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New York Architect Professional Licensing Guide

1. HOW THE PROFESSION IS ORGANIZED IN NEW YORK

OVERVIEW

The New York State Board of Architecture which is part of the New York Education Department Office of the Professions (NYSED-OP) regulates the legal practice of architecture in New York and grants licensure as a Licensed Professional Architect.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) also plays a significant role in qualifying architects for professional licensing. Their services include:

Verification of training and experience through a 3 year Intern Development Program (IDP)
National credentialing called NCARB Certification – once you are licensed in New York, this is a tool to become licensed in several states. It is available only to highly experienced professionals, as defined by NCARB
Compilation and maintenance of training and credentials through an online subscription service

THE JOB MARKET FOR ARCHITECTS IN NEW YORK

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of architects in the US work in small architecture firms. One in five architects is self-employed (20%). Architects also often work in construction firms and government agencies.

Since architecture is closely tied to the construction industry, job opportunities can suffer in an economic downturn. The demand for different architectural services varies by region. Often architects pursue licensing in multiple states to expand the geographic territory of their practice. It is becoming more common for US design firms to collaborate with overseas companies to complete CADD (Computer-Aided Design and Drafting) and related work at a lower cost than employing an architect in the US. This trend means fewer opportunities for junior architects to develop their professional experience.

Certain areas of architecture are stable or growing. For example, architectural work for health care and education may grow as the population ages and schools need to reinvest in buildings. A particularly high-demand specialty area in architecture is green building and remodeling – design that focuses on more efficient use of resources such as energy, water and materials.

In the state of New York architects can be licensed from a variety of educational programs, including technical study programs or traditional bachelor’s degrees and from experience.

THE JOB SEARCH

What makes a successful career in this context? A competitive general skill set for architects is knowledge of CADD (Computer-Aided Design and Drafting) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) technologies. Communication and organization skills are critical since architects coordinate broad teams of specialists. Consider specializing in a niche area such as a part of the work process (pre-design, design, construction, facilities management) or a particular type of structure (hospitals, schools, factories). Trained architects may also choose to adapt their specialized knowledge and transferable skills to related fields like industrial and interior design, urban planning, real estate development, or structural engineering.

Note to entrepreneurs: If you are self-employed after licensing and your business type is not just a sole proprietorship where you do business under your own name, you must register as a Corporate Entity to legally practice architecture in New York. You must first be authorized by the New York Secretary of State’s Office to do business in New York, and then you must go through a registration process with the New York Department of Education Office of the Professions to be designated as a Corporate Entity for Professional Practice.

2. ELIGIBILITY FOR LICENSING

OVERVIEW

This guide assumes that you are not licensed as an architect anywhere in the US, since architects with a license in another state of the US will usually have different eligibility guidelines than a first-time applicant.

You must be licensed in New York in order to practice architecture in the state. Foreign-educated architectural candidates need to meet several requirements to receive Licensure as a Professional Architect by Examination in New York. Throughout the process you will work closely with the New York State Board of Architecture (part of the Office of the Professions) and NCARB, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. You will need to use the Internet extensively to correspond with NCARB and you will have to learn to use their web-based applications to maintain your records online.

Eligibility for licensure is based on a combination of education and experience for which units of credit are awarded. Your combination of education and experience must total at least 12 units, as determined by the Office of the Professions. Different combinations are allowed and will be discussed in detail below. Once you have met the 12 unit requirement you will be able to take the Architect Registration Exam or ARE, the only required exam in New York for architecture licensing.

Steps to licensing are as follows:

I. APPLY FOR LICENSE AND ESTABLISH AN NCARB COUNCIL RECORD

First, you should familiarize yourself with the licensing process and explore the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions (NYSED-OP) and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) websites.

APPLY FOR NY LICENSE
The New York licensing application includes a variety of forms. At this time you only need to submit the following items to the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions (NYSED-OP):

  • Form 1, Application for Licensure & First Registration (4 pages)
  • Note: on Form 1 you should request to “take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) concurrent with the Intern Development Program (IDP)” – this will speed up your process
  • A signed affidavit (a formal sworn statement of fact, usually witnessed by a public notary) stating that you have read and understand the New York Architecture Practice Act and Administrative Rules
  • Fee: $377

START AN NCARB RECORD

Next, establish a record on the NCARB website. Fill out the NCARB application form and pay a fee of $350 to begin (or only $100 if you graduated from university in the last six months. You will have to pay the remaining $250 before you take the Architect Registration Examination [ARE]). After one year you will need to begin paying $75 each year until you are licensed in order to maintain your online record.

