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  • Kathryn Van Dinh

When I grow up, I want to be a MEL/ARCH architect!



“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all know the standard answers. Doctor, Astronaut, Vet, Cowboy, Princess. It seems to be unusual to find a young aspiring architect. And by the time students are moving off to college, architecture school still doesn’t seem to be at the top of the list with pre-med, education, and engineering.


Not a lot of people have had the opportunity to get a coffee and talk with an architect. Most haven’t even met an architect, as we are rare and majestic creatures. Everyone knows the process to become a doctor but what about for architects?


The process to become a license architect takes many years and is a series of different challenges. First, you need to go to school as you can imagine, but you must get a professional degree from an NAAB accredited program. The National Architectural Accrediting Board has put in place an accreditation system to ensure that a school’s professional degree program truly prepares young architects for the profession. These degrees are usually either a five year Bachelor of Architecture or a Masters of Architecture. It is through these programs that students can gain design, graphic, and architectural experience within a classroom setting. There students get the chance to test the architectural waters, outside the confines of the real world.

After graduation, you need to start gaining experience in the industry. This is when you get to take part in all the aspects of designing and construction. Meeting with clients, communicating with consultants and city staff, refining layouts, completing construction documents. The list goes on and on. And how much you will learn will be exponential.


You will need to start logging hours working under the supervision of a licensed architect with the AXP, the Architectural Experience Program, under NCARB, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. Essentially you are getting credit for the types of experience you are gaining. There are a certain number of hours required for six different categories. These are things like how to run a firm, completing work dealing with programming and analyses, and handling construction documents. The goal here is to make sure that young people in the industry have a well rounded and comprehensive knowledge for all the different parts of working and managing a firm.


But wait, there is more! With all the hours of experience and knowledge, you need to be put to the test. Those that want to be officially licensed as an architect must take the six ARE, Architect Registration Examination. The content of the six tests aligned with the areas covered in the AXP hours. Some states require additional jurisdiction-specific exams in addition to the ARE. If you are interested or getting close to finishing your AREs, we recommend visiting the NCARB website to verify the requirements for your jurisdiction. Testing outside a school setting isn’t fun, but here is a light at the end of the tunnel.


With the passing of your last exam, you are eligible to apply for your architecture license. Now it is official. You are an architect. It may seem like a long and potentially overwhelming journey but it is so fulfilling in a many different ways. The people you will work alongside, the clients you will design for, and the mentors that will help guide you, all will influence your career and lead you on to amazing things.


Start your path to becoming a MEL/ARCH architect!

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