Time to Architecture Licensure Continues to Drop

October 7, 2015

On October 5, 2015, NCARB sent an abbreviated version of the following letter to the Wall Street Journal in response to an opinion piece about the timeline to licensure. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture also sent a letter, which you can read here.

Associate Dean and Professor Frank J. Mruk’s “Architect Licensing Needs a Gut Rehab” (op-ed, Sept. 29) is correct that the path to licensure must evolve. However, his assertion that the decline in student enrollment is tied to the profession’s “outdated, costly and time-consuming qualification process,” is in and of itself outdated and potentially misleading.

Professor Mruk chose to selectively quote our NCARB by the Numbers data to support his assumptions. A comprehensive analysis by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), suggests that shifts in enrollment are historically linked to economic conditions. Each year more architecture schools are being added to the system, which conversely decreases the pool of student applicants per program. Yet while it is true that 2014 saw a slight drop in enrollment, the number of people pursuing licensure is at an all-time high. We believe this is due to an improved economy, coupled with recently streamlined elements of licensure.

Consider this: Last year, more than 37,000 aspiring architects were on the path to licensure—a record number. Similarly, a 2014 survey of U.S. licensing boards revealed that since the beginning of the latest economic recovery period, the profession has experienced the third-consecutive year of growth in the number of registered architects, which currently totals 107,581.

NCARB supports Professor Mruk’s call to re-evaluate the path to licensure, which is why the organization has made great strides to modernize current requirements and continues to do so. Over the past several years, NCARB has set several key changes in motion. Most notably, we reduced internship hours by one-third; shortened our examination retake wait period from six months to 60 days; and are preparing to rollout the next version of a modernized, practice-based licensure exams. And in a continued effort to streamline the path to licensure, 13 accredited architecture schools will soon integrate internship and examination into their curricula. Professor Mruk’s program, and all other accredited programs, have been invited to join this initiative, which will position students to achieve licensure at graduation.

Our data show these steps are working. The average age of newly licensed architects has been dropping for several years. At the same time, in 2014 the number of exam completions reached a six-year high, with most people completing the test in 2.5 years.

As the practice of architecture evolves, we will continue to assess our programs and make improvements where needed without jeopardizing the health, safety and welfare of the public. While the path to licensure is not meant to be easy, it should be both accessible and attainable—a goal of which I think the entire profession can agree.

President Dennis S. Ward, AIA, NCARB
National Council of Architectural Registration Boards
Florence, South Carolina