NCARB Fees...When to stop paying


Before I waste 2 hours on the phone with NCARB...Maybe you guys can help:

I got licensed earlier this year. Is there any reason to keep paying the NCARB fee to maintain my council record? I got a letter in the mail from NCARB saying I should, but there's absolutely no indication what the fee would be for. Nothing on their site explains why we should keep paying. Is this just a scam, or what?

I'm not NCARB certified, but plan to send in the application soon. I assume it does not matter either way...right?

May 27, 09 3:58 pm
el jeffe

if you want/expect the need to get reciprocity in another state, you might want to consider paying the protection money.

May 27, 09 4:10 pm

El Jeffe,

Ok...So let's say I pay the fee for this year and get NCARB Certified in the next 6 months. Do I still have to pay the NCARB fee next year?

What is the purpose of a fee when you're already licensed and already NCARB Certified? Why even maintain a record with NCARB? Isn't the fee's purpose to monitor your school, IDP and ARE records, or is there something else beyond these that make it worthwhile to keep paying?

May 27, 09 4:30 pm
el jeffe

from the ncarb site:

"Your NCARB Certificate:

* Simplifies the process of seeking reciprocal registration in other jurisdictions, helping you to have more opportunities to practice.
* Signifies that you have met the profession's most objective standards of competence.
* Demonstrates your support of NCARB's mission for protecting the public welfare."

so like i said, if you want reciprocity in another state, keep your record active.

i've been licensed for a while now so i don't know the details of the IDP/ARE process, but unless you want to get licensed in a state other than your original license state, why even bother with certification?

May 27, 09 5:08 pm

I wonder if we're all talking about the same fee, or not ?

Interns on IDP pay $285 to set up a Council Record and are assessed $60 / year to maintain their Council Record after the first three years.

Licensed architects who want an NCARB Certificate are required to pay $675 to set up a Certificate Record and are assessed an annual certification renewal of $190.

Most people I know keep their NCARB Certificate current if they think there's a remote chance they'll need to obtain reciprocity in another jurisdiction. If you never leave your state and never expect to do so, it may not be necessary, or desirable, for you to have, or keep, a NCARB Certificate.

I've maintained my NCARB Certificate for 28 years ... but then, I practice in 39 different jurisdictions.

May 27, 09 5:09 pm
mac rebennack

You might also check where you want to get reciprocity as well ... for instance I'm registered in New Mexico and want to be licensed in TX as well. If you do that in the first 3 years of licensure then you need a certificate or at least an updated council record to have all your documentation forwarded - so you need to keep paying NCARB ... but ... after 3 years TX will give you reciprocity without a council record. So you if you can wait it out you might be able to save some cash - not sure how this applies other places.

May 27, 09 5:22 pm


Thanks. That answers my question.
El Jeffe...Sorry if my question was unclear.

The fee they're currently requesting is the $60 annual council record fee. It sounds like there is no reason to keep paying the $60 Council Record fee if one intends to get NCARB certificatied and pay any annual fees necessary to keep certification active.

Thanks for answering...

May 27, 09 5:25 pm

Thanks mac...I'll find out...I live in NYC. I suppose I might as well call up NCARB and get clarification directly from the horse's mouth.

May 27, 09 5:27 pm

I quit paying NCARB when I finished up IDP. Then when I got registered they sent me a letter saying to get my NCARB certificate I'd have to pay reactivation + the fee for the certificate and something else as I recall. Not cheap. Talked to the boss about it as I'm not signing drawings and probably won't be for several years. His suggestion was to not pay anything and just pony up the $$$ for the reactivation and certificate when I actually needed it, aka, signing in several states. $190 annual fee is a lot if you aren't actually using the benefits of being certified. (They don't even give you a crappy magazine for that) As I recall the maximum reactivation fee was $500. Less than three years pays for that easy.

