How to Become a Licensed Residential Architect, residential architect
Designing homes and landscapes is a dream job for many individuals, but the challenges of becoming a licensed architect often stand in the way of this dream. To become a licensed architect, you’ll need to be willing to put in a lot of hard work throughout the education and apprenticeship stages of certification and study extensively for the ARE accreditation exam. Once certified, many individuals choose to work for a residential architectural firm to design custom homes and assist with planning remodeling projects.

There are many education and experience requirements involved with qualifying for the ARE exam and becoming a residential architect. In this article, we’ll go over the details for each of these requirements and answer some of your questions regarding this profession. To successfully complete these requirements and receive accreditation, prospective architects will need dedication, attention to detail, and advanced problem-solving skills.

What Does a Residential Architect Do?

A residential architect plans and designs buildings that will serve as residences. The assistance of a residential architect is a necessity for building new homes, condominiums, and apartment buildings. Individuals interested in custom homes will often consult with a residential architect directly, to discuss how their new space will accommodate their needs and lifestyle.  However, the property owner or construction company will reach out to or directly hire a residential architect for many projects. Most residential architects work with a team in a firm or dedicated office within a construction company.

What Level of Salary is Available as an Architect?

Becoming a licensed architect requires many years of experience and education, which means architects are generally in frequent demand. According to, the median salary for residential architects is approximately $80,000 a year. This salary varies based on the hiring company and the type of consultation for which the architect is available. Many architects are self-employed therefore will have a fluctuating yearly income.

What Skills Do I Need To Work as an Architect?

Drawing and CADD (Computer-Aided Drawing and Drafting) are essential technical skills for working as an architect. However, a considerable portion of this career lies away from the drafting table. Meeting with clients and project managers is essential throughout the lifespan of a project and so requires strong interpersonal and communication skills. Many architects also spend a great deal of time traveling to project sites and overseeing construction or meeting with vendors.

Education Requirements

Beginning a career in architecture requires completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in architecture accredited by the NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board). There are many degree programs available through liberal arts and design schools that are notably not accredited- it’s important to check in with the university or school to ask about their accreditation beforehand. The educational institution hosting the degree must maintain its NAAB certification throughout the duration of your studies.

Accredited bachelor’s degree programs typically span five years and cover all aspects of project management, environmental planning, and design technology. Throughout these programs, students will assemble portfolios and present projects for professional review to showcase their work. Architecture master’s degree programs cover many of the same topics as the bachelor’s degree and work well for students who picked a different undergraduate major. However, many architecture bachelor’s degree students will choose to take on the master’s degree in addition to their prior education.

Students wishing to proceed with a career in architecture will ultimately need to complete either the accredited bachelor’s degree program or the accredited master’s degree program. Doctorate-level studies are available but focus more on the academic field associated with architecture rather than the licensing process.

Experience Requirements

After completing the educational requirements associated with becoming a licensed architect, you’ll need to gather architectural experience through NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards). The NCARB organizes a program called the AXP, which stands for Architectural Experience Program.

How to Become a Licensed Residential Architect, residential architect

The AXP targets a number of specific proficiencies (96, to be exact) and requires a total of 3,740 hours across all disciplines. The experience component of earning your architectural license will take, at a minimum, around two years. Previously, this hours requirement was much higher- 5,600 hours were required through the IDP (Intern Development Program), which typically needed an extra year or two of work to complete.

Architects will need to log their hours for the experience component according to specific AXP guidelines. Non-licensed architects can bypass part of this component with a portfolio displaying architectural competencies across the 96 AXP task areas. You can read more about AXP guidelines here. The experience required for an architectural license is essentially an apprenticeship or internship that will give candidates a look into how architectural firms and offices operate.

Exam Requirements

Once a licensed architect candidate has completed an accredited education program and the AXP experience requirements, they will be eligible to take the ARE (Architect Registration Examination). The exam is divided into six parts, each of which focuses on a specific architectural discipline. These exam portions are as follows: Practice Management, Project Management, Programming and Analysis, Project Planning and Design, Project Development and Documentation, and Construction and Evaluation.

Prospective candidates for licensure will need to study extensively for several months before the exam, which typically occurs in the fall. Many architects will need to take the exam several times, though it is important to know that each full exam attempt currently costs around $1500. Examination is the final step in becoming an officially licensed architect. You will need to renew your license every few years, though you won’t need to take the ARE again once you’ve passed.


Becoming a licensed architect requires many years of hard work and determination but can lead to a fulfilling career with many opportunities to build residential and commercial spaces. The residential architecture field is growing steadily as many cities and urban areas expand to accommodate a growing population. To learn more about this field of work, speak with an experienced residential architect today and ask about their journey towards designing homes and commercial spaces.