Understanding How Race, Age, and Gender Impact the AXP

In early-2020, NCARB and NOMA conducted a survey exploring impediments throughout early architecture career phases, especially the process of earning a license. Through the findings—which are being released in five independent reports—NCARB and NOMA hope to identify areas where underrepresented groups are disproportionately impacted, outline next steps for further study, and propose potential solutions.

Read the Experience Report Summary

The Baseline on Belonging study’s first in-depth report is available now, and highlights findings related to the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®). Earning and documenting professional experience is a crucial step on the path to earning a license, and survey responses underscore how reliant candidates are on dedicated support from their supervisors and firms throughout the AXP.

Key Findings
Findings from the survey revealed that although most candidates had overall positive experiences completing the AXP, people of color (especially women of color) may be less likely to receive the necessary support. In addition, the survey also revealed that while gender, race, and ethnicity all impact a candidate’s professional experience, other factors such as age and firm size can have an even more significant effect on the process of completing the AXP.

The survey received responses from over 5,300 individuals who are either pursuing a license, recently licensed, or stopped pursuing a license. Taken as a whole, those respondents rated most experience-related questions favorably. Candidates generally feel well-respected and supported by their supervisors and were able to find employment at AXP-supportive firms; 25 percent reported facing challenges earning AXP credit. 

When filtered by race/ethnicity, the survey shows that emerging professionals experience slight differences in navigating the AXP based on their demographic. This is especially true in areas related to gaining the variety of experiences needed to complete the AXP, and when searching for employment at a supportive firm—with African Americans the most consistently impacted.

Adding the additional demographic filter of gender on top of race and ethnicity reveals that, on average, women of color face more difficulties navigating the AXP compared to white women and men of color. By contrast, white women tend to report more positive experiences than white men.

Where appropriate, NCARB supplemented the Baseline on Belonging data with information from NCARB’s own Record holders to offer a more complete picture of the experience program. NCARB’s data reveals that time to complete the AXP varies slightly by race/ethnicity, with Asian candidates completing the program fastest and white candidates taking the longest.

However, while white candidates take the longest amount of time to complete the program, they typically start at a younger age and are therefore slightly younger than candidates of other races/ethnicities when they finish.

The most impactful demographic factor revealed in the report, though, is age. According to the Baseline on Belonging survey responses, older candidates are far more likely to report facing challenges earning AXP credit, and far less likely to report receiving the necessary firm and supervisor support.

In addition, firm size had a variety of effects on respondents’ experiences navigating the AXP, with people of color—especially Black or African American respondents—less likely to report obstacles while working for a large firm (100+ employees), compared to African Americans working at small firms (1-19 employees).

When it comes to their working relationship with their AXP supervisor, Black or African American women were consistently less likely to respond positively compared to respondents of other races, ethnicities, and genders. 

Next Steps
As NCARB and NOMA work to propose solutions that may reduce or eliminate these disparities, understanding the core underlying causes is crucial. We plan to conduct additional study via follow-up surveys and focus groups to further explore questions like:

  • Why do white candidates typically start the AXP younger than people of color?
  • Are there specific AXP tasks or areas that certain demographic groups are less likely to be exposed to?
  • Why and how does firm support for candidates completing the AXP reduce with age?

You can read the full Baseline on Belonging: Experience Report online. Want to be involved in further study? Sign up to receive all the latest updates, plus share the findings that resonate with you using #IBelongArch.