May 28, 09 8:44 am
liberty bell

aqua, that seems like a pretty common and reasonable strategy. IF you ever get reciprocity you can just factor a chunk of money to NCARB into the expense.

I'm licensed in two states, but for some reason I only pay $95/year to maintain my certificate?

I do think it's a little weaselly how NCARB sends these letters to newly registered architects that don't *clearly* state what a certificate is good for and when it's required. But whatever, cost of business.

stone: thirty-nine jurisdictions? Damn. That's a lot in renewal fees every year! Can you share approximately how much that is? I guess I spend about $200/year to keep my registrations current (they're both on two-year renewal terms).

May 28, 09 9:23 am
liberty bell

And actually, aqua, they *do* send you a crappy magazine for it. Emphasis on crappy (unless registration arcana interests you).

May 28, 09 9:25 am

LB -- it generally runs on the order of $15,000 (+/-) per year in professional licenses, business licenses and supporting professional services. But, to put that amount into context, this expenditure is in support of a mid-sized firm operating nationally with annual revenues on the order of $8-$9 million.

It's what we must do in order to generate that level of revenue. And yes, it is a PITA.

May 28, 09 9:38 am
liberty bell

Thanks for sharing, stone. That's one of the things I love about Archinect, it gives us all the opportunity to learn about the incredibly wide range of practice types in our field. my little desk-in-my-family-room-office practice and yours are different yet we all have similar concerns.

Also, PITA was the name of my childhood horse - my dad named her when he finally gave in and bought her for my sister and me. He told us her name options were PITA and Emergency Rations - we chose the former.

May 28, 09 9:43 am

LB: name options were PITA and Emergency Rations - LOL

May 28, 09 10:08 am
el jeffe

that's so funny LB.

May 28, 09 10:46 am

I never really liked paying for stuff....

May 28, 09 2:33 pm

speaking of fees, anyone here interested in getting RIBA? you know you can right? it's a bit pricey, but boy oh boy if that acronym don't look spiff on your card, i don't know what will....hehe...

May 28, 09 2:44 pm

Liberty Bell: you're paying $95 annually to maintain your certificate because you are getting the reduced rate for the first three years, because your council record fees never lapsed, you completed IDP, and you applied for certification soon after getting licensed. It will increase to $190 per year in the fourth year.

FP: if you don't continue to pay your annual dues, you will need to pay the back dues, plus the application fee, when you apply for certification. And you'll have to pay the full annual dues. If you pay your annual dues continuously, then when you apply for certification the application fee will be waived, and you'll also qualify for the $95 rate for each of the first three years.

If you let your dues lapse after getting certified, then if you ever need to transmit your record to another state you'll have to pay all the back dues up to a cap of $500, plus a "reactivation fee" which is currently almost $300.

May 28, 09 8:33 pm
some person

So if I do the math correctly according to the figures from Bloopox, I will break even if I don't need an NCARB certificate within the next 6 years...

($800 plus the savings of $95/year that lb is realizing. 1085/190 = 5.7 years).

May 28, 09 9:57 pm
some person

or should I say, 6 years from when I became registered.

May 28, 09 9:58 pm

perhaps that may be of help... #14 is the biggie, NCARB cert. required or not.

Also, anyone take the Arctic Engineering Course? Just curious.

Jun 2, 09 12:37 pm

Yeah, I did the math on what it would take to get the NCARB cert and figured I'd be waaaay ahead waiting for now and just paying the back fees ($500 cap) and reactivation down the road when/if asked to be a signer like Stone is.

$190 or $95/year, either way is a hefty chunk of change if you never use it. I think NCARB scams a lot of younger architects into getting certified. Especially so for people working in larger firms that theoretically could go their entire working career and never sign a drawing.

Jun 2, 09 1:01 pm

Maybe someone can clarify for me why NCARB Certification speeds up reciprocity. It's just a fee, right? That's it. So, does that mean you're paying to expedite the process of future reciprocity, which you may never need anyway?

