The most common—and the most widely accepted—path to becoming licensed in the United States includes earning a degree from an architecture program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). On average, licensure candidates with a degree from a NAAB-accredited program have greater success when taking the ARE. NAAB data also reveals that both new and total enrollment in accredited programs is increasing, despite a slight drop in the number of graduates. 

2019 NCARB education data

In 2018, for the first time, over half of newly licensed architects started their NCARB Record while in school, indicating that the majority of students are now overlapping experience with education. This proportion is expected to increase in future years as more students enroll in Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) options; it also suggests NCARB’s efforts to raise early awareness of the licensure process are helping students make informed decisions. Plus, 2018 saw the first graduates of NCARB’s IPAL initiative, which allows students to complete their experience and examination requirements while earning a degree. 

IPAL Students Across the U.S. 

Since the program’s launch in 2015, NCARB has accepted 26 NAAB-accredited programs at 21 colleges into its IPAL initiative. 

The IPAL option—typically offered as an additional path within an existing program—seeks to shorten the time it takes to become an architect for students dedicated to earning a license. Participating programs provide students with the opportunity to complete the AXP and take all six ARE 5.0 divisions prior to graduation. The first students graduated from the initiative at the close of the 2017-2018 school year, earning their licenses shortly after graduation. 

Currently, 30 boards will accept licensure applications from candidates who have completed the ARE prior to graduation through an IPAL program. 

Note: Enrollment data is from the 2017-2018 school year. Schools with 0 students enrolled may still be developing their IPAL options. 

New Enrollment Improves

According to data from the NAAB, over 7,500 new students enrolled in a NAAB-accredited program in 2018—an 8 percent increase from the previous school year. Of these new students, 51 percent are enrolled in Bachelor of Architecture programs, and 49 percent are enrolled in Master of Architecture programs. Less than 1 percent are enrolled in Doctor of Architecture degree programs. 

The total population of new enrollees is split evenly between men and women, a sign that gender parity may be seen in later career stages in coming years. 

Note: This data is provided to the NAAB by accredited programs and was published in the 2018 NAAB Annual Report on Architecture Education​. Students enrolled in non-accredited architecture programs are not represented. 

Total Enrollment Improves

Just over 25,300 students were enrolled in a NAAB-accredited program in the 2017-2018 school year, up 5 percent from the 2016-2017 school year. This is the highest total enrollment seen since 2013. 

Of these students, 59 percent are enrolled in Bachelor of Architecture programs, 41 percent in Master of Architecture programs, and less than 1 percent in Doctor of Architecture degree programs. Fifty-four percent are men, and 46 percent are women. 

Note: This data is provided to the NAAB by accredited programs and was published in the 2018 NAAB Annual Report on Architecture Education​. Students enrolled in non-accredited architecture programs are not represented. 

Number of Graduates Dips Below 6,000

In 2018, 5,995 degrees were awarded by 156 NAAB-accredited programs, a 3 percent decrease in graduates from 2017. This is the second time in the last 10 years that the number of total graduates has dipped below 6,000. This drop could correspond to the gradual decline in total enrollment seen between 2011 and 2017. For comparison, the average number of graduates seen across the decade is 6,140. 

Of these graduates, 52 percent were men and 48 percent were women—a 3 percentage point improvement in gender equity from the 2016-2017 school year. 

Note: This data is provided to NAAB by accredited programs and was published in the 2018 NAAB Annual Report on Architecture Education. Students enrolled in non-accredited architecture programs are not represented.

More Newly Licensed Architects Start Their NCARB Record in School

Of all architects who earned their initial license in 2018, 52 percent started their NCARB Record while in school—a six percentage point increase compared to 2017, and the first time this group has been in the majority. 

Creating an NCARB Record is considered one of the first steps on the path to licensure because it enables students to begin reporting experience. Growth in the proportion of architects who started their Record in school indicates a better informed student population, and an increased overlap between education, experience, and examination—potentially shortening the time to licensure in future years. 

Most Licensure Candidates Attend NAABAccredited Programs

Of all licensure candidates who completed the AXP in 2018, 84 percent held a degree from a NAAB-accredited program, the same proportion seen in 2017. This percentage has varied only slightly from year to year (the 10-year average is 83 percent), confirming that earning a degree from a NAAB-accredited program remains the preferred option for completing the education requirement for licensure. 

Note: Historical data can shift because licensure candidates can backdate AXP experience up to five years. 

Graduates From Accredited and Non-accredited Programs Complete the ARE at the Same Speed

In 2018, graduates from NAAB-accredited programs completed the ARE in an average of 2.2 years—the same amount of time as candidates who had not graduated from a NAAB-accredited program. Historically, graduates from accredited programs complete the exam several months sooner; however, the gap between these groups has been shrinking since 2014. 

The slight year-on-year increase in testing time for graduates from accredited programs is likely due to the retirement of ARE 4.0: as pass rates dipped (see Exam Transition Sees Success Rates Drop), the need for additional retakes increased, which extended the time needed to complete the exam. 

Graduates From Accredited Programs Have Higher Exam Success Rates

Candidates testing in 2018 achieved higher exam success rates (the average pass rate across all divisions of ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0) if they graduated from a NAAB-accredited program, compared to those who did not. Graduates from accredited programs had a 55 percent pass rate, compared to 48 percent for graduates from non-accredited programs—a three percentage point decrease for both groups compared to 2017. Historically, candidates from accredited programs outperform their peers by 7 to 9 percentage points. 

The drop in success rates is likely due to the exam transition, with some candidates rushing to test in ARE 4.0 prior to the version’s retirement. The average ARE 4.0 success rate fell 5 percentage points in 2018, whereas the average ARE 5.0 success rates remained unchanged at 54 percent. 

Graduates From Accredited Programs Have Higher Pass Rates Across All Divisions

In 2018, candidates with degrees from NAAB-accredited programs outperformed their peers across all ARE 4.0 and 5.0 divisions. The difference in pass rates was greatest in ARE 4.0’s Building Systems and ARE 5.0’s Project Planning & Design, with graduates from accredited programs outperforming graduates from non-accredited programs by 12 and 10 percentage points, respectively.