing boards to increase the number of jurisdictions which will accept this alternative to the traditional sequence of school, then work, then testing. 

Typically, architectural training begins with graduation from a professional degree program, then employment in an office under the supervision of a licensed architect. Along the way, the candidate must take and pass the six divisions of the Architect Registration Exam (ARE 5.0). 

IPAL allows students to compress these activities by taking them on all at the same time.

Through summer internships and full- or part-time work during the academic year, IPAL allows students to accumulate required Architect Experience Program (AXP) hours while they are in school and take the ARE before they graduate. Those who accrue 3,740 hours in specific experience areas, pass all divisions of the ARE, and complete the academic requirements for a professional degree (B.Arch or M.Arch) will satisfy the typical requirements for licensing—education, experience, and examination—by the end of their college career.  

Because this concept is so new, prospective students should thoroughly investigate each school’s curriculum, consider their own goals for their time in college, and understand the licensing laws in the state(s) in which they plan to practice, to ensure that IPAL is a good fit.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

IPAL is an overlay or elective track that enhances an architecture school’s existing professional degree program.  Universities determine their own curriculum and graduation requirements; the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) periodically evaluates all programs offering B.Arch or M.Arch degrees in the United States to ensure that they meet or exceed baseline standards. The majority of states require that candidates hold a NAAB-accredited degree to become licensed architects. 

Many of the schools implementing IPAL already offer courses of study that include both classroom- and studio-based instruction and professional experience through internships. NCARB’s IPAL initiative encourages universities to offer more structured work-study programs, and allows participating students to log and report their work experience contemporaneously. It also provides students with the opportunity to take exams while they are still in “college mode”—taking classes or completing internships, and not too far removed from an academic setting—rather than waiting until they have received their diploma.

IPAL tracks are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, but graduate level programs predominate. Architecture curricula are structured in many ways, and schools have the flexibility to design IPAL to complement their existing program. Some universities welcome students as undergraduates, usually after the third year of study; others offer IPAL only to graduate students. A few schools require previous work experience or a portfolio evaluation to enroll.

Depending on the school’s curriculum and degree pursued, choosing to enroll in IPAL may add a year or more to the typical enrollment time - and therefore, tack on tuition costs and living expenses. Although the internships are paid work opportunities, receiving academic credit for the experience usually requires paying tuition, and the compensation may not be adequate to offset another year of student loans. On the other hand, the salary bump associated with earlier licensing and the increase in earning potential over the course of a career may make IPAL a smart investment. IPAL participants could become licensed in as few as seven years. 

Students in IPAL programs will need to plan for multiple internships, so their opportunities for study abroad, pursuing honors research or minors in other disciplines, or time available for extracurricular activities may be limited. But IPAL is different at every participating university. Some schools treat IPAL as an honors program; others require their students to complete internships nearby, while some offer opportunities thousands of miles away from campus. That’s why it is so important to investigate a variety of programs to find the best fit.

For a student who has always wanted to be an architect, and who wants to achieve that goal as quickly as possible, the prescribed IPAL schedule may be perfect. However, a student who wants to explore other interests during their years in college may find that creative scheduling and assistance from an advisor is necessary to pursue these other goals.

Students must satisfy the institution’s graduation requirements to receive their degree. Successful completion of either the ARE or AXP is not intended to be a requirement for graduation from the participating universities. Incomplete experience or examination requirements for licensure can be satisfied after graduation. However, the five-year rolling clock for completion of the ARE begins ticking on the date of the first exam.

The requirements, training, and expertise required for licensing are the same for IPAL program participants and those who follow a traditional path—the only difference is the timing. But because the IPAL concept has been recently introduced, many states’ licensing laws haven’t yet caught up. Currently, only about 15 states will accept passing scores on divisions of the ARE taken while enrolled in an IPAL program. The program launched in 2014, so the first class of students is nearing graduation and just beginning the licensing application process. As graduates prove that this accelerated model can produce well-trained, competent candidates, and NCARB continues to develop and advocate for alternative paths to licensure, more states may permit earlier testing within the structure of IPAL.

Institutions Offering IPAL
NAAB-Accredited Degrees Offered
Boston Architectural CollegeB.Arch, M.Arch – IPAL only available at master’s levelBoston, MA
The Catholic University of AmericaM.Arch
Washington, DC
Clemson University
M.Arch – IPAL can be started as an undergraduate
Clemson, SC
Drexel University
B.Arch – 2+4 program; 2 years full-time study followed by 4 years of internship and part-time study
Philadelphia, PA
Lawrence Technological UniversityM.ArchSouthfield, MI
New School of Architecture and Design (two programs)B.Arch, M.Arch  – IPAL only available at master’s levelSan Diego, CA
North Carolina State University (two programs)B.Arch, M.ArchRaleigh, NC
Portland State UniversityM.ArchPortland, OR
Savannah College of Art and DesignM.ArchSavannah, GA
University of CincinnatiM.ArchCincinnati, OH
University of Detroit MercyM.ArchDetroit, MI
University of FloridaM.ArchGainesville, FL
University of KansasM.ArchLawrence, KS
University of MarylandM.ArchCollege Park, MD
University of North Carolina-Charlotte (two programs)B.Arch, M.ArchCharlotte, NC


Read Article
Posted by Holly Williams Leppo, AIA, NCIDQ-certified, LEED AP - September 30, 2020
Man sitting on a sofa working on a laptop image

Tips for the Practice & Project Management Divisions

With examinee Erik Walker’s help, we have compiled a list of useful tips to help you prepare for the Practice Management and Project Management divisions of ARE 5.0 more efficiently.

