Taking the Architectural Registration Exam in the Middle East

It’s a tedious process taking the ARE if you’ve graduated from a University in the Middle East when it’s not an accredited program. I thought I’d share my experience in the hope that this would answer some questions you have.

When I was studying at the University of Bahrain; we were told that the NAAB (which is the national architectural accreditation board) was visiting the campus to make an evaluation as to whether our university was considered a viable educational program or not. It seems that it was going to take a lot of time, and I graduated before anything happened. So I was left with a degree that was not nationally recognized. What should I do now?

This was not a big problem for me at the time, since I had little knowledge about the regulations the American Board had for International students. When I graduated things cleared up and it looked like a pretty tedious process. First of all, the ARE is an exam you take once you’ve actually graduated from a NAAB recognized program. If you are an architect who has graduated from a non recognized program you are not eligible to sit for the test. Which was pretty much my case.

Not so Great Support Team

What made things worse is that if you email the NAAB support team all the answers you get are robotic, and don’t answer your questions. In fact they’d answer a question you never asked and completely ignore the questions you made.

I received 4 email responses before I realized this was not working. I called the number that was listed on their website, and I talked to an “actual person” and made a “real conversation”. I asked her what I had to do in a case like mine. And her answer was whether getting an accreditation from the NAAB was important. Smooth. Real smooth. I thought I didn’t understand her point at first so I asked her to elaborate and she said: “Well you don’t have to work in the U.S” …

I don’t know what and how she came to that conclusion. But in case you didn’t know why I wanted a NAAB accreditation in the first place; well if you ever want to be a licensed architect you’re going to have to take the ARE. And though you do not have to be a licensed architect to practice architecture, this is something you would do on your own behalf. So it’s something that would matter to you only. Because even after you take the ARE and pass all the exams, nothing’s really going to change.

Finally! An Answer.

I didn’t give up. I kept asking questions till I came to the conclusion that in order for NAAB to recognize your degree you need to apply for something called the EESA. Once they’ve reviewed your degree; they’ll inform you whether your degree enables you to take the EESA. If you are eligible you end up paying over $2000 only to take the test. That sounds like too much for something as trifle as a preliminary test.

What Next?

OK, so let’s assume you passed the EESA. What next? You must complete the Intern Development Program (IDP) through the National Council of Architect Registration Boards (NCARB,) must pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE), and finally you must provide proof of legal status in the U.S. Too much? There’s an alternative.

The Alternative:

If you think the above procedure is way too much for something like a recognized licence in the U.S, I don’t blame you.
Which is why I tried to look for alternatives. While I was at it I found out that the alternative is to get a Masters Degree from a NAAB recognized program. If you’ve had masters on your mind for sometime this is why it would make more sense to get a professional degree and licence all at once. You still have to take the ARE though. But at least this would take you across have the procedure.

Sometime in the Future

While I was fishing for alternatives I caught an article that said the ARE was going to open a test center in Abu-Dhabi. That’s great news; at least when it happens. If you’re in the Middle East that would mean you wouldn’t have to go all the way to the U.S to take the test. HAllaloya! (http://www.designmena.com/thoughts/abu-dhabi-architecture-exam-centre)

Update: Hi guys, this is an update to the original post. If you guys want to see the list of examiners who passed the exam in the middle east, check it out here (http://www.rappler.com/bulletin-board/74142-architect-exam-middle-east-results). I’m sure this will boost your confidence into applying for the exam now. So good luck to you!

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