Architects are licensed professionals trained in the art and science of the design and construction of buildings and structures that primarily provide shelter. Additionally, architects may be involved with designing the total built environment — from how a building integrates with its surrounding landscape to architectural or construction details that involve the interior of the building to designing and creating furniture to be used in a specific space.

An architect will create the overall aesthetic and look of buildings and structures, but the design of a building involves far more than its appearance. Buildings also must be functional, safe, and economical and must suit the specific needs of the people who use them. Most importantly, they must be built with the public’s health, safety and welfare in mind.



Architects must be licensed before they can practice as an architect or call themselves an architect. There are three main steps in becoming an architect: education, experience, and examination.

All states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands require individuals to be licensed (registered) before they may call themselves architects or contract to provide architectural services.

The median time between graduation and licensure is about seven years. Because emerging professionals have flexibility in mapping out their paths to licensure, the timing for achieving this milestone is influenced by how they choose to fulfill various requirements (education, experience, examination). The degree program you select, where and how you decide to fulfill internship requirements, when you take the examination, and where you plan to seek initial licensure all can have an impact on the length of time it will take to achieve your goal of licensure.

For students working toward an ultimate goal of licensure to practice architecture, the internship period is intended as an extension of the process of architectural education, providing specialized training and knowledge about architectural practice that is not usually covered in the academic setting. Each US state registration board establishes the details of its own training requirement; for those states and provinces requiring an NAAB- or CACB-accredited degree, three years of training in addition to the degree is the norm.

As the scope and complexity of architectural practice have expanded, the traditional method of mentorship, where apprentices attained practical training through a close working relationship with a practitioner, has become less tenable. In the United States, the Intern Development Program (IDP) was created to provide a coherent structure ensuring that graduates entering the profession today can acquire the specific knowledge and skills necessary for the competent practice of architecture

While some state registration boards allow training options other than IDP for those pursuing licensure, most boards have adopted the IDP training standards as a requirement for licensure. The IDP requirements outline specific training in four major categories: Pre-Design, Design, Project Management, and Practice Management. Participating interns must demonstrate competency in each of these areas in the course of their internship in order to meet the overall training requirement.

In addition to the more traditional settings of architectural practice, IDP also encourages interns to gain experience in less conventional areas within the overall profession. While every state mandates the acquisition of experience under the direct supervision of a registered architect, many states also accept experience gained under the supervision of other design professionals, such as landscape architects, engineers, and general contractors.

To a greater extent than in the academic setting, the internship period must balance the needs of the intern with the needs of the educational setting, which in this case is also an employment setting. While the firm has a responsibility to provide the training opportunities central to the internship, it also expects the intern to perform basic professional services and learn the particularities of how the firm practices architecture. Successful interns will learn to recognize and take advantage of the overlap in these often conflicting goals in order to maximize the value of their internship experience.


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