Chapter 1.5
Admission to the Profession


Accreditation: The process that establishes that an educational program meets an established standard of achievement. Its purpose is to assure the maintenance and enhancement of an appropriate educational foundation. The process is generally done by regular external monitoring using validated criteria and procedures.

Certification: The official or legal recognition of an individual’s qualifications.

Structured Learning Activities: “Educational opportunities that provide a fundamental level of knowledge relevant to the practice of Architecture throughout Canada.” (Continuing Education Harmonization Task Force 2007)

Unstructured or Self-Directed Learning Activities: “Educational opportunities that have been selected by an individual.” (Continuing Education Harmonization Task Force 2007) These activities must relate to the practice of architecture or business and must be relevant to the architect’s specific situation.


Canada’s provincial and territorial governments have jurisdiction over professional practice. This responsibility is entrusted by legislation to various provincial and territorial professional associations, which regulate members of their respective professions for the protection of the public. Provincial and territorial associations of architects, sometimes referred to as the licensing authorities, have established admission requirements and standards to ensure that candidates are competent to practise architecture.

The 10 provincial associations of architects and the Northwest Territories Association of Architects have adopted common admission standards, which include the three Es:

  • education;
  • experience;
  • examination.

These three components may overlap, to the benefit of the student or intern. Writing certain sections of the Examination for Architects in Canada (ExAC) or the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) permits the intern to apply or demonstrate knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired during internship.

FIGURE 1  Pathway to the profession


Role of the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB)

The CACB is a national independent non-profit corporation. The directors are elected from individuals nominated by the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (CALA), the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA), and the Canadian Architecture Students Association (CASA). The CACB is a decision-making and policy-generating body. It is the sole organization recognized by the architectural profession in Canada to assess the educational qualifications of architecture graduates (Certification Program) and to accredit professional degree programs in architecture that are offered by Canadian universities (Accreditation Program).

The CACB’s head office is in Ottawa, Ontario. It adheres to the principles of fairness, transparency, clarity and ethical business practices in all of its activities.

The CACB receives its mandate from the CALA and the CCUSA to:

  1. Certify educational qualifications of individual architectural graduates;
  2. Accredit professional architecture programs at Canadian universities;
  3. Certify professional qualifications of broadly experienced foreign architects (BEFA Program);
  4. Collaborate and conduct research, nationally and internationally, as it relates to architectural accreditation and academic certification.

Canadian Education Standard

The Canadian Education Standard for Architects (CES) is the academic qualification requirement established by the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (CALA) for candidates seeking to practise architecture in Canada.

The CES has been developed in accordance with both the core principles of the UNESCO/UIA Charter for Architectural Education and the relevant sections of the UIA Accord on Recommended International Standards on Professionalism in Architectural Practice.

Individuals can satisfy the requirements of the Canadian Education Standard (CES) in three ways:

  • accredited degree;
  • degree or diploma not accredited by CACB;
  • registration prior to the Certification Process.

Accredited Degree

CES requirements can be satisfied by obtaining a professional degree (master’s degree in Canada) from an architecture program accredited by the CACB or its U.S. counterpart organization, the National Architectural Accrediting Board, Inc. (NAAB).

Degrees or diplomas not accredited by CACB CES requirements can be satisfied by obtaining a professional degree in architecture from an education institution in a foreign country (except the United States) or from one of the Canberra Accord Signatories since January 1, 2010.

CES requirements may also be satisfied by obtaining a Professional Diploma in Architecture from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) Syllabus Program (a combination of academic and design studio education, and practice experience). Refer to for additional information.

Registration prior to the Certification Process

By obtaining a degree from one of the Canadian schools of architecture listed below prior to the implementation of the CACB Accreditation System in 1991:

  • University of British Columbia;
  • University of Calgary;
  • Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS) (currently Dalhousie University);
  • Université Laval;
  • University of Manitoba;
  • McGill University;
  • Université de Montréal;
  • University of Toronto;
  • University of Waterloo.

Refer to the CACB website for details about each approach to satisfying the requirements of the CES:

Alternate Pathways to Licensure

Licensure may be achieved following several alternate pathways.

Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect (BEFA) Certification

Licensure can be achieved by submitting academic records and a portfolio of projects, completing a self-assessment, and participating in an interview process with architects licensed to practise in Canada. A foreign licensed architect may then receive certification and can apply to a provincial or territorial regulator for a licence to practise. Candidates may be required to upgrade their education by taking appropriate courses or workshops. Refer to

Broadly Experienced Architect (administered by the AIBC)

As well, for those complying with AIBC experience requirements, licensure may be achieved by submitting a portfolio of projects, completing a self-assessment, and participating in an interview process with architects licensed to practise in British Columbia. An applicant who has not met the usual requirements for registration through education, experience and examination may then become licensed to practice. Refer to

Registration prior to Certification Process (Grandfathering)

An additional pathway to licensure can be achieved for those who qualify under the following conditions:

  • through registration or licensing by a provincial or territorial association of architects prior to July 1, 1976;
  • for the province of Québec, through registration/licensing by the Ordre des architectes du Québec prior to 1992; or
  • for the province of Alberta, through certification by the Universities Coordinating Council.

Professional Degree Programs in Architecture

University programs in architecture provide education that includes critical analysis and integration of knowledge.

Analytical study (theoretical courses) provides general knowledge required to undertake the design and construction phases involved in the development of the built environment. Subject areas include:


  • Design theories, precedents, and methods
  • Design skills
  • Design tools
  • Program analysis
  • Program development
  • Site context and design
  • Urban design
  • Detailed design
  • Design documentation

Culture, Communications, and Critical Thinking:

  • Critical thinking and communication
  • Architectural history
  • Architectural theory
  • Cultural diversity and global perspectives
  • Ecological systems

Technical Knowledge:

  • Regulatory systems
  • Materials
  • Structural systems
  • Envelope systems
  • Comprehensive Design

Professional Practice:

  • The architectural profession
  • Ethical and legal responsibilities
  • Modes of practice
  • Professional contracts
  • Project management

Design studio is the cornerstone of architectural education. It is the integration of academic, cultural and technical studies, with complex problem-solving in a project-based learning environment. Design studio enables students to develop creative solutions to specific architectural issues while developing self-reliance, teamwork, and analytical skills necessary to become practising architects. Architectural education is difficult and requires a high degree of self-direction and internal motivation. Students are generally critiqued in a group setting, encouraging engagement with fellow students and enhanced learning outcomes.

Undergraduate pre-professional programs in architectural studies are offered by both accredited and non-accredited post-secondary institutions. The master’s-level professional degree, a requirement to become an intern in architectural practice, is currently offered at 12 accredited Canadian university schools of architecture.

Accredited schools of architecture operate independently but collaborate through the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA). Entrance requirements to university programs vary. Prospective students should review the programs and application requirements thoroughly for each school. Students transferring from undergraduate to graduate programs in different schools should examine academic requirements carefully.

A typical combination of an undergraduate degree in architectural studies plus a graduate professional master’s degree will usually involve six years of study. This may be lengthened by co-operative work terms or transfer from one school to another. Several accredited schools of architecture offer an extended professional master’s degree (three to three and a half years) for those students who enter the program with an undergraduate degree in subjects other than architectural studies.

Accreditation of Professional Degree Programs

Accreditation is the public recognition accorded to a professional program that meets established professional qualifications and educational standards through initial and periodic evaluations.

The CACB only accredits programs that are intended by their institution to be professional degrees in architecture that lead to licensure. Professional accreditation of a program means that it has been evaluated by the CACB and substantially meets the educational standards that comprise an appropriate education for an architect. The accreditation process requires a self-assessment by the institution or program, an evaluation of the self-assessment by the CACB, and a site visit and review conducted by a team representing the CACB.

The CACB looks at the accreditation of architectural education within a broad frame and with an atmosphere of co-operation and mutual respect. The CACB strives to:

  • create and maintain conditions that will encourage the development of architectural educational practices suited to the institutional history, mission, culture, and condition particular to the program;
  • assist programs in fulfilling the broad requirements of the profession of architecture.

CACB Conditions and Terms for Accreditation and CACB Procedures for Accreditation

These are the guiding documents for the accreditation of programs offering professional degrees in architecture. They outline the requirements that the accredited programs must meet and the procedures to follow to ensure a uniform, fair and equitable accreditation process that will uphold the minimum standards in architectural accreditation. The CACB Conditions and Terms for Accreditation and the CACB Procedures for Accreditation are companion documents that should be read together. In both documents, words including “shall,” “must,” and other grammatically imperative terms set forth a requirement, while “may” indicates a suggestion.

“Terms of Accreditation,” as well as “Accreditation Information and Documents,” are published on each school of architecture’s program webpage.

