Most professions involve some sort of lifelong learning, but for many fields, continued education can be mandatory. Architecture is one such profession. Architects have to periodically renew their licenses – typically every one to two years – and most states have established Continuing Education requirements as a condition of renewal. In addition, the AIA requires Continuing Education for its members regardless of state requirements.
Each state has its own requirements, and individual architects are responsible for knowing what they are. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) maintains a database, as does the AIA. However, since requirements sometimes change, it’s a good idea to verify the list with your own state.
There are some generally accepted guidelines that can help you choose courses that meet requirements for both state licensing and AIA credits. After all, the last thing you want to find out is that the course you spent time and money on isn’t going to count. Here’s what you need to know:
Health, Safety, and Welfare
Almost all states with Continuing Education requirements mandate that a minimum number of those hours fall into the category of Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW). AIA itself requires 12 hours per year of HSW learning. To satisfy the requirements of both AIA and the Continuing Education System (CES), courses have to meet all three of the following criteria:
- They must meet the official definition of HSW. In other words, courses must have something to do with the structural integrity of a building and/or its impacts on the health and well-being of the building’s occupants. The purpose of the HSW requirement is to protect the general public. Therefore, courses can focus on any architectural practices that lessen the possibility of injury or death, create positive emotional and physical responses, and ensure equal access.
- In addition to meeting the definition of HSW, qualified courses must fall into one of the following topic areas: building systems, construction contract administration, construction documents, design, environmental, legal, materials and methods, pre-design, or preservation.
- At least 75% of the course must directly relate to HSW. This can be determined by time and/or learning objectives. For example, if a course is an hour long, at least 45 minutes should focus on HSW. Alternatively, 75% of the learning objectives should focus on HSW.
General Educational Topics
While some states require that all Continuing Education hours fall under the HSW umbrella, many also require a set number of hours in general architectural learning. Those courses focus on topics in the categories of design, practice, and building science.
There are many Continuing Education providers, and many of the courses can be completed online. The trick is to make sure that the provider and its courses are recognized by the AIA and your state. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to rush to meet requirements you thought you had already completed.
AIA maintains its own learning center for members and it has the added benefit of convenience. You can be certain that the online courses you take will earn AIA credits and meet licensing requirements, and AIA will even update your member transcript for you, making documentation easier.
NCARB is an AIA-approved provider, so you can also feel confident that their courses meet the requirements for AIA credits (you should always check with your state on their requirements). Topics include mechanical systems, solar energy, structural issues, code requirements and changes, and ethics. All courses, which NCARB calls monographs or mini-monographs, are completed online.
4. Other Providers
In addition to professional organizations, course providers include architectural firms, government agencies, product manufacturers, and universities. When you find a course that interests you, just check to make sure it will count toward your re-licensing requirements. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a course you’re interested in from an unapproved provider, it’s important to make sure you’re taking enough approved courses to meet licensing requirements. Once you’ve done that, you can focus on learning for fun and personal development.
As technology continues to advance and environmental concerns grow, AIA credits are an important career investment for architects everywhere. Aside from required courses, how are you keeping up with what’s going on in your industry?