National Standard of Competency for Architects

National Standard of Competency for Architects

The National Standard of Competency for Architects (NSCA) describes what is reasonably expected of a person who can demonstrate the standard of skill, care and diligence widely accepted in Australia as a competent and professional Architect.

Having one Standard that underpins accreditation of architecture education and assessment programs provides a clear roadmap for the development of competency on the path to registration as an architect.

The NSCA sets out functions important to the profession of architecture, rather than simply measuring knowledge in isolation from skills, or time spent in formal education. The Standard is not a form of assessment in itself but a framework to be used by those authorised to assess the professional standards of Architects.

2015 National Standard of Competency for Architects

(Applicable for Architectural Practice Examination and Tertiary Accreditation only)

The 2015 Standard consists of 4 Units of Competency covering Design, Documentation, Project Delivery and Practice Management, which contain 70 individual Performance Criteria and 5 Knowledge Domains which underpin all Performance Criteria.

Currently, the 2015 NSCA applies to the following programs and processes:

  • Accreditation of Architecture Programs (until the end of 2022)
  • Architectural Practice Examination (until the end of 2023)

The 2021 NSCA applies to all other programs, please see the section below for details.

2021 National Standard of Competency for Architects (ACTIVE)

The 2021 NSCA was released on the 1st July 2021, and is the result of the regular five-yearly review. It underpins all assessment processes including the accreditation of architecture programs leading to registration as an architect in Australia.

The 2021 NSCA sets out a clear roadmap for the development and assessment of competency at key milestones over the course of a career in architecture – from graduation, through the registration process, to ongoing practice after registration. This is inclusive of a range of practice models and career paths. 

The 2021 NSCA has been developed through an 18-month process involving in-depth research and close engagement with stakeholders. The new NSCA will continue to provide the framework for the Architect Registration Board in every state and territory. 


The 2021 NSCA will be implemented progressively in three stages during 2022-2023:

Stage 1: January 2022

    • ​National Program of Assessment (Current)

​Stage 2: March 2022

    • Experienced Practitioner Assessment (Current)
    • Overseas Qualifications Assessment (Current)

Stage 3: specific timings to be advised following further stakeholder liaison 

    • Architectural Practice Examination (2024)
    • Accreditation of Architecture Programs (2023)

Further guidance on understanding the 2021 NSCA can be found in the supporting Explanatory Notes and Definitions document, published Nov 2021. 

Information regarding broad mapping between the 2015 performance criteria and the 2021 performance criteria may be sought from AACA. 

2021 vs 2015 NSCA explained:​

The 2021 National Standard of Competency for Architects differs from the 2015 version in the following ways:

Presentation into three clear competency profiles, making it clearer for the profession, academia and the consumer to understand:

    • ​Graduate of Architecture, 
    • Candidate for Registration as an Architect, and 
    • Architect Post-Registration

Reorganised into four units of competency for ease of understanding. This replaces the previous hierarchal four units, and nine elements of practice: 

    • Practice management and professional conduct
    • Project initiation and conceptual design
    • Detailed design and construction documentation
    • Design delivery and construction phase services

Similarly, the five knowledge domains have been replaced by three professional capabilities:

    • Professionalism
    • Communication, and
    • Environmental Practice​

Reduction in repetition of competencies that were slightly nuanced, this has resulted in the competencies going from 70 down to 60.

​New and expanded competencies for the 2021 NSCA include: 

    • Recognition of First Nations principles in designing for Country
    • Sustainability competencies broadened and expanded 

More information:

2020 Review Of The National Standard Of Competency For Architects – the AACA commenced a project in January 2020 to review the National Standard of Competency for Architects. An Expert Reference Group comprised of nominees from stakeholder organisations has provided professional advice to the project. The review was completed in June 2021, with the details of the new 2021 NSCA published on 1st July 2021.

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