Path to licensure

Architects are licensed professionals with specialized skills who design buildings and cityscapes to make real the unique visions of their clients and communities.

There are many career paths within the architecture profession, but in order to call yourself a licensed architect, you must satisfy three components on your path to licensure: Education, Experience and Examination. Please note that these three activities do not necessarily need to occur in a linear fashion.


In the United States, most students interested in architecture obtain a professional degree from an architecture program that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Students may also attend a two-year college or earn bachelor’s degrees in other subjects. However, those students must obtain an accredited degree in order to meet the educational requirement.


The Architectural Experience Program (AXP), administered by NCARB, identifies the comprehensive professional experience that is essential for the independent practice of architecture. AXP is a national program that design professionals use to log their professional experience time via a training unit system. A typical professional experience period lasts three to five years.


The Architect Registration Examination® (ARE) assesses candidates for their knowledge, skills, and ability to provide the various services required in the practice of architecture. Each of the test’s six divisions can be taken in any order at any time by a candidate who has been deemed eligible to test by a jurisdiction (U.S. state, territory or district). Some jurisdictions might have additional requirements, such as an additional oral exam/interview. Visit the Washington State Department of Licensing website to learn more about the requirements for our state.

AIA Seattle provides our Associate Members with the tools to study and test successfully.  Check out our ARE Education page for more information on our Study Guides and Resource Library.

Here are some helpful links – favorite sources from our members:

Some key books from the ARE Handbook matrix:

  • The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (all exams)
  • The Project Resource Manual: CSI Manual of Practice (good for all exams)
  • Architectural Graphic Standards (PA, PPD, PDD)
  • Planning and Urban Design Standards (PA and PPD)
  • Building Codes Illustrated (PA, PPD, PDD)
  • Building Construction Illustrated (PA, PPD, PDD)


Learn more about the resources available for Associate members.

Seattle Design Festival

Seattle Design Festival

Seattle Design Festival connects designers, community members and civic leaders to explore the ways design improves our city and our lives - and will be August 17-22, 2024 Read more