Erik is an ARE 5.0 examinee who has been working in the architecture industry for close to 10 years and holds a Master of Architecture from North Dakota State University. He sees obtaining the architecture license as a gateway to financial success and freedom to forge his own career path. Erik is on a fast track to completing all six divisions of ARE 5.0 and has taken the Practice Management and Project Management divisions. He studied for about three weeks before his first exam and plans to follow a similar review schedule before the other divisions.

"Completing the ARE exams is more important to me than any project that walks through the door,” he said. “Passing these tests changes your career path from a few possible doors to an unending number in the future—and if there is no door to open, just having attained the license allows you to create your own.”

To prepare for the exam, Erik utilized PPI's popular ARE 5 Review Manual and ARE 5 Practice Exam as his primary review materials. PPI was the first in the industry to release new exam prep material for ARE 5.0, providing Erik with a complete and comprehensive review of each division.

1. Turn Practice into a Habit

Erik shares four different types of learning styles with us: You Can Read It, You Can Write It, You Can Hear It, and You Can Do It. The best way to familiarize yourself with the review materials and the exam format is through practice. After reading the concepts, writing the concepts, reading the concepts out loud, and doing more practice problems, the exam will no longer feel like an exam but more like another exercise. Visit PPI’s ARE Resource Hub for more ARE 5 Practice Problems and exam information.

2. Work Through the Exam Out of Order

For all divisions, the questions do not need to be answered consecutively. Sometimes working the exam backwards might help you with another area of the test.

“For this test I do recommend that you start with the case study because you don't know what you will find in the supplemental documents...You might get lucky and get an AIA contract document that could help you with other multiple choice questions," Erik said.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

3. Leave No Question Behind—GUESS!

Examinees should attempt to answer all questions, even with a guess. All unanswered questions are counted as incorrect answers, so reserve the last five to ten minutes of the test to make your best guess for the remaining questions.

4. Visualize the Contract

As you take on an architecture project, the AIA contract serves as the foundational guide to lead you through the project. One of the major topics covered in the Project Management division is “Contracts.” As recommended by Erik, the best way to prepare for this division is to visualize the contractprint out an actual AIA contract and review it with the detailed explanations provided in the ARE 5 Review Manual. This strategy helps to paint a solid picture of the contract, which further strengthens your memory.

5. Be Able to Apply Information

“The language and theme of the actual exam questions matched up very well with the PPI practice exam,” Erik said, “but you have to be able to apply the information in the review manual to the problems on the actual exam. There was only one question of the 80 on the test that was completely foreign to me, something that was not covered in the study guide, or something that I have ever seen in my 10 years of experience.”
Posted by PPI - September 30, 2020
Man sitting at a table in front of a laptop reading a message on his phone image

What Architecture Firms Look For: Career Advice from FXCollaborative

We asked Shannon Rodriguez, LEED GA Human Resources Director, Senior Associate at FXCollaborative about the company's recruiting preferences, as well as advice for recent architecture graduates.

FXCollaborative leverages broad expertise in architecture, interiors, and planning to enrich our world with responsible, intelligent, and beautiful design. The firm’s holistic approach integrates client aspirations, an urban sensibility and a celebration of the craft of building. From high rises and multi-family buildings to cultural and educational institutions and urban plans, FXCollaborative has had a positive impact on cityscapes and interiors worldwide.

Do you offer internships? If so, how many?

Yes, we offer internships throughout the year. We typically hire seven to eight interns each summer. We also offer fall and winter internships, typically one to four students, and the internship doesn’t last as long as summer internships.

What specific qualities and experience do you look for in an intern candidate?

Typically we’re looking for candidates in their last year of undergrad or in a master’s program. More specifically, we look to see if they have previous internship experience, what type of software skills they possess, resume and portfolio preparation, and if they’ve volunteered in the community, or participated outside their school work in the design industry.

Do you recommend students take the ARE 5.0?

Yes. We assist our interns with tracking AXP hours. It seems over the past few years, the exam has been compressed. You can now complete it faster. We do recommend, even if you haven’t achieved all your hours, that you take the exam. Getting licensed is such an important part of becoming an architect and can advance your career. It enables you to sign drawings, as well as be included on new business proposals.

What advice would you give recent graduates about to enter the architecture workforce?

I recommend recent grads to research specific firms that they admire and see themselves working at. I think it’s important because they don’t want to apply to just any firm. Some firms may not be the best fit. I think they should consider what kind of projects they want to work with, and what type of job culture they want to be a part of.

