An annual report was recently released by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards—better known in our industry as NCARB—examining the path would-be architects take to licensure and who makes up this group of emerging professionals.
The findings, which were presented at NCARB’s 2015 business meeting, were surprising, pleasantly so. Of note was that today’s architects are younger and more diverse; these aspiring professionals are also testing earlier and obtaining their licenses sooner. My sentiment? This is very positive news. It’s a pleasure knowing that young, talented people are looking to get into a field I’ve long loved and I’m excited to see what fresh energy they bring to the table.
But beyond this big takeaway, it’s worth examining the data up close. There was an all-time high of 37,178 aspiring architects in 2014, per the Intern Development Program (IDP) and tests reported through the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). A 3 percent hike in licensed architects was noted and at an average age, upon initially obtaining that license, of 33.3—versus 35 in 2008.
Today’s architects look different than they did years ago, too. In 2007, 22 percent of aspiring architects were racial and ethnic minorities; today, that number is 41 percent. More women completed the IDP in 2014 (38 percent versus 25 percent in 2000) and 35 percent of ARE candidates were females. This is nearly double the number we saw in 2000.
What are causing these shifts? Some of the increased interest in licensure may be attributed to constructive changes by governing organizations, including shorter wait periods for testing, additional guidance for aspiring architects and an increased focus on education.
However, I believe there’s more to it. For many years now, the retention rate of future architects was appalling: less than 20 percent of would-be architects have followed through with getting their licenses. Could the more stable economy we’re in now and a boost in commercial real estate activity in the New York metropolitan area spur renewed interest in the field of architecture? We’ll have to wait and see, but it certainly seems like this is a possibility.
Not to be discounted is another key factor: Architecture is at long last being seen as a solid career choice, which can be parlayed in many different ways. Companies are placing a high value on the skill set that comes with a licensed architect and realizing these bright professionals can assist them in the next wave of building and design. This profession has gone well beyond the days where it was Mike Brady sitting in his study, sketching architectural plans. (Which we never even got to see on The Brady Bunch.) Among the other avenues that an architect can take—particularly when that education is combined with a solid liberal arts program or subspecialty—are workplace strategy, technology and design consulting and commercial furniture design, to name just a few of the possibilities. Architects wear many hats in 2015. Drawing, thinking, creating, presenting, leading and honing entrepreneurial skills are all par for the course for those obtaining a license and attractive qualities for a variety of employers.
Whether tomorrow’s architects go a traditional route or embrace a new path, I, for one, applaud them. The next generation is something to get excited about—particularly this generation. Welcome to the club! It’s becoming more diverse and interesting every year.