Path to Licensure


AIASF, in conjunction with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the California Architects Board (CAB), are here to help you turn your goals into reality with the guidance and resources you’ll need to advance from student to practicing architect.

To become an architect in California, you’ll have to earn a license by completing CAB’s specific requirements which is a combination of education, experience, and examination. Although each candidate’s path to licensure may differ, all 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.

A candidate who provides evidence of having completed the following requirements is eligible to receive a license to practice architecture:

  • Be at least 18 years of age or the equivalent of a graduate from high school;
  • Five years of architectural educational experience or the equivalent as specified in the Board’s regulations;
  • Architectural Experience Program (AXP) or the Canadian Provincial Internship in Architecture Program (IAP);
  • All divisions of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) and California Supplemental Examination (CSE).

The Architect Registration Examination (ARE), developed by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), is the national computerized architectural licensing examination that consists of multiple divisions. The ARE assesses a candidate’s knowledge and skills to provide various services required in the practice of architecture. No single examination can test for competency in all aspects of architectural practice; the ARE is not intended for that purpose. The ARE concentrates on the professional services that affect the public's health, safety, and welfare. The ARE 5.0 consists of the following five exams: Practice Management, Project Management Programming & Analysis, Project Planning & Design, Project Development & Documentation, and Construction & Evaluation.

View AIASF's 2023 ARE programming schedule here. Visit our calendar here to search for and register for upcoming classes.

Annual AIASF ARE Pact Program

"Now I'm a full licensed architect! Thanks to the ARE Pact and the AIA."
- 2017 ARE Pact participant

"It got me started on the path."

“Compared to my friend in other cities that have taken up to five years to pass them all, this had given me amazing momentum.”
– 2017 ARE Pact participant

AIASF’s ARE Pact program offers the perfect incentive to get licensed: take all exams required by NCARB for licensure within 12 months and you will receive a full refund of your $1,000 enrollment fee.

Enrollment in the Program Includes

  • A peer study group assigned by AIASF;
  • A team leader and coach assigned to your group;
  • Free admission to monthly class sessions;
  • Study materials for the group and more to assist you in successfully passing the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®).

2023 Pact enrollment is open!

With questions, please email Annabelle Udo-O'Malley, AIASF Program Manager:

In addition to the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), the California Architects Board (CAB) requires the California Supplemental Examination (CSE) for licensure. The CSE ensures that candidates are able to demonstrate minimum standards of competency and necessary architectural knowledge and skills to respond to the unique requirements and conditions in California.

Candidates are required to demonstrate entry-level competence in the areas outlined in the CSE Test Plan. A competent entry-level architect is able to perform the responsibilities incumbent upon themselves in providing professional architectural services to the public. Additionally, a competent entry-level architect must understand the integration of architectural practice and the architect’s responsibilities as they relate to practice in California.

AIASF CSE On-Demand Study Materials

The AIASF Architectural Licensing Committee (ALC) has created on-demand study materials for the CSE. Materials include content slides, practice questions, and instructor recordings.

Class #1: Contract Development / Project Planning

  • about the CSE, Architect's Practice Act, California Code of Regulations, contracts, agencies overview

Class #2: California Building Standards Code

  • California Building Code, California Energy Code, CalGreen, California Health and Safety Code

Class #3: Design Development / Agencies

  • in-depth review of agencies, environmental conditions, California Environmental Quality Act, California Coastal Act, California Clean Air Act, Essential Services Buildings

Class #4: Construction Documents / Project Bidding and Construction

  • construction phase responsibilities, seismic anchorage, California Public Contract Code, liens, conflict resolution, California warranty periods

Note: slide content in instructor recordings will vary somewhat from the current content slides.

Pricing: $50 for annual access

Register here

National Architectural Accrediting Board

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredits professional degrees in architecture offered by institutions accredited by a U.S. regional accrediting agency. All 54 U.S. registration boards accept the NAAB-accredited degree for registration; 37 of those boards require it.

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National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), in collaboration with licensing boards, facilitates the licensure and credentialing of architects to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. NCARB accomplishes its mission by recommending and encouraging national requirements for architectural licensure in line with three strategic goals:

  • Facilitate Licensure: NCARB's programs and services enable the pursuit, achievement, and ongoing maintenance and mobility of architectural licensure
  • Foster Collaboration: NCARB’s proactive engagement with licensing boards and industry organizations advances the understanding and effectiveness of architectural regulation
  • Maximize Value: NCARB's programs and services further the progress of our licensing boards and customers

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California Architects Board (CAB)

The California Architects Board (CAB) was created in 1901 by the California Legislature to fulfill the mission of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public through the regulation of the practice of architecture in California. It is one of numerous entities within the Department of Consumer Affairs responsible for consumer protection and the regulation of licensed professionals. The Board establishes regulations for examination and licensing of the profession of architecture in California, which as of 2020, numbers over 21,000 licensed architects and approximately 10,000 candidates who are in the process of meeting examination and licensure requirements.

Learn More