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Updated: Oct 29, 2021

An architect’s license is a hard-earned demonstration of knowledge and experience. From the beginning of Architecture School to finally becoming licensed often takes over ten years. Hunter Smith Architecture has two licensed architects on staff, and we support each of our young employees as they pursue their license.

Architect, Defined:

The practice of architecture is regulated by the California Architects Board, and the title “Architect” can only be used by those individuals who have met their requirements for education, experience, and testing. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) works collaboratively with the California Architects Board and provides the services required for licensure.

Don't be fooled by other, related, terms like "Building Design Professional". Labels like this may insinuate similar work and services, but, a Designer is not the same as an Architect.

Requirements for becoming licensed:

  1. Earn a Bachelors of Architecture degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (We're partial to Cal Poly); or, earn a degree in the field of architecture from an institution not accredited by NAAB and earn experience through the practice of architecture for one additional year, adding to the requirements of step 2.

  2. Complete NCARB’s Architectural Experience Program (AXP). Typically, this requires documenting 3,740 working hours in six independent experience areas under the direct supervision of a licensed Architect. These hours are documented through an NCARB Record, and verified by the supervising Architect. It typically takes an aspiring Architect 5 years to gain this necessary experience.

  3. Pass NCARB’s 6 divisions of the Architect Registration Examinations (ARE’s). They are: Practice Management, Project Management, Programming & Analysis, Project Planning & Design, Project Development & Documentation, and Construction & Evaluation.

  4. Because we work in California, pass the California Architects Board California Supplemental Examination (CSE).

It's a long process. The exams are miserable. And, many great designs come from "unlicensed professionals." But, in the end, becoming licensed is an achievement that challenges our professional development and demonstrates our dedication to our craft.

Where does the AIA come in?

You will often see the abbreviation "AIA" after an Architect's name. This doesn't mean that they are involved in the licensing process. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a professional association for Architects. The AIA provides valuable continuing education and networking resources for their members. It's why we are involved with the AIA Central Coast.

Benefits of working with a licensed architect.

Simply put, Architects are hired to implement a vision given a series of constraints: the client’s desired style, land use regulations, budget, timing, or another peculiarity of any given project. Reconciling a project’s vision and constraints is essential to the quality of the finished product. Doing so efficiently requires the knowledge and experience gained in pursuit of an Architect’s license. And it does not stop with getting initially licensed; the requirements to maintain an Architect's license require that the Architect complete a significant continuing education requirement each year. This ensures that the licensed Architect keeps up with the latest technology, building and safety standards, and industry best practices.

For us, Architecture is about more than aesthetics. It is about providing value to the client. Sure, as the "vision" part of the project, aesthetics and design are important. In our opinion, addressing the constraints of a project is equally important. Doing this requires efficiency in project delivery, approval processes, and consultant coordination. This is our specialty, and it came from many of experience working on complex and diverse projects, and the professional development that pursuing (and maintaining) an Architect's License requires.

The staff at Hunter Smith Architecture is dedicated to our profession and eager to continually build our skills and experience. This is a vital part to us providing the unique designs and practical solutions we are known for. Contact us to discuss how our knowledge and experience can contribute to your successful project.

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