There are three major steps to becoming an architect. Most states require:
Many states, including Illinois, have adopted the guidelines for the work experience portion through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). The council has established the Architecture Experience Program (AXP) to track and record your work experience. This process can begin as soon as you have a high school diploma.
Most of the required work experience must occur while you are employed under a licensed architect, but there are some categories that allow you to gain experience outside. This AXP Guidelines include information about types of activities that count toward your record. Pages 20-25 describe categories that do not require employment.
There is a fee you will need to pay in order to participate. However, there is a some savings over the long run if you are continuously active until you earn your license.
For students at the City Colleges of Chicago we can provide guidance through the process.