To read more about these processes, please follow the links in the Important Links section.

II. EVALUATE CREDENTIALS AND EXPERIENCE

NEW YORK CREDENTIAL REVIEW
The state of New York evaluates professional credentials for licensing for all architecture candidates: it does not approve outside credential evaluation services for this function. Therefore, do not pay for the Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA) through NAAB. Instead, to get the state to review your credentials:

  • Use Form 2 – Certification of Education to request your official transcript from your home institution. You must fill out Section I of the form and have your school fill out Section II
  • You must have your home institution send all documents directly to the Office of the Professions
  • You can provide translations of your documents yourself and send them separately to the Office of the Professions – the source documents you use can be photocopies, and the translations you provide do not have to be notarized

Start this process early, because it can take a relatively long time to complete. Once the state receives all of your documentation, it will first review it for basic information to approve or reject your starting the ARE and IDP process. Then your file will be forwarded to the Bureau of Comparative Education for a full evaluation.

The response by the Bureau of Comparative Education is critical to your case: it will compare your transcripts to the standards of architecture programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) and will conclude if the Bureau finds your degree is equivalent to either a US professional degree (B.Arch or M.Arch equivalent) or a pre-professional degree (technical school or 4-year Bachelor’s).

As a result of this evaluation, the State Board of Architecture will give you credit for your education – up to 8 units. Your credits will also determine how many units of qualifying experience you must document to complete the 12 total units required for licensure.

NEW YORK EVALUATION OF EXPERIENCE

Applicants have to document qualifying experience other than education through the Office of the Professions as well.

Existing experience can be documented using Form 4 – the Applicant Experience Form.

Your experience in architectural practice outside the US may meet most or all of your remaining units required for licensing. The State Board of Architecture may award you credit for each year of experience in appropriate architectural work under the supervision of a legally practicing architect and in work related to architecture, where each year of experience corresponds to one credit unit.

NCARB CREDENTIAL REVIEW

Even though the state of New York will evaluate your credentials for licensing, you must also provide NCARB with documentation of your education for your NCARB record as you complete their Intern Development Program requirements.

Credentials for submission to NCARB must also be translated, but the translation must come from an official source, such as an academic institution, lawyer, translation service, notary or embassy.

III. MEET ANY IDENTIFIED ACADEMIC DEFICIENCIES

Following review of your degree and experience you will have to meet the deficiencies the State Board of Architecture and Bureau of Comparative Education identify in order to obtain the equivalent to a full US professional degree from an NAAB-accredited program.

It is important that you communicate with the State Board of Architecture before you start to take any courses so that you can be sure they approve of the courses and provider – which must meet the standards of an architecture program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

IV.  NEW YORK EXPERIENCE COMPONENT AND PARTICIPATION IN THE INTERN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (IDP)

NEW YORK EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS

If your qualifying foreign education and experience did not total 12 units, you are responsible for completing these units for the state of New York by looking for employment opportunities under the direct supervision of a legally practicing architect and by participating as an Architect Intern in the Intern Development Program (IDP).  One year of full-time qualifying work experience is equal to 1 unit.

You can meet the experience requirements using the IDP (worth 3 units) and additional work if necessary.

IDP PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

  • IDP: a New York licensure requirement

New York requires proof of completion of IDP requirements for licensure (even if this is based on existing experience). If you need new experience hours, then you will actively participate in IDP and maybe in other qualifying experiences beyond IDP to meet all 12 units required by New York.

  • Training hours and categories

NCARB counts IDP requirements not in units but in training hours. To satisfy the full Intern Development Program (IDP) requirements you need to earn 5,600 qualifying training hours.

Candidates must enroll in the IDP with NCARB and request that NCARB transmit a Record Summary to the New York State Board for Architecture to confirm that you are registered under NCARB. The Office of the Professions will draft a memo for you to submit to NCARB to begin the program.

Once you begin the IDP you will have to record your training hours into your NCARB account in reporting periods no longer than 6 months and within 2 months of completion.

The Intern Development Program (IDP) spreads 5,600 training hours across four skill categories. Each category has a minimum number of units you must earn in it.

