What to know about architect licenses and insurance 

Insureon Staff.
The licensing, insurance, and bond requirements for architects vary by location and the amount of education and experience they have.
An architect reviewing blueprints with a client

The process of becoming a licensed or certified architect typically follows a similar path all across the country. Architects graduate from an accredited degree program, secure an internship to gain experience, and receive professional licensing from a state board of architecture.

Depending on their location and work, architects may also need to purchase a certain amount of insurance and bonding to meet government requirements and keep themselves financially protected.

Do architects need a license?

Every state requires architects to obtain a license before soliciting business and performing work. While each state has its own licensing requirements, they all require a certain amount of education and experience. All applicants must then pass a licensing exam.

What are the requirements to be an architect?

State requirements for architect licenses follow standards set by the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB).

Generally speaking, architects must obtain a Bachelor of Architecture degree from a school accredited [PDF] by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which takes around five years.

Every state also requires a three-year internship through the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), or 5,600 hours of architecture experience with an architecture firm.

After completing the education and internship requirements, architecture licensing applicants have the eligibility to take the pass or fail Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Offered by the NCARB, this exam is administered by a state licensing board and must be successfully passed in order for applicants' to receive NCARB certification.

What other licensing requirements might an architect encounter?

If you obtain a degree from a nonaccredited program, you may be required to have an evaluation conducted by the Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA), which examines your transcripts to see if they meet NCARB Education Standards. If this is required, you may need to take additional classes before obtaining EESA board approval.

Some architects may pursue a master’s degree in architecture, but this is typically not required.

How do architect licensing requirements differ by state?

Each state has its own process and requirements for becoming a licensed architect. Some examples of state requirements for architecture licenses are as follows:

California

To get an architecture license in California, applicants must complete the required education and experience through internship before taking the Architect Registration Examination exam and pay a $100 fee.

Licenses must be renewed every two years, in odd-numbered years on the last day of a licensee’s birth month. The renewal fee is $300, and architects must meet continuing education requirements on disability access.

New York

New York requires architectural license applicants to have eight years of combined education and work experience before taking the Architect Registration Exam, which costs $377.

Applicants from other states may also qualify for the exam if they have 10 years of lawful experience as a principal in their own firm. Their exam fee is $587.

Licenses must be renewed every three years and require at least 36 hours of continuing education.

Ohio

In Ohio, architecture license applicants must meet the education and experience requirements stipulated by the NCARB, before passing Ohio’s Architect Registration Exam. The application fee is $50.

Architects who are licensed in another state and already meet the licensing requirements of the NCARB can apply for a license in Ohio for a fee of $250 and don’t have to take the Ohio licensing test.

Licenses must be renewed in every odd-numbered year and require 12 hours of continuing education.

Texas

Texas requires architectural license applicants to complete their educational requirements by obtaining a bachelor’s degree from an NAAB accredited architecture program, and to complete the Architectural Experience Program.

After meeting these requirements, applicants must pass a licensing test with the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners, and pay a $105 application fee. Those who already have an architecture license from another state can apply for a reciprocal license.

Licenses must be renewed annually and require at least 12 hours of continuing education.

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If I am licensed as an architect in one state, am I able to perform work in another?

Many states offer out-of-state licenses on a reciprocity basis, so if you already have a license in one state, it will be much easier to offer your architectural services in another state.

In most cases, the application process is simple. You can obtain your architectural licensure by presenting evidence of your professional degree and your license to the reciprocal state’s licensing board of architects and pay the licensing fee.

A few states require continuing education courses for license renewal, so make sure you meet these requirements before your license expires.

How do you get an architecture license or certification?

For most individuals, the process of becoming a licensed architect involves spending five years acquiring a Bachelor of Architecture degree with a school accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

Licensing applicants must also spend three years as an intern with the Architectural Experience Program, where they work under a licensed architect. Some states allow parts of this experience to be gained within a related field, such as engineering or construction.

Through the education and internship programs, students learn about architectural history and theory, building design, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), construction methods for various structures, professional practices, and mathematics.

After meeting the education and experience requirements, applicants must pass the Architect Registration Examination with their state’s regulatory authority.

The exam focuses on the same topics from their educational program, as well as schematic design, structural systems, and construction documentation.

What insurance coverage and bonds does an architect need?

Professional architects obtain a variety of insurance and performance bonds to manage risks and protect their business. Required insurance and bonding options for architects may include:

General liability insurance

General liability insurance is often the first policy any small business owner considers, as it’s often required to sign commercial leases and contracts. General liability covers common business risks such as customer injury, damage to customer property, and advertising injury.

Commercial property insurance

Commercial property insurance covers your business’s location and equipment (computers, etc.) in case the equipment is stolen, lost, or damaged.

Business owner's policy (BOP)

A business owner’s policy (BOP) combines your general liability insurance and commercial property insurance under one policy and is usually less expensive than buying each coverage separately.

Professional liability insurance

Professional liability insurance, also called errors and omissions insurance, insures you against client lawsuits over unsatisfactory work and missed deadlines.

Workers' compensation insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance is required in most states for any business with employees. It covers the medical costs and lost wages due to work-related injuries and illnesses, which are unlikely to be covered by regular health insurance.

Cyber liability insurance

Cyber liability insurance covers the high costs of data breaches and malicious software attacks. It can offset expenses for customer notifications, which are typically required by most states following a data breach, as well as credit monitoring costs, legal fees, and fines.

Commercial auto insurance

Commercial auto insurance covers legal bills, medical expenses, and property damage if a business vehicle is involved in an accident. It is required in most states for businesses that own vehicles.

Hired and non-owned auto insurance (HNOA)

Hired and non-owned auto insurance (HNOA) covers any personal, leased, or rented vehicles you or your employees use for work. Your personal auto insurance is unlikely to cover you if you have an accident during work-related errands in your own vehicle.

License and permit bonds

License and permit bonds, such as surety bonds, provide a financial guarantee that your business will complete a project on time, in accordance with regulations and industry standards.

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