Over the past several years, NCARB has made a series of updates to its programs to create greater equity and accessibility on the path to licensure. Now, we are going further: NCARB is committed to developing a framework that allows multiple paths to licensure, recognizing the variety of educational and career paths that bring individuals into the architecture profession.

In a recent statement, NCARB’s Board of Directors encouraged all of the 55 U.S. architectural licensing boards to explore a “multiple paths/one goal” approach toward becoming an architect—here’s what that means for licensure now and in the future.

Read the Statement

Experience + Examination Pathways

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, ensuring that candidates of all backgrounds have equal access to an architecture career is critical. Most architects (roughly 85%) pursue licensure after earning a degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The expense of these five (Bachelor of Architecture) or six (Master of Architecture) year programs can be an impediment for many students—including those from traditionally underrepresented groups.

To improve access to the profession, NCARB is encouraging licensing boards to adopt initial and reciprocal licensure pathways that recognize multiple combinations of experience and examination, with or without various iterations of higher education (including community college degrees). Such options, already in place for reciprocal licensure in 48 U.S. jurisdictions and for initial licensure in 17 U.S. jurisdictions, maximize opportunities for licensure while maintaining the rigor needed to ensure public protection in the built environment.

Recent Program Updates

Since 2012, NCARB has been tracking trends on the path to licensure, including areas of disparity for underrepresented professionals. To address these disparities, NCARB has made a series of programmatic changes, including:

  • Adjusting the experience program’s reporting requirement to allow credit for experience up to five years in the past
  • Reducing the number of required hours for the experience program
  • Creating an additional method to satisfy the experience program for candidates with significant experience older than five years: the Architectural Experience Program (AXP®) Portfolio
  • Retiring the Architect Registration Examination’s® (ARE®) five-year rolling clock policy, and creating a new score validity policy
  • Offering new exam accommodations for candidates who speak or read English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Creating a suite of free, full-length practice exams available for all candidates, increasing pass rates by an average of 12% for candidates who take the practice exam before testing
  • Overhauling additional pathways to NCARB certification for individuals without a degree from a NAAB-accredited program to reduce cost and remove unnecessary impediments

The Future of Licensure

NCARB is committed to improving access to the profession for traditionally underrepresented groups and will continue to work toward revising its existing programs to improve access to licensure. Currently, NCARB is in the middle of a multi-year effort to re-envision the process of becoming an architect. Over the next several years, our expert volunteers will explore how best to measure and assess competency on the path to licensure—including opportunities to incorporate more flexibility into the core licensure requirements.

With research being conducted into opportunities to incorporate community college degrees, consider a four-year NAAB-accredited program, and explore an experience-only path, we look forward to sharing more with the architecture community in the years ahead. Read more about NCARB’s ongoing efforts in our statement.