2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA
Photography: Carl Bower 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) released the 2018 edition of NCARB by the Numbers at its annual business meeting in late June. Many in the architectural profession, and in the broader architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, consider NCARB by the Numbers the definitive annual statistical and demographic assessment of the profession. There is a lot to be learned in this report. Here are my top takeaways from the 2018 publication (which represents data collected in 2017).

The architectural profession is growing, mostly. In 2017, the profession reached a record high: 113,554 licensed architects in the U.S., up 3 percent over 2016. The Institute also hit all-time highs in total membership (91,078) and licensed architect members (62,755, which represents 55 percent of all licensed architects).

NCARB reports 40,789 licensure candidates in 2017, down 2 percent from 2016, including those who are reporting hours under the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and testing, or both. However, the greatest number of candidates completed their core licensure requirements in 2017: 5,216, up 11 percent over 2016. Students entering accredited architecture degree programs dropped in 2017: 6,982 newly enrolled students, down 6 percent from 2016. However, overall enrollment remained about the same: 24,109 students, down less than 1 percent below 2016. Growing, mostly.

It still takes too long to become a licensed architect: on average 5.8 years of school, 4.7 years logging required supervised professional experience (AXP), and two years to take and pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)—a total of 12.7 years. (I took longer.) On the other hand, the 2018 spring semester saw the first five students complete the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) program, having reported all required supervised professional experience and passed the ARE upon graduation, a hopeful step. Still, too long.

Gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in the profession is not changing rapidly enough. NCARB by the Numbers focuses on people entering the profession. For women the numbers in 2017 are about the same as 2016, with women representing 43 percent of new record holders but only 35 percent of those completing their licensure requirements. (Employers take note: On average, women complete their path to licensure 1.1 years faster than men.) For racial and ethnic minorities, some numbers moved up in 2017, with 45 percent of new record holders identifying as non-white, up 3 percent. However the drop-off from completing experience requirements (30 percent identify as non-white) to completing examinations is precipitous, falling by half.

AIA’s member numbers are similar. Of those who reported their gender, women constitute 21 percent of licensed architect members and 41 percent of associate members. Of those who reported their racial or ethnic identify, 14 percent of licensed architect members and 33 percent of associate members identified themselves as non-white.

Over the past 20 years, the number of women in the profession has doubled. A hopeful sign? The same can be said for some ethnic and racial minorities—but not for African-Americans and Native Americans, whose numbers remain shockingly low. Across all categories of AIA membership, as reported at the end of the last calendar year, there were a total of only 1,730 African- American and 190 Native American members of AIA.

I’ll leave it right there and let the numbers do the talking.