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How to Track and Stay on Top of Your AXP Hours

By: Holly Williams Leppo, AIA, NCIDQ-certified, LEED AP
September 30, 2020
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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.

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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.

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