In early 2020, the NCARB and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) began a joint Baseline on Belonging study exploring the experiences of underrepresented groups in the early stages of their architecture careers. The study explores the underlying reasons why women and people of color left the path to licensure at higher rates than their white, male peers.


Survey: Licensure Path Impediments

Please take a few minutes to share your experiences in NCARB's and NOMA's follow-up survey so that we can ensure the next iteration of the path to licensure is flexible, equitable, and accessible.

Explore key findings for each demographic group, updates on work done since the study’s launch in 2020, and a plan for future action.

Since then, NCARB and NOMA have released four in-depth reports on the survey’s findings, highlighting disparities related to education, experience, examination, and firm culture. Throughout the Baseline on Belonging study, NCARB and NOMA have seen three overarching themes in the findings:

  • The study’s findings highlight the impact of intersectionality: Individuals who identified as part of multiple underrepresented groups faced higher levels of disparity on the path to licensure. For example, women of color were more likely to report impediments at nearly every early career stage compared to their peers.
  • Disparities built upon each other throughout early career stages. Some of the gaps apparent in the data may seem small at first glance, but small disparities compounded throughout the study to create significant impediments, especially when individuals indicated they faced small disparities at nearly every stage of their careers.
  • Age has a significant impact—especially on experience and examination progress. While NCARB and NOMA did not initially plan to explore the impact of age on candidates’ licensure progress, the study clearly showed that candidates who were 40 or older were far less likely to receive firm support toward their licensure goals. 

Now, NCARB and NOMA have released a compiled report, highlighting key findings from each section and for each demographic group. The report also includes a plan of action, developed through a series of focus groups with NOMA’s membership, featuring a variety of solutions to address some of the impediments identified in the study—including the accessibility of the current licensure path, awareness of the steps needed to earn a license, and more.

View the Action Plan

Many of these action items are already underway, for example:

  • In April 2023, NCARB retired the rolling clock policy, an impediment called out by many of the study’s participants. The policy, which placed a five-year expiration on passed exam divisions, was replaced with a new score validity policy, and thousands of expired exam divisions were reinstated.
  • For the past several years, NCARB has been exploring additional pathways to licensure, with more information to come in the years ahead.
  • To improve access to affordable study materials, NCARB has launched free practice exams for each exam division. The Baseline on Belonging study indicated that many candidates spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on study materials.

NCARB and NOMA will provide updates as we make progress on the items in the action plan—subscribe to our newsletters to receive emails regarding the latest news.