Is the Architecture Profession Becoming More Diverse?

As the number of architects and licensure candidates holds steady, so do anecdotal claims suggesting diversity in the field remains stagnant. However, data from the 2017 edition of NCARB by the Numbers reveals gender, racial, and ethnic diversity are on the rise.

Improved Diversity

For the first time, gender equity improved along all career stages—from starting an NCARB Record to earning an NCARB Certificate.

In 2016, women represented 40 percent of Architectural Experience Program™ (AXP™) completions—the highest proportion on record. Similarly, women accounted for 38 percent of Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) completions, a slight increase from the previous year. In fact, women now account for 36 percent of newly licensed architects and earn an initial license almost 10 months sooner than their male peers. But, as gender representation rises, racial and ethnic equity lags, especially among practitioners.

Last year, racial and ethnic diversity among AXP and exam candidates improved slightly—up three percentage points for both groups. However, diversity among newly licensed architects and Certificate holders remained the same.

According to the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 2015 survey on Diversity in the Profession of Architecture, several perceived factors contribute to this underrepresentation, such as: little knowledge of architecture as a career option, difficulty affording the costs of an architecture degree, the scarcity of role models in architecture for people of color, and the predisposition for first- and second-generation college students to choose other careers with greater earning potential.

Greater Flexibility

In an effort to make licensure more accessible to candidates of all backgrounds, NCARB has made several program changes to help eliminate unnecessary hurdles. Recent updates include a reduction in the AXP’s required hours and the re-alignment of experience areas, as well as the ability to retake an exam in just 60 days. These changes may not have an immediate impact on diversity in the field, but they could help open doors to a new pool of candidates.

So, while several groups remain underrepresented within the profession, these trends point to growing diversity among licensure candidates, and eventually, future architects. To learn more about diversity in architecture, visit our interactive NCARB by the Numbers database.