Webinar Recap: Becoming an Architect

What are the paths toward being a licensed architect? It’s one of the most important professions in our nation and state. While Coloradoans love the outdoors in every sense, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places shelter, as a base foundation to our existence along with food, air, and water. Architects are essential to life, yet how does one become an architect and help others survive and thrive in safety and prosperity?

During a recent AIA Colorado webinar, AIA Colorado Licensing Advisors Avik Ghua, AIA and Erik Okland, AIA, shared insights and avenues toward licensure. Following are just a few of the highlights, and you can view the AIA Colorado YouTube channel for the full recording.

  1. Four Steps. According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), there are four major steps to obtain a license: 1) Education, 2) Experience, 3) Examination, and 4) Licensure and Certification. Education and experience can have various paths, so make sure the exact requirements are understood to best meet your timeline and personal and professional environment.
  2. Official agencies. The official organizations need to be understood: The NCARB, in collaboration with jurisdictions or state and territory licensing boards, facilitates the licensure and credentialing of architects to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The State of Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) manages licensing and registration for multiple professions, including architects. The NCARB website lists by state the individual state requirements and alternate options for licensure.
  3. Timeline. Taking a look at the timeline, the NCARB’s utmost mission is the safety of occupants in the building designed and stamped by licensed architects. Similar to doctors and dentists, this process is lengthy and demanding, yet doable. The average time from start to finish is about 13 years. The reward of licensure is worth the grit, grind, and wait, and AIA Colorado is here for its members in every step of the process. For those seeking to concurrently fast track the education, experience, and exam, the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) is a viable option.
  4. Education Paths. Accredited universities are a recommended path for education; however, non-accredited programs work as well for the State of Colorado. Check the National Architectural Accrediting Board for nationwide programs. The University of Colorado, Denver is on the accredited list, while other degree options and non-degree options are available in Colorado. The University of Colorado, Boulder meets alternative program criteria with its Environmental Design Degree. An encouraging trend is that diversity is improving; nearly half of the architectural school graduates are women.
  5. Experience (AXP). An important and necessary component of this process is gaining real-world experience alongside a licensed architect. Based on previous data, plan for about five years to finish this Architectural Experience Program (AXP). The experience areas include practice and project management, programming and analysis, project planning and design, project development and documentation and construction/evaluation. The total number of experience hours fluctuates from your degree type, including no degree for the State of Colorado.
  6. Examination (ARE). This is a six-part exam. Average exam-taking time is two years. Be prepared. You can do this! Find a mentor—AIA Colorado is here to help. The six exam divisions mirror the AXP experience areas, and the State of Colorado DORA will approve your eligibility to take the exam. Candidates can retake a division after 60 days and a maximum of three times a year. The exam can be taken at home, at a Prometric location, or a combination of both home and site. Candidates need to ensure their test areas and computers meet requirements. A free 30-minute pre-exam trial appointment is available to verify your computer and testing area at home meet requirements.

And finally, just to reinforce AIA Colorado’s commitment to you in this amazing journey, CEO Mike Waldinger said, “Don’t go it alone. We are here to help you find a mentor to gain another perspective and help you in the process.”

Licensure Stats for Colorado  


About the Author

JP Arnold

JP Arnold, LEED Green Associate, APR, is Marketing and Business Development Manager at Bridgers & Paxton. He is an AIA Colorado Allied Member and is a member of the Editorial Committee.

Arnold is a retired U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO) and Signal Officer. As a PAO, he worked with more than 150 media engagements around the world to include The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Newsweek, NBC News, along with Seattle and Colorado Springs media markets. He worked on the National Army Marketing and Advertising Recruiting Campaign alongside Weber Shandwick PR and McCann Erickson Ad Agency.

He is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mass Communication from Ouachita Baptist University and Middle Tennessee State University (Phi Kappa Phi Honors). He has been married for more than 20 years to his wife and they have two children and several pets.

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