In any form of design, you are typically selling something—whether it be an idea or a product—so gaining experience on how to work with clients and how to listen to what they need was instrumental with my transition into a residential interior designer. I also realized through that experience that my heart was in residential design, not commercial as I originally thought; I may have never known that if I wasn’t open to all opportunities and directions after college.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

What is a common mistake recent graduates make while applying to your business?

Many students are not aware of our application process, which is communicated on our website, or they ignore instructions. Typically, I will receive emails with super big portfolios or links to their website, and we just don't have the time to look through everything, or download large files. It's best to follow the application process if you want your resume and portfolio reviewed. I’d advise sending everything in PDF format which is more easily accessible.

Can you share a recruiting secret or tip with us?

Most managers reviewing resumes and portfolios have very little time, so make sure you stand out from the rest.

What do you find recent graduates are most surprised by when they enter the workforce?

Our office is very fast-paced and hands-on, which is quite different from an academic environment.

What do you think will be the major changes in the interior field in the next five years?

I think there’s going to be a significant focus on diversifying the industry with respect to attracting people from different backgrounds, in terms of minority architects and women.

How would you suggest recent graduates maximize their time with their mentors?

We have a structured mentoring program. I definitely encourage graduates to have a mentor, to help give them advice on how to achieve goals, as well as steer them in the right direction, and have someone who could be an advocate for them. Meeting regularly is important as well.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

As they’re entering the field, I recommend getting involved in the industry somehow as a volunteer. I think it’s very important to give back to the design community, whether it’s through the AIA, ACE Mentoring, or Habitat for Humanity.

Read Article
Posted by PPI - September 30, 2020
Man at a desk holding a tablet device and piece of paper while looking at a laptop image

How to Track and Stay on Top of Your AXP Hours

NCARB’s Architectural Experience Program (AXP) requires candidates for licensure to document 3,740 hours of work experience, allocated among six practice areas that correspond with the divisions of ARE 5.0. Although half of the time must be accrued in an architecture firm (or firms) under the supervision of a registered architect, the other half can be obtained in a variety of practice settings, including engineering or construction companies, continuing education or certification programs, and community outreach, among others. To successfully complete the program, candidates must master 96 key tasks, which are fully described in the AXP Guidelines.

Although selected architecture schools offer students the opportunity to accelerate the licensure process by enrolling in Integrated Path to Licensure (IPAL) programs, architecture students in any US program can begin logging AXP hours as soon as they have graduated from high school and have participated in an experience that fulfills the requirements for AXP credit. College students’ employment during school breaks and internships may be counted as long as the positions satisfy the requirements.

To begin reporting, candidates must establish a My NCARB Login, and then open an NCARB Record. NCARB charges a $100 application fee to open a new Record, and an $85 annual fee to maintain the file, payable until the candidate receives their first professional license. After receiving a Record Number, candidates may use My NCARB’s online reporting system or log in to the free My AXP app (available for Apple or Android devices) to keep track of their work experience.

Preparing for ARE 5.0? Test your knowledge with a free ARE 5.0 Sample Quiz.

Candidates must recruit supervisors or mentors in each practice setting who can attest to satisfactory completion of the tasks and time reported. The candidate and AXP supervisor should work together to establish an appropriate review and reporting schedule; NCARB requires that hours be reported within eight months of the time that they are accrued to obtain full credit, and up to six months’ worth of time can be reported in one submission. The AXP Guidelines suggest that candidates submit a progress report to their supervisor every two months to stay on track.

With each submission, candidates should determine if there are practice areas in which they need additional hours; the supervisor may be able to adjust subsequent work assignments to help the employee obtain the types of experiences needed.

Candidates may also pursue independent projects to fill in the gaps or progress more quickly, such as entering design competitions, devoting time to eligible community service efforts, or pursuing continuing education.

These bi-monthly check ins are also a great time to develop or update one’s strategy for taking the Architect Registration Exam. The majority of US jurisdictions allow candidates to take divisions of the ARE before completing the AXP. Candidates can map out a plan that balances work hours and personal obligations with study time so that they can complete as many divisions of the ARE as possible while they’re accruing AXP experience.

There is no requirement that a candidate satisfy all of the required hours in a specific practice area before sitting for the corresponding division of the exam, but reviewing the breakdown of work experience may offer insight into which sections of the ARE should come first.
Understanding the various skills that must be mastered and the types of activities that fit into each practice area will make it easier to assign categories to work hours. Candidates should become familiar with the information in the AXP Guidelines and use this resource to appropriately classify their experiences. This can be accomplished by logging time contemporaneously using the My AXP app, or by keeping records for a week or two and entering all of the data into the app or online recording tool. Remember that all of the time spent in the office may not fulfill the requirements for AXP experience (such as time spent traveling to a project site or sorting through the supply closet) and should not be included in the report. It is a good idea to keep documentation of the hours submitted until the time has been approved by NCARB and added to the Record.
Read Article
Posted by Holly Williams Leppo, AIA, NCIDQ-certified, LEED AP - September 30, 2020
Three colleagues looking at documents together image

Shop ARE Exam Prep

Shop ARE 5.0 Exam Bundles