NCARB by the Numbers: Frequently Asked Questions

8 August 2012

Recently, we released the first edition of an annual data publication. Titled NCARB by the Numbers, this document has been received with a lot of excitement and discussion. Through the course of its release, we’ve had a lot of questions about how the data was compiled, what it means, and where it’s going. We love the discussion and the feedback we’ve gotten, so to keep things going and keep the discussion as informed and proactive as possible, we’ve put together the following FAQs about some of the questions we have received.

How much data was used to create NCARB by the Numbers?
The data for the NCARB Abstract—the first section of NCARB by the Numbers—reflects NCARB Record holders and represents approximately 160,000 Records from interns and architects over the last 20-40 years. While it doesn’t represent every architect from the last 40 years, it does represent a significant portion of the architectural community.

Where did this data come from, and why wasn’t it available before now?
The ability to compile this data is the result of recent database upgrades at NCARB that took several years to complete. Because of limitations of our previous databases, this data couldn’t be compiled a year ago.

The new data warehouse is in the building and data cleanup stage. Much of the data from the 1970s and earlier remains incomplete as we continue to digitalize and data-enter paper files. NCARB by the Numbers is the first iteration of how we hope to provide important information about some key indicators in the profession. We expect to have greater capability in the next year as we transfer some of our data management to new consultants and prioritize the collection and dispersal of this information as part of our strategic plan.

What is NCARB’s opinion on the data it has published?
The Council’s mission is to support its Member Boards in protecting the health, safety, and welfare, and to develop national standards for licensure so that architects can move between jurisdictions. Two of the ways we fulfill this mission is through the IDP and the ARE, which are two components of a process to determine if someone has the minimum competency to practice architecture independently.

Until now, our only knowledge of timeframes and standards for the licensure process were isolated and anecdotal—one objective of this project was to establish baselines regarding what is true and what is false about the profession. While NCARB is committed to ensuring that its programs and services are efficiently administered and responsive to the needs of its stakeholders, the Council does not have an official position as to whether the time it takes to complete the IDP, earn an architectural license, or complete any program is “too long” or “too short.”

What factors influence the time it takes to complete IDP?
The Council and our Members Boards (the 54 U.S. registration boards) strongly believe a structured internship program that exposes interns to all aspects of the profession is a vital part of the licensure process. The intern-supervisor relationship is important to the completion of IDP. There are outstanding firms, both big and small, that truly invest in their interns and their futures. Interns in these situations often have the opportunity to complete IDP in the timeframe of their choosing.

At the same time, there are supervisors and firms that do not support their interns through the process. The best way to resolve these situations is a topic of major discussion among our Member Boards, internship-related committees, and related organizations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA). While we continue to work to educate supervisors on their roles and responsibilities in relation to the program, some of our Member Boards have begun to explore disciplinary options. Other options to better integrate the IDP and supervisors’ responsibilities into firm culture remain a topic of discussion and debate among all parties.

The truth is that earning licensure is a personal choice, and it is up to each individual to find the situation that will best help them achieve their goals. While we would like to see an increase of architecture students and interns achieve licensure, our main responsibility to our Member Boards is to help ensure that those that do seek licensure meet the minimum competency standards to practice architecture independently.

Internship is the responsibility of the intern. Our records and stories reflect that interns who actively own their internship finish in a much shorter time. NCARB is available to interns and supervisors to help them understand the programs and what other opportunities are available to them. For example, there are many opportunities to earn credit outside of the work place—including the Emerging Professional’s Companion (EPC), the Professional Conduct monograph, working with a mentor and other supplemental experience opportunities. Interns using these tools can shorten their time in IDP. We encourage interns to attend an NCARB outreach event near them in the coming year as we send teams to visit campuses and AIA local components.

What’s Next?
This new foundation of data can inform discussions when making decisions about our programs—and be used to measure the impact of recent and future program changes.

We believe this first release indicates that answering why it takes it takes a certain number of years to complete IDP or earn licensure will require further study. In a few charts, we have indicated events that we believe have had an impact (the end of the once-a-year paper-and-pencil exam) or could have an impact (the ARE Rolling Clock and the Six-Month Rule) on the trends.

NCARB’s Chief Executive Officer Mike Armstrong has called for a more open and accessible culture at NCARB, even when our higher level of engagement may encourage critical feedback. We are demonstrating this commitment through issuing data; conducting town hall meetings and other outreach events around the country with stakeholders; issuing surveys; and questioning existing practices.

Our release of NCARB by the Numbers is intended to provide a new tool for future policy discussions and demonstrate a new commitment to establishing NCARB as a resource in these discussions. We are interested to hear how we can add to and improve upon this report for future editions to be issued on an annual basis.

How can I learn more?
We are sincerely interested in your ideas. This is why Mike Armstrong is conducting town hall meetings in conjunction with AIA and their components, and why NCARB’s outreach team travels to schools, firms, and AIA events. If you are interested in this publication—or other NCARB programs and services—please consider attending one of these events.  

If you have any questions or require assistance with NCARB programs, please call our Customer Service Department at 202/879-0520.