RAIC Syllabus

The RAIC Syllabus Program is the national alternative path to architectural licensure in Canada. It is owned and managed by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada with support from its education service provider, Athabasca University. It is a combination of academic study, design studio and work experience. Academic courses are provided online. Design studios are operated in 12 cities across Canada with instruction provided by volunteer licensed practitioners. Extensive work experience is required to graduate from the program.

Syllabus students are required to be employed in an architectural practice and work under the supervision of an architect licensed to practice in Canada. Students entering the program may receive credit for post-secondary education in architectural technology or other areas of study. The Syllabus Program is challenging, requiring a high degree of self-motivation and exceptional time management skills.


Internship in Architecture Program

The objective of internship prior to licensing/registration is to ensure that the candidate gains enough experience to:

  • meet generally recognized standards of practical skill and professionalism;
  • practise architecture in a way that protects the public interest.

The provincial and territorial associations of architects established the Internship in Architecture Program (IAP). The IAP is a standardized national system for periodic documentation and evaluation of internship activities. It provides a structured transition between formal education and registration/licensing. In addition, the program encourages experienced practitioners to become more involved in the development of their future colleagues.

Candidates are advised to register for the IAP with their provincial or territorial architectural association as soon as they are eligible. Eligibility occurs after candidates have completed their professional master’s degree or the RAIC Syllabus Program.

Procedures for applying to become an intern are described in the IAP Manual, which includes:

  • guidelines;
  • forms;
  • sample letters;
  • the Canadian Experience Record Book, a requirement for recording work experience.

Important to note is that each provincial or territorial regulator has its own rules governing internship. It is the intern’s responsibility to review the IAP Schedule B for the conditions and rules governing internship for the jurisdiction in which they are registered.

On application, candidates must complete the appropriate form to confirm the names of employers (or the equivalent) and mentors.

The Canadian Experience Record Book (CERB) is also available on the RAIC website as an interactive form to be completed and printed for submission to the licensing authorities by interns.

Several regulators have adopted an automated online portal system for a more streamlined recording and validating of intern experience.

Role of Employers

Employers direct and supervise interns daily, assess the quality of their work, and certify the intern’s documentation of work experience. The supervising architect should have a detailed understanding of the scope and quality of the intern’s work, afford the intern opportunities for challenge and growth, and provide a pathway for career development.

Role of Mentors

It is the intern’s responsibility to manage the internship and proactively seek guidance from both the mentor and the supervising architect. The mentor is an architect recruited by the intern. The mentor meets with the intern regularly to review the progress of the intern, comment on the experience gained, and discuss the intern’s career goals and broad professional issues. The mentor can also act as a sounding board for issues the intern may be experiencing, or as a peer-to-peer colleague with the intern’s employer.

Experience Categories

The Internship in Architecture Program requires interns to complete a total of 3,720 hours of experience (over a minimum of two years) in the following categories:

Additional hours in any of the 17 categories of practice listed in the Canadian Experience Record Book: 760

Examination for Architects in Canada (ExAC) and the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)

Historically, professional examination of architects has been handled differently by each provincial or territorial regulator. Starting in the late 20th century, a standardized test, the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), was adopted in Canada; it is administered through NCARB (National Council of Architecture Registration Boards).

Starting in 2007 the licensing authorities had developed the Examination for Architects in Canada (ExAC). Since 2013, the ExAC has been adopted across all jurisdictions in Canada. The exam is set annually and is a high-stakes professional examination.

The ExAC is composed of four sections and covers the following topic areas as set out in the Internship in Architecture Program, across several broad themes:

Section 1:

  • Programming;
  • Site and Environmental Analysis;
  • Coordinating Engineering Systems;
  • Cost Management;
  • Schematic Design;
  • Design Development.

Section 2:

  • Code Research (NBC 2015 Edition).

Section 3:

  • Final Project.

Section 4:

  • Bidding and Contract Negotiations;
  • Construction Phase – Office;
  • Construction Phase – Site;
  • Project Management.

The principal sources of the examination content include:

  • Internship in Architecture Program (IAP);
  • Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects (CHOP), published by RAIC;
  • National Building Code.

The exam may call upon knowledge of contemporary design and practice standards, such as sustainability standards, or universal design. Refer to the ExAC website for more information,

Interns are permitted to write the examination after meeting a minimum of 2,800 hours of experience. They must write all four sections of the ExAC on their first sitting and, if any sections are failed, must rewrite the failed sections in the following two years. If the intern fails to achieve a pass on all sections of the examination at this final attempt, they will be considered as a new candidate for the examination and will therefore have to rewrite all the sections of the examination as a first time applicant.