Why does it take up to a year to gain reciprocity in another state if you're not NCARB Certified? What makes the reciprocity process so time consuming that paying the additional $600+annual fees so much faster to process the paperwork? It really does seem like these fees are a way for NCARB to rake in extra dollars.

From NCARB's webpage regarding certification:

1. Simplifies the process of seeking reciprocal registration in other jurisdictions, helping you to have more opportunities to practice.
2. Signifies that you have met the profession's most objective standards of competence.
3. Demonstrates your support of NCARB's mission for protecting the public welfare.

So, how exactly does certification simplify the process? It's not like were doing anything other than paying NCARB more money. And is getting licensed not enough proof that we've met the profession's most objective standards of competence? Certification seems like just a label, but it adds no significant stature to one's qualifications. It's not like there's another test to get certified. It's just more money in NCARB's pockets. And what extra public welfare does NCARB support that we didn't already get tested on when taking the ARE? Isn't the fact that we tested and passed the ARE enough to show that we are trained and qualified to serve the public? How does paying an additional fee help?

Sorry, I just had to vent.

Jun 2, 09 1:18 pm

I just found out they charge each state a fee to administer exams.
It is like $10,000.00 a year in Connecticut. They are a money making machine. You would think they like so many other organizations might cut some slack in lean times....for you suckers paying and paying...

Jun 3, 09 5:54 pm

some like tea and biscuits.... while others like a sandwich and a soda/pop

there's tooo much paperwork in all these arch. practices.... from the hottness of LEED, to AIA to NCARB to (insert here)....

Jun 3, 09 6:08 pm

FP -- I'm not entirely sure this will answer your whole question, but NCARB requires certificate holders to update their personal file each year to verify that nothing material has changed with respect to that person's professional status -- i.e. whether any state licenses have been revoked or suspended; whether a court has found the individual to be in violation of the law or any regulations in the conduct of practice; whether any state licenses have lapsed; whether the individual has entered into a consent ageement with respect to a disciplinary action; etc.

In most - but not all - jurisdictions, provided a licensed architect who holds NCARB certification maintains a clean record, then reciprocity in another jurisdiction usually is granted as a matter of course -- often in a matter of weeks, if not days. NCARB's role in this is mostly a matter of record keeping and serving as a clearing house for relevant information related to an architect's professional status.

I'm not sure the work involved warrants the fees charged -- you may not either. If not, don't pay the fee. Myself, I've been paying it for 26 years and don't see myself changing anytime soon -- when I need to be licensed in another state, this clearly is the easiest, least time consuming, way to go. By I work all over the country every year and I need the ability to move quickly when a client takes me, say, to Wisconsin.

Jun 3, 09 6:13 pm

I finished IDP a few years ago and finally the ARE in April. NCARB forwarded my record to California and I am eligible to take California's Supplemental Exam. I plan to take within the next year.

Does anyone know if I need to renew NCARB if I have not become registered in a state?

I'm getting the letters and emails now that my NCARB expires at the end of this month.

Aug 2, 16 1:33 am

I think it is free to renew after your get licensed. At least it was for me.

Jan 16, 17 1:29 pm

If you don't renew, then when you do get licensed, if you decide to get NCARB-certified it will cost a lot more.  If you keep your dues current then the initial certification application fee is waived, and your first few years of certification dues are lower.  If you let your record expire then you not only have to pay the application fee of several hundred dollars, but also all the lapsed years of dues, plus a reinstatement fine, up to a max of $1500.

It is not free to renew after getting licensed.  But the first few years are at 50% if you get certified immediately after initial licensing.

You might be thinking you're not planning to get certified so there's no reason to renew.  But +/-25 states require certification for reciprocity.  And most of the states that don't require certification for reciprocity do still require that you transmit your NCARB record.  If you're eligible for certification then NCARB will not transmit your record for reciprocity purposes unless you get certified (and pay all the back years of dues).  So unless you're sure you're going to practice in one state forever, and/or you're not eligible for certification because you don't have an NAAB degree, you should not let your dues lapse.

