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What are the licensure requirements in the UK for US architects?

Fiona Mckay

Licensure in the UK is administered by the Architects Registration Board (ARB). This is equivalent to the individual state licensing boards in the US. The RIBA, like the AIA, is not a legal entity that regulates either the practice or title of architecture. It is worth noting that the practice of architecture is not regulated in the UK, rather the title ‘Architect’ is regulated. Therefore, a US registered architect (or anyone else) can practice architecture in the UK so long as they don’t call themselves an architect. This affects the use of initials such as AIA within the UK, and this topic is discussed elsewhere.

The overall requirements for licensure in the UK and the US is similar, with the main difference being that the US license requires a minimum of 3 years’ work experience, whereas the UK license only requires 2 years. The UK license is divided into 3 parts, Parts I, II, and III. The first two parts relate to university education, with Part I being 3 years of education and Part II being two years of education. This is like the US 5-year B Arch degree. The US range of options of undergraduate/graduate study does not exist in the UK. In the UK, by completing a UK architectural degree you have completed Parts I and II. The Part III is a professional practice examination that covers things such as contracts, project administration, and UK specific items such as planning (zoning) permissions and rights of light.

There is no reciprocity between the US and the UK for architectural licensure, although this did exist briefly a number of years ago. In a typical scenario, for a US architect to obtain UK registration they must demonstrate that they have an architectural education equivalent to the UK Parts I and II. They must then pass the Part III examination. In theory, the above sounds straight forward, but the practical reality is considerably different. The easy bit in the process is the Part III examination. This is offered by most architectural schools, and they typically have programmes with evening lecture series, geared towards young architects who are
working duering the day, and are working towards their licensure. It is a simple matter to enrol and participate and/or take the examinations.

The key issue is educational reciprocity, which does not exist. An accredited US architectural degree does not qualify as a UK accredited degree. It should be noted that it is the ARB who is responsible for determining whether a degree qualifies for Part I or Part II exemption. Somewhat confusingly, the RIBA also does this, but this has no legal bearing, and there have been some unfortunate incidents
involving UK Commonwealth countries that have RIBA accredited architectural programmes whose graduates don’t qualify for the UK ARB Parts I and II.

For someone with a US accredited architectural degree to get equivalency by ARB, the candidate must submit a portfolio, considerable documentation, and attend an interview for each of the two parts. The current cost for each part is approximately £2000. If the applicant fails the process, then a new fee must be paid. The failure rate in recent years has been surprisingly high, and in this writer’s opinion there is something drastically wrong with this system given the similarities of US and UK
architectural education.

The AIA UK is working to assist in developing a method of education reciprocity between the US and the UK, although until the UK leaves the European union, this won’t be possible. Also, this issue is not high on the agenda for the organizations involved (on both sides of the Atlantic), and this factors into timescales.

If you have further questions, please contact the AIA in the United Kingdom and they canput you in touch with one our members living here who can address your questions in greater detail.

Written by: Lester Korzilius; FAIA, NCARB, RIBA, ARB

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