To truly become an expert on AXP, you need to reference NCARB –, but below are the basics.

Established jointly by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) in the late 1970s, the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) – originally the Intern Development Program (IDP) – is designed to ease the transition from academia to the profession. In becoming an architect, the AXP is an essential step. All jurisdictions require a structured internship for a period of time as their training requirement, and most have adopted the AXP as the training requirement necessary for licensure.

The Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) is an essential step in the path to becoming an architect. Through the AXP, you will learn about the daily realities of architectural practice, acquire comprehensive experience in basic practice areas, explore specialized areas of practice, develop professional judgment, and refine your career goals. The AXP is developed and administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). In most jurisdictions, completion of the AXP is a requirement for initial registration (licensure). The AXP identifies the tasks that are essential for competent practice. The program is structured to prepare you to practice architecture independently upon initial registration. – AXP Guidelines —

To fully complete AXP, the intern must complete a total of 3,740 hours across six experience categories.  If working full-time, you could complete the requirements for IDP in slightly less than two years; however, according to NCARB in its annual publication, NCARB by the Numbers 2020, the mean time to complete AXP is 4.4 years. For the most up-to-date information on AXP, visit the NCARB website —

The foundation of the program is the requirements (hours) for experience areas.

  • Category 1: Practice Management (160)
  • Category 2: Project Management (360)
  • Category 3: Programming & Analysis (260)
  • Category 4: Project Planning & Design (1080)
  • Category 5: Project Development & Documentation (1520)
  • Category 6: Construction & Evaluation (360)

Under each of these experience categories are Practice Management Tasks – as stated in the AXP Guidelines – “Upon completing the AXP, you should be able to competently perform the following tasks.”

An integral part of the AXP is the mentorship system. Within the AXP, you have access to two individuals who assist you with your work experience and career plans. The AXP supervisor is typically your immediate supervisor in your place of employment, while your mentor is an architect outside your firm with whom you meet periodically to discuss your career path.

With AXP, you are solely responsible for maintaining a continuous record of experience using NCARB Record. For supervisors, it is an assessment and personnel management tool; for state registration boards, it is verified evidence of compliance with the AXP training requirements. Also, NCARB has established the six-month rule that requires interns to submit their experience in reporting periods of no longer than six months and within two months of completion of each period.

In a recent discussion with an intern-architect a few years out of school, she confessed that while architecture school prepared her to think and design, it did not sufficiently prepare her to work in an architectural office. She further admitted that the AXP, with its experience areas, simply lists what you need to do. Asked for advice to give current students of architecture, she replied, “Take a chance, take a risk, and enroll in the AXP now while you are still in school.”

Regardless of your academic level, take the first step to learning about the AXP by contacting the NCARB to apply online to begin a NCARB Council Record. Begin the transition now; do not wait until graduation.




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