An Architects Guide to the NCARB


The NCARB, or the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, is an organization made up of architectural licencing boards from 55 states in the US. It helps architectural professionals expand their reach professionally by recommending regulations and guidelines for adoption by its member boards.

This article will take a closer look at the NCARB, focusing on who they are and what they do. To this end, it shall take a look at a brief history of the NCARB, how you can become a member, the benefits of membership and the NCARB regions. It shall also focus on their role in helping students become architects, the AXP and the ARE, the NCARB role in licencing and what they do for architecture. Finally, it shall look at what an NCARB certificate is and the resources on offer, creating an all in one summary resource on the NCARB.  

Who are they?

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards is a non-profit organization that is made up of licensing boards from 55 states. It performs various roles with the aim of helping architects expand their professional reach and ensuring overall public health, safety and welfare. To this end, it leads the regulation of the architecture profession and also develops and administers both the Architectural Experience Program and the Architect Registration Examination. It also ensures that architects go wherever their career takes them, as long as it’s within the fifty-five states, without ignoring the jurisdiction of the boards in these states.  

NCARB’s Mission: 

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards mission is to protect public health, safety, and welfare by leading the development and regulation of the architectural practice through the creation, recommendation, and application of standards for licensing and credentialing architects.  

As an architecture regulator, it targets to accomplish its mission by encouraging and recommending a set of national requirements for licencing architectural practitioners in line with the organization’s three strategic goals. It also fosters collaboration through the use of sustained and action-oriented dialogue with related organizations which addresses important issues that affect architecture and public health and welfare.  

The NCARB also centralizes its information in a platform where architects and interns can easily access and efficiently manage their credentials. This has been put to action via the active participation of its member boards. It also helps professionals and interested parties reach their career goals through the provision of important data about the procedure to licensure. 

NCARB has tailored its existence around three core values which are, openness, responsiveness, and restlessness.  

What do they do? 

As already mentioned, the NCARB’s key tasks are to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare through regulations in architecture. To this end, the NCARB develops and applies standards of licensure. It is also responsible for issuing architects with the right credentials for practising their work. 

The NCARB also recommends model law, regulations and other guidelines to its member jurisdictions. However, each jurisdiction makes its own registration requirements and law.  

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards sets administers and maintains the Architectural Experience Program, or AXP for short, and the Architect Registration Examination, or the ARE. 

Finally, through the NCARB Certificate, this organization is able to facilitate reciprocity between all the 55 Member Jurisdictions.  


A brief history of the NCARB 

The organization came to be in May 1919 during an American Institute of Architects meeting. It was formed by 15 architects from 13 states and its goals were:

– To ease the exchange of information on licensing and regulating architects.

– To bring uniformity in licensing and laws for reciprocal licensing.

– To improve general education standards in architecture.

– To achieve uniformity in examining, licensing and regulating architects and architecture. 

Over the years, the organization has modified these goals to focus on architectural licensure, education, examination, and experience. NCARB came up and facilitated its first examination in 1965, and the first experience program was had later in 1976.   

How Do You Become A Member? 

Over 42,000 architects have the NCARB Certificate. This certificate allows them to work across all state borders. The NCARB certificate also allows them access to plenty of free and continuous education, among other benefits. To establish a record with NCARB you are required to have: 

1. A degree in architecture from an institution/program that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). you can also get your certificate from a program which is accredited by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB). 

2. You also need to complete your AXP program, sit and pass the ARE and get your license to practise from a state registration board. 

The application process is simple, once you have met all these requirements, you can forward your application to the NCARB. The organization will need proof of registration from your board, then they will evaluate your record. Their response time is around 30 days. 

After this, you will get an email of confirmation and a Certificate number. You will be asked to make the necessary payments at this point. 

What are the benefits of their membership? 

This organization benefits its members in many ways. Along with expanding their professional outreach, there are other benefits such as: 

1.     Professional mobility 

Members can apply for reciprocal licenses from all 55 member jurisdictions. The NCARB Certificate can also be used to support registration in other countries like Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. 

2.     Firm’s competitive edge 

With this certification, you or your firm have a good edge when it comes to hiring and promoting. You can also use this credential with your title to demonstrate the national standards that you have met. 

3.     Free progressive education 

Members with this certificate have access to NCARB’s Monograph Series, which is a collection of courses by experts in architecture. The organization also has online courses which you can earn ontinuing education hours’ CEH in Health, Welfare and Safety. You can also easily do this at the comfort of your home. 

4.     Leadership opportunities

When you have NCARD certification, you have access to volunteer programs on the state boards or the NCARB committees. This is how you can rise in leadership and learn a lot of new experiences. 

5.     Secure records

The NCARB has secure servers that store all information. This information is always available to its members at any time.  

NCARB Regions 

Currently, the organization comprises of 55 registration boards from all over the US. The district of Columbia plus three US territories (U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and, Guam) are also included in the regions.

These regions are categorized into six: 

1. Middle-Atlantic Conference: Delaware District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and West Virginia. 

2. New England Conference: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont 

3. Mid-Central Conference: Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Missouri

4. Southern Conference: Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Virgin Islands 

5. Central States Conference: Montana Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Oklahoma 

6. Western Conference: Nevada, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Alaska, Arizona, and Washington  

Their Role in Helping Students Become Architects 

NCARB has made the road to becoming an architect very easy for students. The steps have been simplified, they include: starting a record with the organization, locating the right school with NAAB accredited programs, documenting professional experience through AXP, connecting with firms which support you together with a licensing adviser, and finally completing ARE. 

