Understanding when and why candidates stop pursuing a license provides valuable insight into how NCARB’s programs impact individuals who are just beginning their career in architecture. By comparing the progress of different demographic groups, NCARB can identify pinch points throughout the process of becoming an architect and examine how program adjustments might combat inequity in the profession.
By 2020, 37 percent of candidates who started the licensure path a decade ago had stopped pursuing a license, with the remaining 63 percent having completed, or still working on their licensure requirements—a slight improvement compared to the proportion of attrition seen in 2019. However, candidates who started the licensure path later than 2011 faced increased rates of attrition compared to those seen in 2019, likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, women continue to pursue licensure at higher rates than their male counterparts, though on the whole both genders were similarly impacted by the pandemic.
Candidates of color—especially Black or African American candidates—are far more likely to stop pursuing licensure than their white peers, even as few as two years into the licensure process. The same is true of candidates over 40 years old when compared to their younger peers.
Most candidates fall off the path either prior to starting the experience and examination programs, or while working to gain and report experience. Many candidates who stop pursuing a license are likely to continue working in the architecture industry and could decide to resume the licensure process in the future.
Of candidates who created an NCARB Record 10 years ago (Y-10), 37 percent stopped working toward earning a license—suggesting that approximately two out of every five candidates stop pursuing licensure over the course of a decade. Many of these candidates likely continue to work in the architecture industry and could decide to resume the licensure process in the future.
2020 data reveals the proportion of candidates who have stopped working toward licensure increased in almost every year’s cohort since 2019. While 2020’s attrition rate at the 10-year mark (candidates who started working toward an architecture license in 2011) is 1 percentage point below the rate of attrition seen after a decade in 2019, it was the only cohort to see a decrease in attrition. The percentage of candidates who started a Record and have since left the licensure path for every other year saw a 3-7 percentage point increase in attrition compared to the rate seen in 2019.
These increases are likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the numbers of candidates reporting experience and taking the exam dropped during 2020. Hopefully, these candidates will return to the licensure path in the future as the architecture profession adjusts to the changes brought on by the pandemic.
Note: Candidates who started their NCARB Record in 2020 are all still active, and not represented on this chart.
In the past, NCARB has seen women leave the path to licensure at higher rates than men. However, this trend has largely reversed for licensure candidates who started their NCARB Record since 2014 (Y-7). Among these more recent candidates, the proportion of women leaving the path to licensure is 1-3 percentage points fewer than the proportion of men.
Both men and women saw increased rates of attrition in 2020 compared to the rates seen in 2019—likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (see previous chart). The overall attrition increases for both genders suggests that men and women on the path to licensure were similarly impacted by the pandemic.
While NCARB’s demographic data shows that there is still work to be done to achieve equal gender representation in the profession, lower rates of female attrition on the path to licensure should help address this historical imbalance over time.
White candidates leave the path to licensure at lower rates than their peers of other races and ethnicities, with the greatest overall disparity seen between white and Black or African American candidates.
For example, 34 percent of white candidates who started their NCARB Record a decade ago (in 2011) have since stopped pursuing a license, compared to 54 percent of Black or African American candidates—a 20 percentage point difference.
Candidates who identify as Asian and Hispanic or Latino also face higher rates of attrition compared to their white peers, with 43 percent of Hispanic or Latino candidates and 42 percent of Asian candidates who started a Record a decade ago dropping off the path.
While disparities have reduced slightly among more recent cohorts, white candidates consistently leave the path at the lowest rate every year. The gap in attrition between races/ethnicities is seen as soon as two years into the licensure process, with 30 percent of Black or African American candidates who started a Record in 2018 having already stopped pursuing licensure, compared to just 21 percent of white candidates.
When combined with results from NCARB and NOMA’s joint Baseline on Belonging study, this disparity suggests that candidates of color face impediments along the path starting early in their careers, which only increase as they progress toward licensure.
Candidates between 18-29 years old are more likely to stay on the path to licensure compared to those who are aged 30-39 and 40+. Candidates over 40 are the most likely to stop pursuing a license.
Of those who started the path to licensure in 2011 (Y-10), 36 percent of 18-29-year-olds have since stopped pursuing licensure. This is in contrast to the 41 percent of 30-39-year-olds and 44 percent of those aged 40+ falling off the path.
Combined with findings from NCARB and NOMA’s joint Baseline on Belonging survey, this data highlights the difficulties faced by candidates who start the licensure process later in life, or who return to the licensure path after having stopped pursuing a license previously in their careers.
Of candidates who completed the path to licensure in 2020, 61 percent never put their licensure progress on hold. These individuals continued actively pursuing a license from the point of starting an NCARB Record until they completed all core requirements for licensure (education, experience, and examination).
Of the remaining candidates who completed the licensure process in 2020, 27 percent stopped pursuing a license for a period of one to two years, and 6 percent put the process on hold for a period of three to five years. Six percent of candidates spent six years or more off the path.
This data highlights the importance of momentum for many candidates earning a license, suggesting that some candidates power through the licensure process rather than put their progress on pause.
Note: Continuous pursuit of licensure means the candidate was actively maintaining their NCARB Record without a hiatus.
Candidates who stop pursuing licensure after starting their NCARB Record are most likely to become inactive before beginning the experience and examination programs—in other words, before truly beginning NCARB's portion of the licensure path. Thirty-six percent of candidates who began the licensure path in 2011 fell off before making progress toward either program.
An almost equally high area of attrition is seen for candidates during the experience program. Thirty-four percent of candidates who began the path in 2011 stopped pursuing licensure while reporting experience and before they began testing.
This suggests that although the exam is a significant challenge for many candidates, they are less likely to stop pursuing licensure once they begin testing.