Licensure at Graduation FAQs

In May, NCARB endorsed the concept of licensure at graduation from an accredited degree program. Since then, the profession has been buzzing with both excitement and skepticism. To help clarify any misconceptions, we answered your burning questions about the proposed path. 

What is the Licensure Task Force?

In July 2013, NCARB established the Licensure Task Force (LTF) to explore additional pathways to licensure. Led by 2012-2013 NCARB President Ronald B. Blitch of Louisiana, the distinguished group includes former and current leaders of NCARB, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), as well as interns, recently licensed architects, program deans and instructors, and state board representatives.

What are the Licensure Task Force’s charges?

The group, which recently completed the first of a three-year plan for research and development, is charged with completing the following tasks in FY15:

  1. Develop a proposal that includes a master plan for the design and adoption of a “licensure at graduation” model and present the plan to the NCARB Board of Directors.
  2. Identify Member Boards that are willing to participate in the process and pair them with universities within their jurisdiction to ensure early success.
  3. Develop and distribute a Request for Qualifications, and later a Request for Information, to NAAB-accredited programs interested in participating in a pilot program.
  4. Further evaluate the role employers have in the licensure process and how that responsibility can be incorporated into the program.

Is the concept of licensure at graduation a new idea?

At its core, this concept is about integrating the three components of licensure—education, experience, and examination. For years, various schools, practitioners, and professional organizations, including NCARB, have looked for opportunities to merge these components. In June 2007, NCARB endorsed early eligibility, or the ability to take the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) while completing the Intern Development Program (IDP). Today, 49 jurisdictions allow concurrent testing.

There are a handful of NAAB-accredited programs that already integrate education and internship. For example, Boston Architectural College, Northeastern University, and Drexel University require experiential learning as part of the curriculum. Moreover, several countries, including France and Latvia, offer licensure after completing a seven-year program.

While NCARB did not invent the concept of licensure at graduation, the Council is committed to investigating additional pathways that result in greater efficiencies and more competent architects.

Did NCARB conduct any research to influence this proposal?

Yes. According to the 2013 edition of NCARB by the Numbers, the median time between graduation and licensure is about seven years. While this figure is the product of many factors—including changes in economic, technological, political, and personal conditions—the LTF agrees that the path could be more efficient. Accordingly, the group is studying each of the components of licensure to identify overlaps and create a pilot program that maintains current standards, removes redundancy without the loss of rigor, and engages the profession to create a more integrated and collaborative process.

In December, NCARB welcomed 12 interns from across the country to Washington, DC, for the second annual Intern Think Tank. Over the course of two days, members analyzed the real-world effectiveness of the current licensure process, shared ideas with NCARB leadership about the future of internship and examination, and proposed “blue-sky” models aimed at achieving licensure upon graduation. The resulting proposals were then shared with the NCARB Board of Directors, Licensure Task Force, and Internship Advisory Committee.

Will the current path to licensure disappear?

No. The proposed path to licensure at graduation is an additional path for students who are ready to pursue licensure. The Council recognizes the importance of a holistic education, and this additional path would offer the flexibility to take the exam when students are ready. 

What degree will students achieve?

At this point in the research and development process, it is too early to tell. The degree could be a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch), Master of Architecture (M.Arch), or Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch).

Does this mean students will earn a license after only five years?

Whether or not this path would fit into the current educational model of five years remains unclear. It is important to remember that the proposed path would include all three elements of licensure, meaning that experience and examination would be merged with education.

What will the role of state boards be?

NCARB is comprised of 54 jurisdictions that have the legal authority to establish licensure requirements and enforce licensure laws and regulations. In order for this path to become a reality, jurisdictions must be willing to accept—and enact laws that support—licensure at graduation.

Will NCARB make a profit from this additional path?

NCARB does not stand to profit from this alternative licensure path since creating and implementing the plan would fall to the participating architecture schools. 

Will this path dilute the rigor associated with licensure?

Absolutely not. The components of the current path (education, experience, and examination) would be incorporated into the school's program, maintaining the rigor of the licensure process. The additional, and completely optional path, would not be easier than the current path, but rather more efficient.

Do other professional organizations support this initiative?

The Licensure Task Force is composed of leadership from all five professional organizations including the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Both the AIA and ACSA have released statements of support. 

Is NCARB listening to all of the comments on social media?

Yes. All of the feedback we have received on social media will be forwarded to the Licensure Task Force for review. 

What are the next steps?

The next step for the Licensure Task Force will be to identify schools interested in participating in the program. NCARB expects to issue schools Requests for Information later in the year, followed by a Request for Proposal process in 2015.