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License Requirements / Process
California's examination and licensure requirements are more flexible than most other jurisdictions. In reviewing the requirements for licensure, it is important to realize that the process cannot be described by a single set of sequential steps. Instead, obtaining a license in California involves requirements that a candidate can meet in multiple ways. Additionally, each requirement may have several possible entry points at which a candidate may start fulfilling it. Although each candidate's path to licensure may differ, all candidates will complete the process with the necessary knowledge, skills, and ability to be a licensed architect who practices in a way that protects the health, safety, and welfare of Californians. To assess a candidate's knowledge, skills, and ability to perform the services required of a competent architect in California, the Board looks at three separate aspects of an individual's architectural development: education, experience, and examination. No single aspect can accurately measure whether an individual is qualified to be licensed to practice architecture in California.
As outlined below, once a candidate has fulfilled all the necessary requirements, he or she is eligible to receive a license to practice architecture in California. To summarize, those requirements are as follows:
- Eight years of experience or the equivalent as evaluated by the Board in accordance with the Board's Table of Equivalents (including at least one year of work experience under the direct supervision of an architect licensed in a U.S. jurisdiction or two years of work experience under the direct supervision of an architect registered in a Canadian province)
- Completion of the Intern Development Program (IDP)
- Successful completion of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)
- Successful completion of the California Supplemental Examination (CSE)
All possible backgrounds that candidates might have are not described on this site. Individuals whose experience and/or education are not discussed here should contact the Board to learn how licensure requirements apply to their situation.
Starting The Licensure Process
Individuals who would like to become a candidate must first submit an Application for Eligibility Evaluation to the Board and establish eligibility to take the ARE. Candidates are eligible to begin taking the ARE following completion of five years of experience or the equivalent and enrolling in the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards' (NCARB) IDP.
Candidates apply to the Board for ARE eligibility by submitting the following:
- Completed Application for Eligibility Evaluation
- $100 eligibility review fee
- Employment Verification Form(s) and/or school transcripts submitted directly from the school
Note: Effective July 1, 2008, candidates applying for eligibility to sit for the ARE must establish an NCARB record prior to being permitted to take the exam. Contact NCARB directly at (202) 783-6500 and request they notify the Board when you have established your record. Otherwise, your eligibility may be delayed.
The Employment Verification Form and school transcripts may be received by the Board either prior to or after the Application for Eligibility Evaluation.
Important Note: To receive credit for post-secondary education, an original transcript must be submitted to the Board directly from the school. Transcripts submitted by candidates or marked "Issued to Student" will not be accepted. The Board grants credit only for degrees posted on the transcript at the time of evaluation and cannot grant credit based on an anticipated date of graduation. Work experience obtained as a required part of a degree program for which educational credit is earned is not granted separate work experience credit.
Following receipt of the items indicated above, the Board performs an eligibility evaluation. The Board reviews transcripts and each Employment Verification Form to determine the appropriate amount of credit to be granted pursuant to the Table of Equivalents.