  • Category 1: Pre-Design – 260 hours
  • Category 2: Design – 2,600 hours
  • Category 3: Project Management – 720 hours
  • Category 4: Practice Management – 160 hours
  • Electives (your choice across any set of categories) – 1,860 hours

TOTAL: 5,600 HOURS
You can earn these credits in different types of settings or workplaces. Some of these are limited in the amount of training hours you can earn in them. The ideal training setting, is participating in IDP as an Intern in a traditional full-service firm, under direct supervision of a registered architect, with an opportunity to gain experience in all 4 training categories. In New York the credits as long as you are under the supervision of a lawfully practicing architect at an architectural office, a government agency related to architectural practice, a corporation, an engineer’s office, a contractor’s office (or field), a related design discipline, e.g., landscape architecture, teaching required courses in an NAAB-accredited architectural program (credit is based on the proportion of a full teaching load).

RECORDING YOUR EXPERIENCES

You work directly with National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) during your period as an architectural intern. NCARB uses an online system called the Electronic Experience Verification Reporting system, called e-EVR, to build your record of required experience. Intern Development Program (IDP) participants use e-EVR to create, track, and seek approval of experience reports. Once a supervising architect approves an experience report you submit, that report will be registered in your NCARB record, and conducting or participating in structured research on architectural problems, culminating in a report, subject to Board approval.

After you complete the requirements of the Intern Development Program (IDP) the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) will have to have to send your IDP Council Record to the State Board of Architecture.

V. COMPLETE ARE TESTING

Testing is another major step in your process. The Architect Registration Exam or ARE is also managed through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). NCARB will confirm that you have met the requirements of the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions for testing before authorizing you to take the ARE. You cannot request testing directly from the Office of the Professions.

Architectural interns may begin taking the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) if an applicant has a combination of education and experience equaling a degree from an NAAB accredited program, typically totaling 9 of the 12 required units for licensure.

Candidate must be enrolled in the IDP prior to taking the ARE and have to request NCARB to transmit a Record Summary to the New York State Board for Architecture once they have taken the examination. The State Board will notify you of the exam results. If you fail a division, you must wait six months before attempting it again. NCARB will automatically notify you when you are again eligible to take that division.

VI. OBTAIN LICENSURE BY FULFILLING ALL REQUIREMENTS
New York State Education Department Office of the Professions evaluates applications after all requirements have been met. A $50 fee is required with submittal of stamp to receive your New York licensure as a Professional Architect.

Processing fee for a Registration and Examination History Report is $20 and must be mailed directly to the Office of the Professions.

3. TESTS

The Architect Registration Exam (ARE) is the only exam required in New York Licensure by Examination for a Licensed Professional Architect. You have only one year after passing the ARE to apply for licensing in New York.

ARCHITECT REGISTRATION EXAM LOGISTICS

The Architect Registration Exam (ARE) 4.0 is administered by a testing company called Prometric, which has test centers nationwide (there are more than 20 in New York). Candidates have many scheduling options including center location, time (subject to available seats), and testing order for the 7 testing areas, called Divisions. You take one Division per testing session at a cost of $210 each. Rescheduling an appointment costs $35. Scores are usually available within a month of testing and are reported to the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions who then informs the candidate. If you fail a Division you must wait six months before retaking it. You must pass all divisions within a 5-year time frame.

ARCHITECT REGISTRATION EXAM (ARE) TECHNOLOGY AND CONTENT AREAS

The ARE 4.0 Test is computer-based. It is comprised of 7 Divisions, each with a section of multiple-choice questions and another section with “vignettes” – situational problems that require you to interact with graphics. The descriptions that follow are Division Statements quoted from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) website. The time frames are the duration you should set aside for each exam, although the tests may take less time.

  • Programming Planning and Practice – 4 hours
  • “The application of project development knowledge and skills relating to architectural programming; environmental, social, and economic issues; codes and regulations; and project and practice management”
  • Site Planning and Design – 4.5 hours
  • “The application of knowledge and skills of site planning and design including environmental, social, and economic issues, project and practice management”
  • Building Design and Construction Systems – 5.5 hours
  • “The application of knowledge and skills of building design and construction, including environmental, social, and economic issues, project and practice management”
  • Schematic Design – 6 hours
  • “The application of knowledge and skills required for the schematic design of buildings and interior space planning”
  • Structural Systems – 5.5 hours
  • “Identification and incorporation of general structural and lateral force principles in the design and construction of buildings”
  • Building Systems – 4 hours
  • “The evaluation, selection, and integration of mechanical, electrical, and specialty systems in building design and construction”
  • Construction Documents and Services – 4 hours
  • “Application of project management and professional practice knowledge and skills, including the preparation of contract documents and contract administration”

PREPARING FOR THE ARCHITECT REGISTRATION EXAM (ARE)

See Important Links for ARE 4.0 exam information and free study resources. Study resources include software simulations to familiarize you with test content and are very important to practice prior to your testing appointments.

