The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) held a conference call today to announce the changes that the organization has made in the licensure process as well as proposals that the organization wants the state boards to consider. These changes target the three basic elements to licensure, or the “three Es” as NCARB CEO Michael Armstrong called them: exam, experience, and education.
The Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) is expected to debut a new version in late 2016, a development approved by the NCARB Board of Directors last year. ARE 5.0 will differ from the current test version, ARE 4.0, in the exam’s division structure. The new test will include six divisions, eliminating the graphic vignettes section. The test will incorporate graphics throughout the exam with new performance metrics, which will test “high levels of cognition through analytical, synthetic, and evaluative exercises,” according to NCARB’s website. ARE 4.0 will remain available for at least 18 months after the 5.0 launch.
NCARB announced a shortened wait time for retesting the ARE divisions, effective on Oct. 1. Candidates will be able to retake a division as soon as 60 days (rather than six months) after the previous attempt, with a maximum of three times in a single year. In listening to candidate concerns, NCARB observed that the six-month wait period “is often noted as a significant frustration,” said Armstrong in a press release. This change is possible due to new technology that will better protect exam content.
The second component, experience, will also see changes. In the conference call, Armstrong described this element as one that had become a “bureaucratic experience” focused on counting one’s hours. He said that NCARB wants to get back to the core intent of the experience component by exposing candidates to diverse experiences in the profession.
NCARB proposes realigning the IDP to reflect contemporary practice through two phases. The first phase would reduce the number of hours required to complete the IDP by removing the elective hours. The IDP currently requires interns to log 5,600 hours of experience, with 3,740 of those hours as core requirements in 17 specific experience areas. The proposal, then, would eliminate 1,860 elective hours, or about one-third of the total IDP requirement. The second phase of the NCARB proposal recommends realigning the current four IDP experience categories and 17 experience areas into six experience categories, which would line up with the six divisions of ARE 5.0. NCARB is applying a 90-day discussion period for receiving feedback from the state jurisdiction boards before the organization’s Board of Directors makes a decision this fall.
The IDP’s “six-month rule” has been modified, now allowing credit for intern experience that occurred up to five years previous to the current six-month reporting requirement. Credit for experience that is more than eight months in the past will be valued at 50 percent for up to those five years, after which any experience will be unqualified for credit. This rule will go into effect on July 1, which is also the five-year anniversary of the reporting requirement.
NCARB also proposed a 90-day discussion period for changes to the Broadly Experienced Architect (BEA) and the Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect (BEFA). The proposal would significantly reduce the completion time in the process for U.S. and foreign architects who do not currently meet the requirements to earn NCARB certification for reciprocal licensure. Currently, the BEA program allows architects without a degree from a National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredited program to earn the NCARB Certificate by documenting six to 10 years of licensed practice. The new proposal reduces that experience requirement to one year, while ensuring that candidates have completed a state board’s education and experience requirements, and passed the ARE. According to a press release, this proposal “acknowledges that architects without an accredited degree are required by their original licensing jurisdiction to complete more rigorous experience requirements prior to initial licensure.”
The BEFA currently requires foreign architects seeking NCARB certification to establish an NCARB Record, log at least seven years of licensed practice in another country, prepare a dossier to demonstrate experience in areas tested by the ARE, and an in-person interview. The proposal would modify the process by requiring applicants to establish an NCARB Record, pass the ARE, document two years of licensed experience in one’s home country or in the U.S., and have recognized education and licensing credentials.
Finally, Armstrong addressed NCARB’s views on licensure upon graduation, which, he says, has frequently been misinterpreted. This is “not a new idea—the idea has been around for many, many decades,” Armstrong said in today's conference call. NCARB is trying to preserve the rigor of the process to licensure, suggesting the integration of the other components in the licensing process into the educational curriculum. In the fall, NCARB will request the feedback from architectural education programs around the country and will issue an RFP in early 2015 asking schools to engage with NCARB. Armstrong stressed that NCARB is “not abandoning the traditional path to licensure,” but is suggesting that an alternative option to licensure should be available.
The organization has also recently released a new NCARB by the Numbers report which reached two major conclusions: the median age of people at initial licensure is at a 10-year low, meaning architects are getting licensed younger and younger, and the percentage of women are applying for NCARB Records has increased since 2011. Both of these are good news for a profession that worries about its future in the face of the retirement of the baby boomers and its historically low percentage of diversity.
“The report’s findings serve as a foundation for our ongoing efforts to lead change in the path to an architectural license. The entry point into the profession is changing, and NCARB is adapting to meet shifting demands. Our indicators document a profession that is thriving,” Armstrong said in a press release.