This means that a candidate may have successfully passed three sections, but if they failed the last one at their final attempt, they will have to rewrite the four sections, even those they passed.

The ExAC is administered through a committee of Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (CALA), the CExAC. The committee consists of six representatives from across the country, appointed by the regulators. The CExAC oversees the annual examination and marking process, receives and approves exam results, and manages the preparation and validation of new questions. In addition to the committee, many other volunteers assist with these tasks.

Most provincial and territorial associations continue to recognize the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), administered by the U.S. National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) to support reciprocal licensing for architects throughout much of North America. Those considering working in cross-border jurisdictions and writing either/both the ExAC or/and the ARE should consult with their provincial or territorial association of architects. (See Chapter 1.7 – International Architectural Organizations.)

The ARE, which is administered in computer format only, is subdivided into seven divisions which may be written in any order and at any time at various testing centres in Canada and the United States.

In order to begin their examinations, interns must obtain approval from their provincial or territorial regulator. This often involves meeting a minimum number of hours in their internship.



After successfully completing the three admission requirements (education, experience and examination), interns may apply for professional licensing/registration to the architectural association of the province or territory in which they intend to practise. The intern will be granted a licence, renewable on payment of annual dues, providing that the architect complies with the association’s bylaws and code of ethics.

Some provincial and territorial associations have additional requirements, such as attendance at admission courses and/or an oral examination. These additional prerequisites to licensing/registration are available from the provincial or territorial association of architects.

In Québec, French is the official language by virtue of the Charter of the French Language, and it is the language used by the Ordre des architectes du Québec (OAQ) in all communications. However, a member may request that the OAQ correspond in English.

Whoever becomes a member of the OAQ must demonstrate working knowledge of the French language; therefore, a written or oral examination administered by the Office de la langue française may be required.

Several provincial regulators have a two-tier licensing system. A certificate of practice or other form of firm permit in addition to registration may be required to offer services to the public. Becoming licensed permits the use of the title “architect” but does not permit the individual to provide services to the public unless:

  • They are employed by an architect or engineer who holds a certificate of practice or other form of permit or, for engineering firms, a similar document;
  • They obtain a certificate of practice or other form of firm permit from the provincial or territorial regulator, meeting the requirements for practice; this generally requires proof of professional liability insurance.

Some architects may pursue professional licensure in order to complete a goal of becoming an architect, but then work in public service, for developers or project manager firms, or for private corporations. For a detailed understanding of the requirements for offering services to the public, consult the regulator requirements in each province or territory.


Reciprocity Agreement Between Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities

All provinces and the Northwest Territories have adopted common admission standards. The Canadian Education Standard, the Internship in Architecture Program, and the generalized use of the Examination for Architects in Canada (ExAC) or the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) have made admission to the profession virtually identical across Canada. This has resulted in a “reciprocity agreement” between the Canadian provincial and territorial associations of architects, which facilitates mobility from one jurisdiction to another.

Inter-Recognition Agreement Between the NCARB and the Former CCAC

The Canadian architectural profession was the first profession to negotiate an agreement with its counterparts in the United States under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The accord is called the Inter-Recognition Agreement Between the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the former Committee of Canadian Architectural Councils (CCAC). The common admission standards in both countries were contributing factors in reaching this agreement. The commonalities are as follows:

  • The CACB’s accreditation conditions and procedures are similar to those of the U.S. National Architectural Accrediting Board, Inc. (NAAB). Both organizations recognize programs accredited by the other. Certain details related to Canadian political and demographic features are different.
  • The Internship in Architecture Program’s objectives, procedures and duration are similar to those of the Intern Development Program in the United States.
  • The ExAC is recognized by NCARB as equivalent.
  • The Architect Registration Examination (ARE) is recognized in Canada.

The CCAC and the NCARB signed the Inter-Recognition Agreement. However, each Canadian provincial architectural association and each U.S. Member Board was required to ratify the agreement, forward a letter of undertaking, and append specific local requirements, where necessary. When considering obtaining licensure in another jurisdiction, it is important to understand the regulatory requirements of the host and visiting jurisdictions in order to understand the ability to obtain licensure. Some jurisdictions, for example, require residency or proof of ability to work in the visiting jurisdiction.

Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA)

A mutual recognition agreement (MRA) is an agreement between two international licensing authorities whereby each authority agrees to recognize and accept the credentials of professionals from the other authority. Over the years there has been considerable work on the part of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and CALA in negotiating mutual recognition agreements with other international architectural organizations. To date there is an agreement between architectural licensing authorities from Mexico, the United States and Canada (the tri-national agreement) as well as between Canada and the United States only. As of 2014, an agreement with Australia and New Zealand was finalized under the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Agreement. As of 2018, an MRA was signed between CALA and the Architects Council of Europe (ACE), to take effect in 2019.

