Do I need to complete IDP before I can sit for the ARE?

So you wanna be a Rock Star. You’re ready to enroll in IDP AND start taking the Architect Registration Exam simultaneously. Bravo! But wait…

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Most candidates assume they must complete their IDP (Intern Development Program administered by NCARB) before they can sit for the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). But wouldn’t it be great if you could take the exam right out of school, while the lessons from structures and construction methods class are still fresh in your mind? Well, good news. You can, if you live in one of the States that allow it.

Being able to take your ARE exams while still completing your IDP is not a new idea. Since 2007, a whopping 40 states have allowed concurrent testing with IDP (another 2, Kentucky and Mississippi, will allow you to take the ARE after finishing a portion of your IDP.) The AIA even supports the idea, as shown in their August 2007 bulletin which you can review here.

So I know what you’re thinking: Which states allow it? Since 42 states allow you to take the ARE while still working on IDP, it’s easier to tell you the states that do not allow it.

The 8 states and 2 jurisdictions that require you complete IDP before taking the exams are:

Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota

plus: Guam, Virgin Islands 

There are many advantages to taking the exams while still completing your IDP, including:

  1. The material is still fresh: if you recently graduated, it will be easier to stay in the mindset of studying, especially while the material is still fresh in your mind.
  2. Crossing the finish line sooner: rather than completing your IDP (which will take at least 3 years) and then starting the ARE process (average time to complete is around 2 years), you could shave off some time and finish everything within 3 years.
  3. Taking advantage of being entry level: the first few years of your architectural career are spent doing entry level stuff, such as CAD work, drafting, and research. What better time to focus on your career goals than now when you don’t have (much) responsibility at work?

Although this sounds great, there are some things to consider if you want to tackle finishing both the ARE and IDP at the same time:

  • Stress: Completing your IDP involves tracking your time, meeting with mentors and making sure you’re getting experience in all of the categories. That can be stressful enough without having to study and pass the exams too.
  • The dreaded rolling clock: NCARB’s 5-year rolling clock starts when you start taking the exams. While it’s nice to have that deadline to help “encourage” you to finish, you want to make sure you will be able to complete all seven ARE divisions before starting. As we like to tell people: Plan. Practice. Pass.

Be sure to visit NCARB’s website for more info on concurrent testing

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11 comments… add one
  • Karl July 10, 2014, 12:53 pm

    There are also a few other requirements to taking the ARE before completing IDP.
    1. You are a graduate of an NCARB ‘approved’ school. One that is accredited by NAAB.
    2. You must have a 5 year Bachelor of Science degree or 6 year Masters degree in Architecture from said schools.
    Non-Accredited school graduates, any 4 year Bachelor of Architecture degree holders and grandfathering via years of practice are not qualified for ARE until after IDP. And after successfully passing the ARE, these folks are not eligible for full NCARB reciprocity etc. At least thats the way it was as recently as 2012.

    • David July 15, 2014, 9:37 am

      Thanks for the clarification Karl. It’ll be interesting to see what NCARB rolls out with the recent chatter about cutting down on IDP required hours.

      Thanks, David

  • Ricky Vega April 13, 2015, 4:49 pm

    Karl, about point number 2: Will a 3 year M. Arch with a 4 year BA in a non architectural background qualify me to start taking the AREs in California?

    • David April 14, 2015, 9:56 am

      Hi Ricky,

      Best thing to do is contact the California Architects Board at (916) 574-7220 and speak to someone there about your situation. They are very helpful if you can get someone on the phone.

      Thanks, David

  • Clayton April 15, 2015, 12:52 pm

    Is the rolling clock at all related to finishing the IDP? For example, if I’m not earning hours at the moment and I were to finish the ARE is there any issue of its validity once I finish the IDP several years down the line?

    • David April 22, 2015, 8:36 am

      Hi Clayton, IDP is undergoing some changes with hours being reduced in many states. Since IPD varies by state, I’d recommend contacting the State Board you are applying for licensure and asking them. Some states allow you to earn IDP and take the ARE simultaneously, while others require you to complete IDP before taking the ARE. Your State Board is the best one to contact for information about your specific situation. Hope that helps!

      Thanks, David

  • Nicole June 23, 2015, 5:31 pm

    I was wondering if it matters where I become licensed? Say if I get licensed in California compared to New York, does it make a difference? And is there a rolling clock for IDP? I am a first year MArch 1 student and I am earning hours for IDP this summer. I cant take ARE when I am still in school, right?



    • David July 9, 2015, 1:20 pm

      Hi Nicole,

      It does matter and depends on where you plan on practicing. Each state’s Architect’s Board is the entity that actually grants you your license. So if you want to practice in New York, you need to be licensed by the New York Board. If you want to practice in California, you need to be licensed by the California Architects Board (and take the California Supplemental Exam You can not practice architecture in a state that you are not licensed.

      Hope that helps!

      Thanks, David

  • lenna December 3, 2015, 5:10 pm

    Hi David,
    I have a 4 year Architectural degree and plan on going back to grad school next fall. Could I start taking the A.R.E. exams while I’m enrolled in the M Arch. Program?
    Thank you,

    • David December 8, 2015, 11:57 am

      Hi Lenna,

      It’s really going to depend on your specific state’s Architect’s Licensing Board. I recommend checking with them. We also just released a podcast about pursuing an architecture degree you might find helpful;

      Episode 22: So You Wanna Be An Architect? Here’s Your Roadmap

      Be sure to check it out.

      Good luck on your exciting journey!

  • krishna August 1, 2018, 1:30 pm

    I studies masters in arch (design) from NAAB Accredited school but after a couple of years of work in the states i moved to middle east. I havent logged in my hours yet but planning to take the ARE and start logging in the hours. Can i take the ARE before starting to log in the hours?
    I have changed a few firms meanwhile so what is the best way to log in the work experience .? any advise.

    thank you very much

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