The Architectural Experience Program (AXP)

Marc Teer

September 21, 2016

The Architectural Experience Program (AXP)

Your years as an architecture intern may not be as glamorous as in the movies, but it is a crucial step in your journey to becoming a licensed architect.

We’ve all seen the movie where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, despite being older and technologically challenged, land internships at Google. They join a group of misfits and despite all odds they charm their way through the program and land full-time jobs in what seems like just a few months.

We wish we could tell you that your experience as an intern will be similar, that you will land an internship at the Google of architecture firms, complete the program in a matter of weeks, and end up with a promising, full-time position.

But sadly, that is not the truth.

The truth is, you will spend at least 3 years in your internship where you will do some really cool things, and you will also do some boring, mundane things – because let’s face it, you are an intern. But we can promise that you will gain a variety of experience while you work under a licensed architect.

In order to become a licensed architect, you have to complete an internship. Most states have adopted the National Council of Architectural Registration Board’s (NCARB) Architectural Experience Program - AXP (formerly the Intern Development Program - NCARB IDP) as their licensing education requirement. The Architectural Experience Program - AXP was created in 1976 by NCARB and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as a way to ensure students were gaining the right skill sets and experience to become the next generation of architects.

The AXP typically requires a total of 3,740 hours of experience in four categories: pre-design, design, project management, and practice management. That’s 224,400 minutes. Which is like watching the new Star Wars movie 1,650 times!

We know that seems totally overwhelming, so here’s where we share our super-secret tip with you: sign up for the AXP and look for a summer internship as soon as you graduate high school. Then you can get a jump-start on logging your hours.

So how do you get started? Here’s the 5-step process of the AXP:

  1. Set up your NCARB record online. It’s where you record your education, internship experience, exam scores, and eventually, your licensing registration with your state and NCARB certification.  Do this first.
  2. Find an internship. Easier said than done, right? Send out your resume, sharpen up those cover letters, and utilize every resource your campus has available. You’ll find one. And the best part is, most of them are PAID.
  3. Get an AXP Supervisor. They are the architect you will work with on a daily basis during your internship. They will verify and sign off on your hours as you go. Be nice to them, they have all the power.
  4. Choose a Mentor. It should be a licensed architect (preferably at a different firm then your supervisor) who can guide you and offer advice through your training to help you achieve your career goals. Choose wisely – you need someone who is willing to stick around for the long-haul.
  5. Log your hours online. You must log all experience within 8 months. But we’d highly recommend keeping up with it as you go. And, there’s an app for that!

Yes, 3,740 hours is a lot of hours. But the amount of experience and knowledge you will gain during that time will make it worth the while. And who knows? Maybe you will end up landing a job at the Google of all architecture firms. If you work hard, it could happen. 

Photo by Forgemind ArchiMedia / CC by 2.0​

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