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Licensing changes could streamline and shorten path to gaining an architectural degree

Mike Armstrong

Mike Armstrong

New rules proposed by the board that develops programs for state licensing of architects aims to streamline internship requirements by eliminating elective hours from the equation. Ultimately the action could reduce the time it takes from graduation to becoming licensed by one third without compromising the profession’s emphasis on education, experience and examination, proponents say.

“We have talked about this for over a year at the board level and have researched the history of this program and its rationale,” said Mike Armstrong, CEO of The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). “Given how the practice has evolved with technology and other advances, the board does not see the importance of the required elective hours.” Reducing the elective hours won’t affect the core requirements for working with a licensed architect to gain experience, he said. “It’s to help people get through the program faster.”

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards’ membership is made up of the architectural registration boards of all 50 states as well as those of Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NCARB assists its member registration boards in developing programs and tools to carry out their duties, and provides a certification program for individual architects to facilitate reciprocal licensing in other jurisdictions.

In Mississippi, the Mississippi State Board of Architecture is charged with issuing licenses and with regulating the practices of architecture, landscape architecture and certified interior design.

Executive Director Jenny Wilkinson said the state board “has been actively engaged with NCARB during the discussions that preceded these changes.” She said the board has confidence in the structure of the IDP program.

“Combined with the rigorous education and examination requirements, one can rest assured that an individual obtaining an architectural license in Mississippi is qualified by education, experience and examination, and that the architect has proven that he has the knowledge and skills necessary to protect life, health and property when designing Mississippi’s built environment,” Wilkinson said.

The average intern takes more than five years to complete the current program, Armstrong said, plus more than two years to complete the Architect Registration Examination or ARE.  “From graduation to licensure takes more than seven years and that’s too long in today’s marketplace. It’s time for the architecture profession to join the 21st century.”

Currently interns are required to have 5,600 hours of experience, including 3,740 hours in specific architectural areas. The remaining 1,860 hours are electives. Under the proposed changes, the first phase will remove the elective hours leaving 3,740 in the core areas.

Combined with the time required to complete the ARE, the Board anticipates that the average intern will have five to six years of post-graduation experience prior to qualifying for initial licensure.

NCARB expects to put the first phase into place in June 2015 or before. The second phase is an overhaul of the intern program and the licensing exam due in late 2016.  The new exam will reduce the number of divisions from seven to six, utilize more current graphic representation tools along with case studies, and align the six divisions with six phases of practice.  The same six titles will also be applied to a realigned intern program, based on a “practice analysis” survey of the profession.

The long road to becoming a licensed architect is rooted in the profession’s mission of protecting the public’s safety, Armstrong said. And while change has been slow to come to  the programs, some updates can be found. One example is the license exam, which used to be given once or twice a year. Now the test is computer based and can be taken at a test center at various times every week, with retesting wait times for failed portions reduced from six months to 60 days. Also in the past, students couldn’t start their internship until they got out of school. “Now you can start after you graduate from high school,” Armstrong said, “and you can reach back five years to partially credit older hours.”

Changes to the architecture profession are part of a national conversation about all traditional professions, Armstrong said, pointing to California’s new legislation to eliminate one year from medical education and ongoing debate regarding the value of the third year of law school. “The issue is ripe for discussion,” Armstrong said. “I think the trend is toward people taking less time to get a license without sacrificing necessary rigor.” NCARB has asked its member states to adopt the new intern requirements before June 30, 2015.



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