What does NCARB mean? …and is their certification worth it?

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards is a non-profit organization that is made up of licensing boards from 55 states

Architecture is a profession that requires extensive education, training, and certification to ensure the safety and welfare of the public. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) is a professional organization that plays a vital role in regulating the architecture profession in the United States.

Its 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.

In this article, we will explore the functions and benefits of the NCARB, its role in licensing, its resources, and how it helps students become architects.

Who are National Council of Architectural Registration Boards?

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.  

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.   

What do NCARB 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.  

NCARB Record

The NCARB Record is a centralized database that stores and manages the professional information of architects and aspiring architects. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) maintains this record as a service to its members and to the architecture profession as a whole.

The NCARB Record is designed to help architects manage their professional credentials and to streamline the licensure process across different states.

The NCARB Record contains information on an individual’s education, professional experience, and examination history. This information is used to evaluate an individual’s eligibility for architectural licensure and to support the licensure process in different states.

By maintaining a record with NCARB, architects can streamline the process of applying for licensure in different states, since much of the required information is already on file.

In addition to licensure support, the NCARB Record offers a number of other benefits to architects. For example, it provides a secure platform for storing and managing professional credentials, making it easier for architects to keep their information up-to-date and accessible.

The NCARB Record also offers support for the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), which are key components of the licensure process.

Overall, the NCARB Record is a valuable resource for architects and aspiring architects who are looking to manage their professional credentials and to streamline the licensure process across different states. By maintaining a record with NCARB, architects can benefit from a wide range of services and support that can help them advance their careers and expand their professional opportunities.

NCARB office

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’s 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  

NCARB reciprocity

NCARB reciprocity refers to the mutual recognition of architectural licenses between different states in the United States. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has established a system of reciprocity that allows architects who are licensed in one state to become licensed in another state without having to take additional exams or meet additional requirements.

This system is in place to facilitate the mobility of licensed architects and to promote consistency in the regulation of the architecture profession across different states.

To take advantage of NCARB reciprocity, architects must have an active NCARB certificate, which verifies that they have met the national standards for architectural licensure. This certificate is recognized by all 55 U.S. jurisdictions and is required to apply for reciprocal licensure in a new state.

While each state sets its own requirements for licensure, the NCARB certificate streamlines the process by providing a standard set of credentials that are recognized across different states.

In summary, NCARB reciprocity allows architects to practice in multiple states without having to meet different sets of requirements for each state. This helps to promote consistency and mobility within the architecture profession, making it easier for architects to expand their careers and take on new opportunities in different parts of the country.

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 Architectural Experience Program (AXP) administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) requires a minimum of 3,740 hours of qualifying work experience, divided into six experience areas. The six areas of experience are:

  1. Practice Management
  2. Project Management
  3. Programming & Analysis
  4. Project Planning & Design
  5. Project Development & Documentation
  6. Construction & Evaluation

To become eligible for licensure as an architect in the United States, candidates must complete the required AXP hours and pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). The number of hours required in each experience area can vary based on the jurisdiction and state regulations.

However, in general, candidates must complete a minimum of 1,860 hours of work experience related to health, safety, and welfare (HSW) topics. The AXP program is designed to provide candidates with a comprehensive range of professional experience necessary to become a licensed architect.

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.   

NCARB office

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.  

FAQ’s about NCARB

What does NCARB mean?

NCARB is an acronym that stands for the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

What does NCARB certified mean?

NCARB certified refers to an architect who has met the education, experience, and examination requirements set by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and has been granted a certificate of certification by the organization.

This certificate signifies that the architect is eligible for reciprocal licensing in all 55 U.S. jurisdictions and has demonstrated a level of competency in the field of architecture.

Being NCARB certified can also provide architects with benefits such as professional mobility, free access to continuing education, leadership opportunities, and access to secure records.

Is NCARB certification worth it?

Obtaining NCARB certification can be worth it for architects who plan to practice in multiple jurisdictions within the United States, as it allows for streamlined and expedited reciprocity between the different state licensing boards.

Additionally, the certification offers a number of other benefits such as access to continuing education, leadership opportunities, and secure record-keeping.

However, it is important to note that the certification comes with its own set of requirements, including completing the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), both of which can be time-consuming and costly.

Additionally, some jurisdictions may have their own additional requirements or limitations on the use of the NCARB certification.

Overall, whether or not obtaining NCARB certification is worth it will depend on the individual architect’s goals and circumstances, and it is important to carefully consider the costs and benefits before pursuing it.

What is the difference between AIA and NCARB?

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) are two separate organizations with different roles in the field of architecture.

The AIA is a professional organization that represents architects and promotes the field of architecture. It offers educational resources, networking opportunities, and advocacy on behalf of architects and architecture. The AIA does not have any regulatory authority over the practice of architecture or the licensure of architects.

On the other hand, NCARB is a nonprofit organization that serves as a central clearinghouse for the regulation and licensure of architects in the United States. It develops and administers the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), which are both required components of the licensure process in most U.S. jurisdictions.

NCARB also offers the NCARB certification, which is a credential that allows architects to practice in multiple jurisdictions without having to complete additional requirements.

In summary, while both the AIA and NCARB serve the field of architecture, the AIA is a professional organization focused on promoting the field and representing architects, while NCARB is a regulatory organization focused on ensuring the safety and welfare of the public through the licensure of architects.

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