In the United States, architecture is regulated at the state level. Licensing boards in all 50 states and five territories (the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) require that professionals pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). The ARE is administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), which uses the exam to determine an architect’s professional qualifications. In addition to passing the ARE, becoming a certified architect typically requires at least a 4-year college degree and 3 to 4 years working under the guidance of certified professionals, as well as continuing education requirements to renew one’s license. As this sector’s jurisdiction falls to the states, the federal government has a limited role in regulating architecture services.
NCARB was founded to facilitate reciprocity between the U.S. jurisdictions. NCARB has also signed MRAs with Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand to provide for reciprocity between U.S. and foreign professional certification boards, streamlining the certification process for U.S. architects seeking to practice in those jurisdictions. NCARB recently agreed to an MRA with the United Kingdom, which both sides expect to ratify in early 2023.1
Engineering is similarly regulated at the state level. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) develops and administers the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exams for all 55 U.S. jurisdictions. The FE exam is the first step for aspiring engineers and is designed for recent graduates and students, while the PE exam requires passing the FE exam as well as four years of experience. In addition to passing the PE, to become a licensed professional engineer typically requires at least a 4-year college degree as well as continuing educational requirements to renew one’s license. As this sector’s jurisdiction falls to the states, the federal government has a limited role in regulating engineering services.
While becoming licensed is not a requirement to working, only professional engineers (i.e., those that have passed the PE exam) have the authority to sign and seal engineering plans, bid for government contracts, own a firm, consult, offer expert witness testimony, and offer their services to the public.
NCEES also helps licensed engineers expediate the application process for having one’s license recognized throughout the 55 U.S. jurisdictions. While the U.S. engineering industry does not have national MRA agreements with other countries, several individual state engineering boards have been active in establishing agreements. Texas has been most active, signing agreements ranging from mutual recognition to launching temporary permits to practice with Australia, Canada, and South Korea. Kentucky, North Carolina, and Texas have also signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan on recognition of credentials.
Additionally, NCEES maintains an international registry of individuals that it has assessed meet all competency requirements for licensure in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) or International Engineering Alliance (IEA). This enables firms in APEC or IEA jurisdictions to jumpstart the search process when seeking U.S. engineers, as well as potentially expediate the application process for regulatory boards. The list of economies involved include: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong China, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.2
Construction is the act of building something. This is typically a residential or non-residential building (e.g., an office building, hotel, industrial buildings, etc.), but could also be a non-building structure (e.g., a road, bridge, etc.). As one can imagine, construction work involves a variety of jobs and tasks. While there are many different careers within the construction sector, jobs can be classified into three different categories: laborers; craftsmen; and professional, technical, or managerial. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) defines construction laborers as those who perform most of the lower-skilled work such as preparing and cleaning up construction sites. They also assist the construction craftsmen as needed.3 The craftsmen are the skilled tradespeople, e.g., carpenters, electricians, plumbers. The professional, technical, or managerial jobs are comprised of architects, engineers, and construction or project managers.
Qualifications vary depending on the category of construction work. While no formal education is required for construction laborers, as defined by BEA’s classification, these types of jobs do necessitate a certain level of physical strength and stamina as tasks typically require lifting heavy objects throughout the day, often in weather extremes. Additional training and certifications will enable laborers to undertake more complex tasks. While some construction trades do not require formal education, most require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Most tradespeople learn their trade through apprenticeship programs. However, an alternative approach is to attend vocational-technical school. Depending on the trade, licensing and certification may be required.4 Construction managers typically have a bachelor’s degree. While certification is not required, obtaining a certification demonstrates professional competence and may be necessary to get hired or promoted.5 Many of the various certifications available for construction professionals (e.g., construction management, green building, safety certifications, etc.) are regulated at the national level.
1 For additional information on the architecture licensing process and MRAs, see NCARB’s website.
2 For additional information on the engineering licensing process and MRAs, see NCEES’ website.
3 See BLS’, “Construction Laborers and Helpers,” dated April 18, 2022. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
4 See BLS’, “Construction and Extraction Occupations,” dated April 18, 2022. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
5 See BLS’, “Construction Managers,” dated April 18, 2022. Retrieved August 30, 2022.