4 Reasons Why Architecture School Accreditation Matters

If you’re hoping to become a licensed architect, choosing the right school is critical. Not all architecture programs are created equal. Luckily, accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) is a reliable indicator of quality and comes with numerous benefits. Whether you’re looking to study architecture at the undergraduate or graduate level, your best path begins with identifying accredited colleges that align with your educational goals. In this post, we’ll discuss four key reasons architecture accreditation matters.

What is NAAB accreditation, and why does it matter?

As the oldest accrediting agency for architectural education in the United States, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) evaluates architecture programs to ensure that their graduates meet the necessary educational standards for professional practice. However, NAAB accreditation is independent of a school’s overall accreditation.

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Here are four key reasons why it’s important for aspiring architects to complete an NAAB-accredited program:

1. Quality assurance

NAAB accreditation guarantees that the program in question meets basic standards in terms of faculty, curriculum, student services, and libraries. As of 2020, the NAAB utilizes “outcome-based criteria to assess not only whether a program effectively teaches, but also whether students are learning and demonstrating competency in their area of study.”

Attending an NAAB-accredited institution ensures that your program will adequately prepare you for a successful career as an architect after graduation.

2. Licensure requirements

All licensing boards in the US accept a degree from a NAAB program, and 37 boards require it. While it’s possible (depending on your location and circumstances) to become a licensed architect after attending a non-accredited program, it often means you’ll need to jump through some additional hoops. For example, if you graduate from a non-accredited program, you may be:

  • Limited in where you can practice
  • Required to complete additional requirements to get an architecture license
  • Required to complete additional requirements to earn an NCARB Certificate (credential issued by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards)

To give yourself the clearest, simplest path to licensure after graduation, it’s recommended to attend an accredited institution.

3. More global job opportunities

If you’re going to study architecture in the US but plan to eventually work in a different country, an NAAB-accredited degree is a must. Additionally, these degrees are recognized not just throughout the US, but also internationally through agreements such as the Canberra Accord.

While specifics differ by country, in many cases, holding an NAAB-accredited degree will exempt you from having to retake exams or reapply for licensure in another country.

4. Accelerated pathway to licensure

Many NAAB-accredited schools offer Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) programs. This combines the education, work experience, and Architect Registration Examination (ARE) requirements for licensure. If you enroll in an IPAL program, you’ll have the opportunity to complete all requirements during the course of your degree program, so you’ll be eligible for licensure immediately after graduation.

Important note: Not all jurisdictions accept ARE divisions taken through IPAL programs; some require students to take the ARE after graduation. Check your local requirements.

Also consider: association memberships

If your school holds a membership and/or hosts a chapter of one of these associations, you may get access to industry publications, portfolio feedback, networking opportunities, conferences, webinars, and more:

While these are association memberships and/or chapters, not accreditations, they do demonstrate that a school is committed to providing the best possible resources and education and is home to a vibrant architecture community.

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Your path to success starts at an NAAB-accredited school

Completing an NAAB-accredited degree program not only sets you up for an easier transition into your architectural career but also underscores the reasons architecture accreditation matters. An NAAB-accredited program isn’t just an indication of quality — completing one also aligns with the requirements of all licensing boards in the US, gives you access to job opportunities around the world, and may provide you with an accelerated path to licensure.

Interested in studying architecture in Southern California? Woodbury University is proud to offer NAAB-accredited Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) and Master of Architecture (MArch) programs, both of which have IPAL programs available. In addition, we also hold ACSA and AICAD memberships, and are home to chapters of AIAS and NOMA.


Ready to join a thriving community of architecture students? Learn more and apply today.

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