4. TIME AND COSTS

Evaluating your foreign degree and achieving licensing as a Registered Professional Architect in New York depends on many factors including:

  • The completeness of your educational and professional records (the more documentation, the better)
  • The efficiency of your home country’s system in compiling and transmitting your university records
  • The quality of your relationships with architect mentors and their responsiveness to your requests to certify your experience
  • Your performance on all 7 Divisions of Architect Registration Exam (ARE)
  • Your free time and money to spend on the process

We provide two hypothetical scenarios to show some of the variety of results that immigrant professionals may find when they seek to become architects in New York. Please consider these scenarios as two examples out of many possibilities. Your experience will vary.

TWO HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIOS FOR LICENSING AS A PROFESSIONAL ARCHITECT:

Step More Efficient Scenario
Approximate Time and Cost
Less Efficient Scenario
Approximate Time and Cost
1 Apply for Licensure + Establish NCARB accountLicense Application $377

You open your NCARB record online and renew it 2 times later in the licensing process $500

Total = $877
License Application $377

You open your NCARB record online and renew it 5 times later in the licensing process $725

Total = $1,102
2 Degree and Experience EvaluationYou have a very detailed documentation of your architectural education

Your documents do not require translation

Miscellaneous expenses (home institution fees, international mailing)
4 - 6 months + $200
Your documents need to be gathered and translated

Foreign degree evaluation to be reconsidered once when you submit extra documents

Miscellaneous expenses
12 - 14 months + $400
3 Meet Educational DeficienciesState Board of Architecture identifies deficiencies that you can meet by taking just 4 university courses (12 credit hours)

9 - 12 months + $3,600 - $4,000
The review identifies several course deficiencies that take you 2 years to complete

2- 2 1/2 years + $7,000 - $7,400
4 Intern Development Program and further experienceYou begin the IDP and receive credit for 1600 training hours based on your prior work experience

You complete your IDP efficiently in 2 1/2 years + additional experience required by the State Board

3 1/2 years
You begin your IDP and receive credit for only 800 training hours based on prior work experience

Your complete your IDP with interruptions over 5 years + additional experience required by the State Board

6 years
5 Qualify for ARE and PassIt takes you 6 months to pass all divisions of Architect Registration Exam

6 months + $1,500
It takes you 10 months to pass all divisions of Architect Registration Exam; you fail two divisions and must retake them

10 months + $1,900
6 Receive licenseYour license application is approved 6 months later by NYSED

6 months + $50
Your license application is approved 6 months later by NYSED

6 months + $50
More Efficient Total
About 6 years and $6,500
Less Efficient Total
About 11 years and $10,650

5. OTHER CAREERS AND CREDENTIALS

Preparing for licensing takes a significant amount of time, money, and effort. Some architects choose to seek lower-level positions on the road to their longer-term licensing goals. A job with fewer responsibilities but the ability to participate in the IDP program may offer some distinct advantages:

  • Build job security
  • Improve technology skills
  • Adapt to the US workplace culture in a lower-pressure environment
  • Have more energy left over to focus on preparing licensing exams

You should be honest with your employer about your long-term plans and be sure that they understand how you can contribute to their company’s objectives.

ENTRY-LEVEL

ARCHITECTURAL DETAILER  – COMPUTER-AIDED DESIGN AND DRAFTING

A position as an Architectural Detailer requires mastery of CADD software. If you do not have these skills you can take specific training courses at a technical school. Most US-educated CADD detailers have only a technical school education, so you will seem very overqualified by comparison. If this is a job you want in order to become licensed, be honest about your long term goals.

