Frequently asked questions: Architects

Get answers to the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about architect licenses.

Applying for a license

What is my degree worth toward my exam requirements?

  • If you received an accredited bachelor's or master's degree in architecture from a university recognized by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), you'll be given 5 years of academic experience credit.
  • If you received an undergraduate or graduate degree in architecture from a university that isn't recognized by NAAB, you'll be given 4 years of academic credit.

Do I have to work under the supervision of a Washington architect?

In addition to completing AXP, you may need to report practical work experience completed under the direct supervision of a U.S. or Canadian-licensed architect.

Does work for an engineer count for experience credit?

Sometimes engineering work experience or experience under a licensed professional engineer is creditable. Please contact the board office for further details.

Will I receive credit for contract work for an architect or engineer?

Possibly. The limitations of 10 weeks for full-time work and 6 months for part-time work still apply. For more information about credit for work experience, see WAC 308-12-025: What qualifications do I need to meet if I am not already licensed?

How do I get an application packet for registration?

To get an application packet, download the online Architect Registration Initial Application.

Professional development

How many hours of professional development activities do I need?

You need to accumulate 24 professional development hours (PDH) over your 2-year renewal period. At least 16 PDHs must address public health, safety, and welfare.

Where can I find a list of professional development activities or classes?

How do I record my hours?

What if I get audited?

You'll be asked to submit your records and supporting materials. If the board determines you're missing hours, or some of your activities don't qualify, we may require you to make up the shortage.

Updating your license

How do I report a change of address or name change?

Log into SecureAccess Washington (SAW) to change your name or address through our Professional and Business Licensing portal.

For name changes, please include a copy of documentation.

Architectural Experience Program (AXP)

Is the Architectural Experience Program mandatory?

Yes, completion of AXP (previously IDP) became mandatory on July 29, 2001. If you were accepted for exam registration before July 29, 2001, you may not be required to submit an AXP record if you have kept your application file active. If your application file shows no activity for 5 consecutive years, you'll have to reapply and will be held to the licensing requirements in effect at the time of reapplication (WAC 308-12-065).

Do I have to complete AXP before taking an exam?

No. If you have a NAAB-accredited degree, you only have to be enrolled in AXP to start taking the exams.

If I have completed my required work experience but I haven't yet completed all of the requirements of the AXP, can I begin the exam process?

Yes, if you have a NAAB-accredited degree. If you have a non-accredited degree or lower, you can submit an application to us and we will determine your eligibility to take the AREs. If eligible, you can work on completing AXP and AREs at the same time.

Do I still have 5 years to complete all my exams if I'm doing AXP at the same time as my exams?

Yes, you're still required to complete all exams within 5 years of the date of your first passed exam.

If I don't have a professional degree (MArch or BArch), can I complete the requirements of AXP? If so, will I qualify for NCARB certification?

Yes, you can complete the training requirements and apply for a Washington State license. However, you won't receive full AXP NCARB certification because of the lack of a degree.

If I start AXP and then move or change jobs, how do I continue the AXP?

You and your advisor should notify the NCARB immediately and follow their instructions to change your sponsor.

Architect Registration Exam (ARE)

Do I have to be a Washington resident to apply for the exams in Washington?


How soon can I begin taking the exams after I submit my application?

The testing agency will send you exam scheduling information when they notify you in writing that your application is complete and you are eligible to take exams.

Where are the testing centers?

Examinations are administered across the United States. Testing locations in Washington are located in Puyallup, Mountlake Terrace, and Spokane.

When should I expect to receive my exam scores?

Expect them approximately 4-7 weeks after you've taken your exam. Scores are posted in your MyNCARB account.

How many times may I take the exam? Is there a limit?

You may continue to take the exams until you pass. However, all exams must be passed within 5 years. This 5-year time limit begins the month you pass the first division of the exam. On a rolling-clock basis, you'll be required to retake any sections of the exam you passed more than 5 years ago, along with any sections not yet passed.

How long do I need to wait to retake an exam?

You can retake a failed ARE division as soon as 60 days after your previous test date. Keep in mind that you can only take the same division 3 times within a one-year period.

How will the transition to the new ARE (ARE 5.0) affect me?

NCARB launched a new version of the ARE in November 2016. The last ARE 4.0 was administered in June 2018. If you have passed exams in version 4.0, you can determine the version 5.0 exams you still need using the ARE 5.0 Transition Calculator.

What if I need a testing accommodation?

If you need testing accommodations that include extra breaks or extended time, contact NCARB's customer relations team.

See more information about the ARE.


Does Washington have reciprocity with other states?

Yes, you may receive a certificate of registration if you're a registered architect in another state or territory of the United States, the District of Columbia, or another country. However, you must strictly meet Washington State's licensing requirements.

How do I apply for reciprocity with Washington?

Washington allows reciprocity through 4 different paths:

  • With an NCARB council record (blue cover)
  • With 8 years of licensure but no council record
  • With completed IDP or AXP (licensed less than 8 years)
  • With work experience only (no council record, IDP, or AXP)
    •  If you haven't completed either IDP or AXP, you must verify that you've been licensed at least 8 years in another jurisdiction.

The requirements vary for each path. For specific information, see How to get your license: Architect by reciprocity.

Architect firms

What is the difference between an "architect of record" and a "designated architect"?

Washington State law and rule uses "architect of record" in conjunction with stamping and sealing for a specific project submitted to authorities having jurisdiction. "Designated architect" identifies licensed architects who have been authorized by their business entity to sign and seal its technical submissions. Building officials most commonly use "architect of record" on building permits to identify the firm and/or individual who stamped and sealed.

Our law doesn't, nor does it intend to, instruct building officials, architects, or the media regarding identification of architects and use of titles. The following titles, and other variations, are often used synonymously within the architect profession to identify participation on architectural teams, in joint ventures, or in supporting roles for a specific project:

  • Architect of Record
  • Designated Architect
  • Executive Architect
  • Project Architect
  • Design Architect
  • Principal Architect

I'm an architect but my employer doesn't offer architectural services. Does my employer need to register with the board?

No, a Certification of Authorization isn't required if your employer doesn't offer architectural services. This exception is applicable when:

  • You're employed as an in-house architect by a government entity, educational organization, institutional business, industrial company, or similar non-architectural business.
  • You're an architect employed by a business or organization that doesn't offer architectural services in this state.
  • Your work includes facility planning and preparing technical submissions for any construction or alteration of buildings owned by your employer.

However, the following 3 things are important to remember:

  1. If your employer is a business, it must have a business license issued by the Department of Revenue (DOR) which classifies its business activities and the principal products and services it provides. Your activity as an in-house architect doesn't require your employer to submit a Registered Professional Design Firm Addendum to DOR if it isn't a principal service provided by the business.
  2. Technical submissions prepared by you or under your supervision, if submitted to building authorities having jurisdiction, must be signed and sealed. This makes you the "architect of record" for each set of documents prepared for your employer's use.
  3. If your employer offers architectural services, they must submit a Registered Professional Design Firm Addendum to get a Certification of Authorization from the Board for Architects, in addition to having a business license issued by DOR. The addendum must list you as a "designated architect," which requires you to have ownership and financial responsibility for the organization. For more information, see Get your license: Architect firms.

Do I need to register as an architect firm if I'm a sole proprietor?

Yes. Any business entity, including a sole proprietorship, offering architecture services in Washington State must register with the board regardless of its business structure.

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