Continuing Education/Professional Development

All provincial and territorial licensing authorities have adopted mandatory continuing education programs and all architects must participate in order to maintain licensure. “Continuing education” may also be referred to as “professional development.” The Union internationale des architectes (UIA) uses the term “continuing professional development” or CPD.

Continuing education assists in fulfilling the primary mandate of the associations in the protection of the public by ensuring architects remain competent and current in new technologies and new design developments. Furthermore, these programs enable architects to develop new markets and to improve their practices.

Each provincial and territorial association has slightly different continuing education requirements, and each association has its own system for recording continuing education credits or transcripts. The RAIC has developed a national system and electronic database which several associations have adopted. Also, the RAIC has facilitated the standardization and harmonization of the various provincial and territorial continuing education programs across Canada. This work resulted in the production of the document entitled Quality Assurance for Continuing Education Activities for the Architecture Profession in Canada, which has been adopted by all associations.

Learning activities, as described in the quality assurance document, are divided into two categories: Structured Learning and Unstructured Learning.

Interns and architects should check each provincial or territorial association’s continuing education/professional requirements to fully understand the various aspect of the programs. For example, architects can declare their primary jurisdiction for continuing education in one province or territory, and by annually submitting declaration forms to other provinces or territory in which they are licensed or wish to be licensed, the primary jurisdiction will submit the credits to meet the necessary continuing education requirements. For example, the OAA has the “Primary Jurisdiction Declaration Form” and the AIBC has the “Out-of-Province CES Compliance” form.

Allied Industry Certification and Professional Development

In the past few years, several new certifications have become available to architects.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely recognized and widely used green building rating system in the world. LEED accreditation is associated with the LEED rating system. It ensures that professionals have the knowledge they need to take a project through LEED certification and are well versed in the many aspects of green building.

There are two options for LEED credentialing: Green Associate and Accredited Professional (AP). The LEED Green Associate can become a LEED AP, a designation which is tailored to a specific LEED rating system that includes LEED for Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Operations and Maintenance (O+M), Interior Design and Construction (ID+C), Neighborhood Design (ND), and Healthcare, Retail, and School Projects, and Homes. (

The Certified Passive House Designer (CPHD) certification is usually obtained by professionals who have previous architecture and building knowledge. Normally, Passive House designers work in planning offices on the implementation of the Passive House standard.

The Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) certification, on the other hand, may be acquired by persons coming from different fields. Passive House consultants usually contribute to the dissemination of the Passive House standard through their work as researchers or speakers, or as decision-makers in government authorities.

Both titles are equal in terms of qualification with reference to the Passive House body of knowledge possessed by certified persons. The requirements for attaining this certificate and for renewal are the same for both groups of people. (

The Certified Energy Manager (CEM®) certification covers the technical, economic and regulatory aspects of effective energy management. The Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET) is the exclusively authorized Canadian trainer of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) for delivery of the CEM training and certification program. (

The Sustainability Facility Professional (SFP) provides skills for creating, managing and operating sustainable facilities and to continually improve a facility’s impact on the environment and the community. The SFP credential is designed for all facility managers and like-minded professionals with an interest in sustainable practices. (

It is noteworthy that the above-mentioned certifications, valued in demonstrating a level of educational and experience achievement in a specific area of building and site design, are the branded products of non-profit organizations. They do not reflect an exclusive scope of practice or expanded scope of practice of architectural services.


“Conditions and Procedures for the Certification of Educational Qualifications.” Canadian Architectural Certification Board, 2010 Edition,, accessed April 22, 2020.

“Conditions and Terms for Accreditation.” Canadian Architectural Certification Board, 2017 Edition,, accessed April 22, 2020.

“Procedures for Accreditation.” Canadian Architectural Certification Board, 2017 Edition,, accessed April 22, 2020.

“Intern Architects Program.” Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities, January 2012,, accessed April 21, 2020.

“Examination for Architects in Canada.” Committee for the Examination for Architects in Canada (CExAC), 2019,, accessed April 22, 2020.

“Pass the Exam.” National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB),, accessed April 21, 2020.

“RAIC Syllabus Program.” Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), 2020,, accessed April 22, 2020.

Valence, Jean R. Architect’s Essentials of Professional Development. American Institute of Architects. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003.