The latest edition of NCARB’s annual data publication, NCARB by the Numbers, is now available! Focusing on data from the 2021 calendar year, this year’s publication provides an inside look at recent trends along the path to licensure—including continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and a shift toward increasing diversity among licensure candidates.
The 2022 edition also provides enhanced demographic reporting, including more detailed information about gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in the profession and the status of attrition for various demographic groups throughout the licensure process. The findings in NCARB by the Numbers are pulled from NCARB’s database of nearly 115,000 licensure candidates and architects, making this annual report the most comprehensive source for licensure statistics.
Back in 2020, the number of new architects fell by 39% compared to the three-year average seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the number of new architects began to recover, with nearly 4,000 individuals completing the path to licensure, a 23% increase from 2020. This number is still 24% fewer than the average seen in 2017-2019, however, suggesting a slow recovery from the effects of the pandemic.
Because completing the ARE is often candidates’ final step toward earning a license, the number of newly licensed architects aligns closely with the number of exam completions.
The number of architects licensed in the United States held steady in 2021 at 121,603—about 300 fewer than the number seen in 2020, according to data from NCARB’s annual Survey of Architectural Registration Boards.
The number of architects has been steadily rising over the previous five years. The slight reduction seen in 2021 is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the historically low number of new architects seen in 2020 and 2021 may not have been sufficient to offset the number of existing architects retiring from the profession.
From beginning their first college degree to finishing their final licensure requirement, the average candidate who completed the path to licensure took 13 years to do so—four months longer than the time seen in 2017. On average, 7.1 of those years were spent completing NCARB’s experience and examination programs.
Note: Historical data can shift because licensure candidates can backdate experience up to five years.
Historically, women have left the path to licensure at higher rates than men. In the last decade, however, the trend has started to reverse, with women now slightly less likely to fall off the path than men. Among candidates who started the path to licensure in the last five years, the proportion of women leaving the path is 1-3 percentage points fewer than the proportion of men.
While NCARB’s demographic data shows that there is still work to be done to achieve equal gender representation in the profession, continued lower rates of female attrition on the path to licensure should help address this historical imbalance over time.
While disparities have reduced slightly among more recent cohorts, white candidates consistently leave the path at the lowest rate every year. The gap in attrition between racial and ethnic groups is seen as soon as two years into the licensure process, with 29% of Black or African American candidates who started a Record in 2020 having already stopped pursuing licensure, compared to 23% of white and Asian candidates.
Of those who started an NCARB Record a decade ago (in 2012), 33% of white candidates stopped pursuing a license compared to 44% of those who selected “other” when asked to indicate a race or ethnicity—an 11 percentage point gap.
When combined with insights from NCARB and NOMA’s joint Baseline on Belonging study, these disparities suggest that candidates of color face specific impediments, which accumulate as they progress toward licensure.
While the population of new Asian and Hispanic or Latino architects—especially Asian women—rose in 2021, the proportion of new architects who identify as Black or African American has remained relatively stable over the past five years. Black or African American women continue to make up less than 1% of the total architect population in the United States.
How to read this chart: Use the drop-down menu at the top of the chart to select the demographic filter you would like to view. The chart will display the individual groups within that filter, with the darker dot for each group showing the 2021 data and the lighter dot showing the 2017 data (a five-year lookback). The table at the bottom provides exact figures for each group, as well as the percentage point increase or decrease since 2017.
NCARB considers starting a Record to be one of the first steps on the path to licensure, since candidates need an NCARB Record to verify their education, document experience, and take the national licensing exam.
In 2021, 60% of new NCARB Record holders identified as a race or ethnicity other than “white, non-Hispanic or Latino,” roughly 2 percentage points higher than the proportion seen five years ago. Of new Record holders, 21% identified as Hispanic or Latino, 18% identified as Asian, and 7% identified as Black or African American. Additionally, nearly half (49%) of new Record holders were women, a 5.4% increase compared to 2017.
In 2021, most new Record holders were in the 23-29 age group, although overall, candidates are starting the path to licensure younger than ever. The 18-22 age group grew by 4% compared to 2017, now comprising nearly 30% of all new Record holders.
Learn more about trends on the path to licensure in the 2022 edition of NCARB by the Numbers.