How can I be licensed, whats the easiest way in my unique position?


Hello everyone,

I want to start by saying I have a very strange background compared to probably a lot of people on here but I am trying to find answers. 

I didn't study architecture as an undergraduate student at Arizona State University, I studied politics because I got a scholarship by the US government to study a government related major. I wanted to study architecture but free tuition was more important for me and my family.

While in school and ever since I have self-studied architecture and structure through countless books and I am even (I would say) a master with AutoCAD, 3DsMax, Vray, Rhino 3D, and Revit.

Here is were it gets weird. 

I moved to Tokyo Japan in 2013 to teach English, on the side found myself getting clients freelance for architectural design. I built a pretty extension portfolio, and applied for a Master`s degree of engineering in Architectural and Urban Design at one of a Tokyo`s top Universities, took the entrance exam, and was accepted. I say this not to brag, but to let you know it is a very legitimate school as we even did workshops with USC and Harvard GSD. My university is recognized for a licenses in all Asia, Australia, and parts of Eurpose, but not the NCARB in the USA. 

During school and after I graduated I have worked and completed projects for Kengo Kuma, and now am working at a large corporate Japanese firm called Kume Sekkei with more than 500 employees. I been working in Japan for almost 3 years professional, and I have been thinking I want to move back to the USA someday, but I am not sure how to get my licenses there to start my own firm (starting my own architecture firm is my long term goal). 

So with my weird background, I am not sure how to proceed to make my dream come true. If you have any advice or recommendations how to get a license in the US with this situation I would really really appreciate it.

Thank you so much,



Jun 21, 19 11:43 am
Non Sequitur

Path for non-accredited degrees is USA here.

Jun 21, 19 12:05 pm

thank you for the link


There are many people in the USA skirting license laws by various methods.   In some ways, I think it might be becoming more common.  Many of the hot new people I'm seeing featured in the press and online are not licensed.

If you have some or all of these things: public relations savvy, prestige academic position, or money, you can work around not having a license.

Jun 21, 19 12:57 pm

Notice that skill and talent are not required.


are you eligible for licensure in Japan? It might be easier to get recognition by ncarb as a foreign licensed architect.

Jun 22, 19 9:48 am

I am eligible to get a license in Japan, but I think it will be much harder because the test is only in Kanji, and I worry my Japanese reading ability isnt up to par because even Japanese people say the test is so hard they take it many times due to the unique kanji. I can only take an E nglish version if I already have a license from a foreign country.


I would first try to get licensed in Japan since that is where you did your training and it’s where you actually work and take it from there...

Jun 22, 19 4:03 pm

I am eligible to get a license in Japan, but I think it will be much harder because the test is only in Kanji, and I worry my Japanese reading ability isnt up to par because even Japanese people say the test is so hard they take it many times due to the unique kanji. I can only take an E nglish version if I already have a license from a foreign country.


I studied architecture designs in a Japanese college and graduate school. Four yeas ago, the marriage with an American wife brought me to the U.S.. I still wanted to purse the career in the U.S.. So I contacted NAAB and NCARB. I provided them the English translated versions of the curriculum explanations which I took during my college and grad school, and then they have evaluated whether the architecture programs are equivalent of the U.S. accredited architecture programs. In NAAB website, they were showing the benchmark to count the credits, and as the result of my math, the credits I obtained in my college and grad school were short to satisfy their standard... So, I was thinking of going to school again in the U.S. to supplement the credits. However, for some reasons, NAAB has confirmed and gave me a recognition of "the equivalent of the U.S.. accredited program" without going back to school. I didn't know why, but I could start AXP program to be licensed since then.

NAAB evaluation costed me almost 2k, and they didn't allow me to translate the curriculum explanation by myself. So, I ended up hiring my friend who teaches English in Tokyo. He worked for me as half much as a regular professional translator works, but I remember that it still costed almost 2k to translate total 40 pages of curriculum guides... it is kinda spending. I know which school you studied in Tokyo. The tuition is way cheaper than studying in Yale or Sci-Arc. So, I would say you are still saving a lot of money...

Both Kengo Kuma and Kume are great, and you sounds very talented. Good luck with your journey back to the U.S.!

Jun 23, 19 2:06 am

Thank you for your feedback, I will give NAAB a call and see how to start this process!


Since you haven't studied architecture for your undergraduate, I wonder if NAAB certifies your academic history as "the equivalent to the U.S. accredited program'... That means, you might need going back to the U.S. accredited school to supplement the shortage of the credits. That being said, only NAAB knows. As I mentioned, my math revealed that I didn't have enough credits, but I passed for some reasons. So, maybe it worth trying first. If you failed, there is another path as midlander suggests. I didn't take that path, so I don't know the details. Probably, you may need to practice more in the Japanese firm. There are details in NCARB website. Check it.  

Jun 23, 19 2:22 am

There's an article on this very website that shows how far you can go today in the USA apparently without bothering with the time and expense of internship and licensing:

Jun 23, 19 1:59 pm

thank you for your input, ill look into this article


I was being sarcastic when I made the above comment.  A legitimate practitioner in the USA should have a license. The weird ambivalence about professional licensing expressed by some on these forums and elsewhere is ridiculous. Such attitudes are not entertained in other professions like engineering, law, and medicine.


Definitely contact NCARB and see what they recommend saying the exact thing you put above. I think a lot of it will depend on whether your degree is considered US equivalent and you can do the paperwork for them to decide. But, another thing to consider is AUS/New Zealand. If i remember correctly it's a lot easier getting the license transfer from these countries but you can ask about this as well. So if you got licensed there since your Japan edu is automatically recognized you can use the mutual transfer for some jurisdictions in the US. This might be helpful if you aren't ready to move back quite yet, or the NCARB doesn't recognize your degree and wants you to take more classes at a US school. (this would depend on what state you are moving to in the US) 

I would avoid going back to school for any reason in the US though if they don't think your Japan school was to their standards I would find a way to get licensed elsewhere and transfer. It would be a waste of money in my opinion to go back to school when your experience as a professional would be more valuable, but just what I would consider. 

Jun 24, 19 11:50 am

Thank you so much for the reply. I appreciate the time you took to write this. My mind was going in this direction, recently i am thinking if i cant get licensed in the US without more schooling, ill apply to work in AUS or some other countries where I could get a licensed easier and possibly have it transferred over to the US.

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