Once students have finished their education and all other requirements, the NCARB will help them get licensed be sending their record to the concerned jurisdiction. After getting their licenses they can apply for the NCARB Certificate and become a full-fledged architect.  

The AXP Experience

The main purpose of AXP is to a framework to guide an individual through gaining professional experience. It was developed by the NCARB and is recommended by most of the jurisdictions. Individuals cannot earn licenses without it. 

AXP teaches individuals how to safely handle different scenarios in architecture (as a profession.) The program prepares professionals in everything from site dynamics to managing a project. 


The ARE Exam  

This exam is accepted by all jurisdictions in the United States. ARE is a multi-division exam that is used to assess knowledge of architecture. It is also designed to test the aspects of architecture that affect the integrity, health, and soundness of a structure. Other than these functions, it also tests the architect’s responsibilities at work. Such responsibilities include project management, work ethic, and work coordination. 


Before you can sit this exam, you must get approval from your jurisdiction board. Note that every jurisdiction has its own unique rules on ARE, therefore, before requesting eligibility you need to be certain that you qualify for the exam.   

NCARB’s role in licensing 

The NCARB has standards which facilitate licensure between jurisdictions. This is what is referred to as reciprocal licensure. Before you can practice architecture in your jurisdiction, you need to attain the requirements set by your jurisdiction. All boards are unique, and they have varying rules, but however much they differ, they need to follow the NCARB standards. 

These jurisdictions are also divided into NCARB regions which gather annually to discuss the resolutions regarding programs. They also vote on NCARB model law and guidelines.  

What is an NCARB certificate? 

The NCARB Certificate is simply a proof of membership at NCARB. It gives its members status in the industry. It is also proof of high professional or national standards attained by an individual architect. 

Other than that, the certificate also helps you access a number of benefits like Professional mobility, where you are at liberty to work anywhere within the US, as long as your career takes you there. It also helps you register your work in other countries like New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. 

You also have free access to education from the organization, it gives you a competitive edge, and you have access to the organization’s secure and reliable information stored in its servers.

This certificate makes you the organization’s first priority. When new opportunities in the organization or jurisdictions come up, you are the first to be notified. Such opportunities like voluntary positions give you good experience and skills to take on leadership posts and duties.

What do they do for architecture? 

As time goes by, a lot of politics gets its way into regulations. This is to say that politics is trying to influence the value of regulations. Protective regulations for professions like architecture are essential and need to be secured and kept pure. This is because it directly influences the environment and its safety. 

Regulations are also aimed at improving jobs and job opportunities. The job market can be categorized into, blue-collar workers, veterans, and underemployed individuals. The advantage of such distinctions is the overall effect it has on the public’s health, welfare and safety. There needs to be some degree of order and regulations in the job market, especially in the field of architecture. 

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) supports the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) on the Where We Stand” statement, which focuses on the role architecture licensing boards to play in making the built environment safe. The NCARB Certificate (together with the model laws and programs) address many important issues like interstate consistency and mobility. 

These issues have invited huge criticism on the regulatory spectrum and licensure system. Architects are urged to know exactly how their regulatory framework works.  

NCARB has a total of 55 jurisdiction boards from all states across the US. These boards work in liaison with the NCARB in regulating architecture. The boards volunteer people regularly to develop exams, monitor national models for education and come up with options for licensure for individuals or entities taking unique paths.   


Resources on offer 

There are so many resources on offer at the NCARB. The organization has made a huge impact on education through training programs and exams. They have also gone further to offer resources to facilitate learning of architecture.  

As time lies’ so do changes take place. The organization updates its learning materials from time to time. Many students have already transitioned to the latest version of ARE. The following is a list of ARE study resources. The list includes prep videos, real-time help from NCARB experts and free demo Architect Registration Examinations. 

ARE 5.0 Video Prep Videos 

These are videos that test the learner’s knowledge and teach the learner about divisions. The fields of knowledge include:

1. Practice Management

2. Programming and Analysis

3. Project Management

4. Project Development and Documentation

5. Project Planning and Design

6. Construction and Evaluation

7. Exam Navigation 8. Exam Strategies 

ARE 5.0 Demonstration Exam 

This demo exam is offered for free in y NCARB’ in NCARB’s official website. Feel free to explore ARE’s interface and get to know exactly how the exam experience at the centre is like. 

ARE 5.0 Community 

This platform enables you to get experiences and reliable answers from experts who are member architects at NCARB. You can also share your study tips with other people (candidate) in this community. Options like starting a study group are also open to you in the community.  

The community also has a walkthrough on how to transition to ARE 5.0 and how to schedule an appointment. 

ARE 5.0 Handbook 

When you want to understand your new exam, you will have to refer to ARE 5.0 handbook. This document has around 170 pages consisting of sample questions, a breakdown of divisions- one at a time, common abbreviations, formulas, and a lot more useful information. The book also has a list of references on exam questions written by NCARB’s architect volunteers. 

ARE 5.0 Guidelines 

These guidelines contain an overview of the exam, scheduling and what to look forward to in the test centre when receiving your results and more.  


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