Jan 16, 17 2:35 pm

First renewal, once licensed was waived for me.  I think this is what Tina was referring to.

Jan 16, 17 4:01 pm

I think that depends on when you get licensed - i.e. NCARB runs different deals.  When I did it there was no free renewal, but the first 2 or 3 years were half-price.  They've also run an "amnesty" every 5 years or so, for people who never got certified, where they can do it without paying the $1500 in back fees and fines.

Jan 16, 17 7:37 pm

Lets just say my wife and I were licensed at the same time in 1998. I have continued with NCARB and with reciprocity am able to practice anywhere. It costs roughly $250/ year to maintain. Adding additional states is a breeze - just pay a $500 sucking fee to NCARB plus state fees. 

However, should my wife now wish to become NCARB it is a long nasty application and a $5,000 fee. 

If you can afford it. Maintain the record. 

Jan 23, 17 3:28 pm

Why $5000 for your wife's application? NCARB caps the back renewal fees at $1100 (which is essentially the cost of a new application) plus a $250 reactivation fee. You should only have to pay $1350.

Reactivation Fee: $250 + all outstanding annual renewal fees up to the maximum of $1,100 If your NCARB Record lapsed for any amount of time, you must pay a $250 reactivation fee plus all annual renewal fees assessed during the period of inactivity up to a maximum reactivation fee of $1,100.

Add a $400 transmittal to it and you've only spent $1750 to get your wife reciprocity in another state.

Your fees on the other hand ... 18 years of paying $250 annually to NCARB is $4500. Add the $500 transmittal and you're up to $5000 total for reciprocity in another state. But that's using the numbers you gave, which aren't current. 

Looking at the current NCARB fees and using their renewal rate ($225 annually) you're still paying $4050 in annual renewal fees over 18 years. Add the $400 transmittal fee and you're paying $4450 for reciprocity in another state. That's over 2.5 times what your wife paid. I'd rather take the long nasty application after 18 years ... it can't be that terrible to make me want to pay 2.5 times what it would cost me otherwise.

less than 3 years is the break even point. If you plan on getting reciprocity, keep your record active and get reciprocity before you pay your renewal fee for the third year to save yourself some money (this assumes you paid the initial application fee of $1100 which includes your first year's dues*). If you aren't going to get reciprocity before that, you're better off not paying anything and dealing with the reactivation/activation fee and the past dues capped at $1100. 

*If the initial application fee is waived and all you had to pay are annual renewal fees, then the break even point is 6 or 7 years depending on if they make you pay dues for year #1.

Jan 23, 17 4:15 pm

The break even math is one issue, but there's also a time factor.  If/when you find that you need reciprocity, it will add weeks or months to that process if you have to do a certification application at that point.   I know that most people these days have a quicker turn around (mine was several years ago, and NCARB's estimate on certification time back then was 2 to 6 months, while it's only a few weeks now).  But when you add that application time, plus transmittal time (for me transmittals to 3 different states have taken 2, 3, and 6 weeks), plus the state's time to process your application, which varies from a typical 3 business days to 3+ months depending on the state, you may have an unacceptable wait time, depending on the reason that you're seeking reciprocity in the first place.

Jan 23, 17 4:33 pm

Here are the fees (and nasty process) for someone who passed the ARE in 1998 but did not get the NCARB cert at that time and now would like to get one:

BEA Fees

Note: All fees are subject to change, and are non-refundable unless otherwise noted.

Dossier Review Fee: Up to $5,000*

*Please note: The following chart outlines the Dossier Review Fee structure, which introduces cost per subject area deficiency with a maximum fee not to exceed $5,000. Your dossier review fee includes one non-refundable format review fee of $500.

