architecture & design blog
Sojourn Of A Nigerian Architect in Canada #1

Finally, I moved to Canada in the first week of June. I have been off blogging for a while, had to take out time to settle in properly, come to terms with the change and commence preparation towards restarting my architectural career.

As you already know, I was a licensed architect in my home country where I was both practicing and teaching architecture. However, practicing architecture in Canada is slightly different. Here, the practice is heavy on compliance with the provincial building code, municipal bylaws, building assembly insulation and fire protection, etc and the popular method of construction especially of residential buildings is the wood frame system of construction.

To start off, I had to begin the process of re-certifying my degrees, after which I am to apply for an architectural internship in an architect’s office (and of course work there for 3 years) in other to qualify to take the licensing examination. It’s pretty straight forward but requires commitment and passion to stay focused.

If you are an architect planning on coming to Canada or you have already arrived but don’t know where to start, then this blog post is for you. There are a couple of preparations you are required to make to get back into independent practice. 

First of all, you should know that most degrees from foreign universities are not accepted by professional associations without re-certification. So the first place to start is re-certification. This can be commenced when you are still abroad, in fact, it’s a good way to hasten the process and that was what I did. 

The Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB) is the sole body responsible for academic certification and accreditation of architecture schools in Canada. For foreign-trained architects they have 2 options we can take: 

  1. The Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect (BEFA) Program: Is an alternative pathway to licensure for foreign licensed architects. Those professionally registered in their home country and with a minimum of 7 years of post-registration experience. 
  2. Academic certification: This is for graduates or those with less than 7 years of post-registration experience. This certification is for applicants who meet the Canadian Education Standard (CES) in Architecture for entry to the profession

My experience post-registration was less than 7 years so I took the second option – Academic certification. Nevertheless, you can find more information and success stories on BEFA programme on the CACB website.

Once you have decided which is suitable for you, you simply make your application through the CACB website. They would normally require the following for academic certification:

  • Official transcript of the record of completed courses or certified true copy thereof;
  • A certified true copy of all degrees;
  • Official University Calendar describing the professional program in architecture or equivalent documentation (Course Syllabus). The university calendar must be corresponding to the years of your studies.
  • List of the academic design projects completed throughout the program in architecture, as well as a brief description of each project in a maximum of 4 pages;
  • Portfolio of academic design. Not mandatory, but it is recommended to submit one in order to expedite the assessment.

One major challenge older architects will have is locating the portfolio of their academic design. I for one graduated more than 10 years ago and don’t have the hardcopy of my portfolio. I must have lost it at some time in the past. Luckily, I had photos of my final design studio project, even though the requirement said portfolio isn’t mandatory I still contacted CACB to explain my situation and I was told I could send what I have if it will assist my application. So I put together the images in the format given by CACB and sent it.

The cost of applying for CACB certification is CAD$1,815.34. For Nigerian, that will come to about N500,000 but because CACB can review the fees at any time kindly view the latest fee schedule on their website here.

Architecture programmes with at least a 5-year B.Sc. or a B.Sc. and Masters (Arch) degree, often make a successful application if all required documents are supplied. The processing time for the CACB certification is often 3 – 4 months.

My academic certification is still in progress, so I await a successful process. When this is done, the next stage is usually to register with your provincial architects’ association. Once this stage is completed, you can then apply to be an intern architect registered with that association. Below is a list of all the provincial associations in Canada.

With your status as an intern architect, you will then commence work as an intern in an architects’ office (of course after searching and being accepted by one). The period of internship is usually a minimum of 3 years before you can try for the professional examination. If successful you are then registered as a professional architect in that province. Unlike my home country, Canada registers architects provincially and not nationally and architects would, therefore, need another license when they move to practice in other provinces.

After becoming an intern, you are required to register with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) to get your MRAIC ie membership with the national architectural institute. Though all you really need to register with RAIC is just you CACB certification. It is way cheaper (about $150 cheaper) when you wait to become an intern before registering. In my home country, you would need to pass your professional examination before being eligible for registration with the national institute as a full member but in Canada, you just need an academic certificate from an accredited university and for foreign-trained graduates a CACB certification.

Gladly most of these processes can be commenced and completed (ie both CACB and RAIC application) abroad. You would only need to be in Canada to register as an intern architect with your provincial architect’s association and get a job thereafter.

As you can see, the process appears pretty straightforward. However, it will take about 3 – 4 years to finally get the license. This doesn’t mean you can’t work in an architect’s office if you don’t go through this process. You can work as an architectural designer or technologist or even a CAD drafter while your registration is ongoing.

I wish you the very best of luck, keep reading to see my unfolding journeys in my architectural sojourn.

You may want to read Sojourn of a Nigerian Architect in Canada #2

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