HIGH END

LEADERSHIP IN ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (LEED) CERTIFICATION PROFESSIONAL

Green building is a growth area in the architectural field and LEED certification administered by the US Green Building Council is the accepted standard for evaluating green building – design that focuses on more efficient use of resources such as energy, water and materials – and rehabilitation projects. You may wish to consider getting the steps to become certified to assess projects as a LEED professional.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION

If your prior experience included managing architectural projects, and you have particularly strong communication and organizational skills, you may want to consider qualifying for Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute. The PMP is a widely recognized credential that can support a background in architecture very well. It is one way to work actively in the architecture field without having to hold professional licensure.

6. BEYOND LICENSING

MAINTAINING LICENSURE

Your New York license will expire every three years from the date of original registration. The renewal for another three years will cost you $287. You will receive notices to renew and can do so online through the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions.

Renewing your license also requires completion of continuing professional development. The requirement is 36 hours for each 3 year registration period; 24 hours of training in Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) and 18 hours of education activities. The New York State Board of Architecture does not accept other jurisdiction continuing education because New York continuing education focuses on the technical aspects of architecture. New York State has one of the most stringent continuing education requirements in the United States.

JOINING A PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION

State and national associations for architects provide opportunities for professional development and networking. They also help set acceptable working conditions for the industry and give information and opinions on policy in New York and across the US Their websites may offer useful orientation to the licensing and examination process, including test preparation. Their employment networks, however, are typically restricted to licensed professionals.

State:

  • American Institute of Architects New York

National:

  • American Institute of Architects (you can join as an Associate Member while earning your license)

LICENSING MOBILITY (RECIPROCITY)

The state of New York does not honor the architect licenses of other states. It grants licensing to architects only by Acceptance of Examination (the process described in this topic) or by Endorsement (where an Architect licensed in another state must meet all New York requirements for licensing).

NCARB CERTIFICATION

NCARB Certification is an elite credential that is highly regarded in the United States. About 1/3 of licensed architects go on to become certified by NCARB. It is not a license to practice architecture across the country – it shows that an experienced professional architect has met a high standard of education and practice. However, New York does consider NCARB certification nor the Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect (BEFA) Program as meeting the requirements for education and experience.

Most architects who become NCARB-certified only do it once they are well established as a Licensed Professional Architect in one or more US states. If you received your architectural schooling outside the US, you can get licensed in multiple states by pursuing certification through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). This is an additional process which can help you meet licensing requirements of more states.

7. IMPORTANT LINKS

REGULATION AND FOREIGN DEGREE EVALUATION:

ENROLLMENT IN IDP:

TESTING:

  • National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) also provides Architect Registration Exam (ARE) 4.0 Exam Guides free for download from its site. These include the ARE 4.0 Guidelines, a general practice program, and a study guide and practice program for each of the seven divisions
  • The ARE Helpline can also answer your questions about the test at 800/896-2272

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS:

8. TIPS

PROVIDE COMPLETE DOCUMENTS

Foreign degree evaluation is a very important process: your efforts here can result in significant savings of time and money by minimizing the gaps in comparing your degree to its US equivalent. Invest the time and money early to facilitate this process. Wherever you can, provide additional documentation about your program of study, such as syllabus, course descriptions, or a portfolio from your student years. These can help the State Board and the Bureau of Comparative Education make the most of your degree evaluation.

GET ADVICE ABOUT DEFICIENCIES

If your evaluation by the Education Department Office of the Professions and the Bureau of Comparative Education identify several deficiencies but you still want to qualify for licensing, you should get counseling on your options. You need to evaluate whether it is better to make up the deficiencies on a course-by-course basis at a less expensive school, or whether it is a better long-term investment for you to back for further education in a US architectural degree program.

SPEAK UP
Be your own advocate throughout the licensing process. Seek clarification about questions and concerns directly from official sources. If you feel your degree has been misinterpreted or you do not understand a fine point of the state regulations, organize your questions, contact the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions (NYSED-OP) or the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) and ask for assistance.

BE FLEXIBLE IN YOUR JOB SEARCH

Build professional networks; consider temporary or contract employment in your field to build your reputation; be prepared to start at lower levels and prove your ability. To compete successfully you should work to keep up to date in workplace technologies such as computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and Excel; perfect your communication skills for professional emails, reporting, and client contact; learn how to discuss your past work experience in terms of skills you can transfer to new projects, and develop a portfolio of work that highlights your skills. If you are overqualified for positions, be prepared to explain how the position will help you become established in a way that shows long-term benefit to the employer.

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