BEA Dossier Review Fee Structure

Subject AreaFee


Technical Systems$1,285

History and Theory$750


General Education$500

Maximum Total:$5,000


For confirmation of your applicable fee for the Education Dossier Review and questions related to the fee structure, please contact the Internship + Education Directorate at

- See more at:

Jan 30, 17 5:43 pm

^ if only NCARB were still accepting applicants for the BEA program ... they haven't since July last year. I can't imagine you didn't see the popup notification while you were finding the fees you copied above.

Important BEA Notification

Attention architects seeking certification: Effective July 1, 2016, NCARB is no longer accepting applications for certification through the Broadly Experienced Architect Program.

new certification path for architects without a NAAB-accredited degree will launch in 2017.

Questions? Please submit your inquiry to



Quote from the press release linked from the notification above:

"The program will go into effect in 2017 and will replace the BEA Program, which currently costs $5,000. Additionally, this revised path will be offered at no additional charge to active Record holders and incorporate the reduced Certificate application fee of $1,100."

Bad news I suppose if you already started the process in June last year, or needed certification sooner than an undisclosed time in 2017 when this is supposed to launch ... but good news if you didn't want to pay $5000 and can wait.

Jan 30, 17 6:53 pm

BTW, when you mentioned in your first post that you and your wife were licensed at the same time you failed to establish that she didn't have a NAAB-degree and needed to go through a completely different process than you did to get her initial license and would also need a different process for an NCARB certificate as well. It's kind of an apples and oranges comparison to say her fees and process are more difficult than yours are. You were never really comparable except that you both were licensed around the same time. 

Jan 30, 17 7:12 pm

NCARB is like the mob for architects. According to their fee structure:

Lapsed RecordReactivates an expired Record.

  • Licensure candidate: $85 annual renewal fee for each year or partial year lapsed, up to $185 (the cost of the application plus one annual renewal).
  • Architect: $250 plus the cost of all outstanding annual renewal fees, up to $1,100.

So in other words, they force you to pay annual fees for all the years that you didn't actually need their services, along with an additional fee of $250. This is what happens when you have a bureaucratic monopoly with no alternatives or checks on their power. 

Why do we have to put up with this? 

Oct 16, 19 1:26 pm

you don't have to. stop paying the fee and then just be prepared to go through more work when you need to get a license in another state. what ncarb offers - and i gladly write the check out (metaphorically speaking) every year - is my time. they did the work to establish that someone is who they say they are, have the experience they say they have, and the states are happy to have that around. so... yep. it's a cost of doing business. just do it.


Hey Gregory I am fine with paying NCARB the fee WHILE I actually need their services and expect to work in multiple states. I get it, cost of doing business, blah blah blah. 

However, if I work in the same state for the next five years, and then suddenly I need to apply to work elsewhere, why are they entitled to a lump sum fee of over 1K when I have not used them for five years? I can't think of any other service that you have to keep paying for while you're not actively using it. 

By the way, I don't think they need you to defend them, it seems like they're doing well enough already. But I'm glad to hear you like paying fees so much, you must make a lot of money. 

Why do we have to put up with this? 

It's because the state grants architects a professional monopoly on designing non-exempt projects in order to protect the public's HSW, and the state follows NCARB who, in a manner of speaking, is the organization that "holds the keys" to entrance into the profession.

Doesn't mean you have to like it and you can't try to do something about it, but that's essentially the reason why.

Oct 16, 19 2:32 pm

Stupid constitution


I keep my NCARB record current. I am happy to pay for them to keep the paperwork intact, and make it hopefully easier to license up in another state. 

What a time to be alive and questioning ones membership in affiliated professional organizations!

Oct 18, 19 10:20 pm

My NCARB record renewed (although I have to renew again in Feb. 2020) but the good news is I'll soon be able to begin getting the ARE behind me while I'll still have to get all the other stuff done as required for initial licensure. 

Oct 21, 19 2:15 pm

Good idea to keep my NCARB Record and later NCARB Certificate alive and well. Soon will be a good time to get the ball rolling and something done in the licensing process.

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