For the majority of licensure candidates, the first step to becoming an architect is enrolling in a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). 

NAAB data reveals that during the 2014-2015 school year, both the number of new enrollments and degrees awarded by accredited programs climbed 7 percent. However, the total number of enrolled students has been gradually declining since 2011—a trend that has been cited as having a negative impact on the profession.

NCARB’s data shows that after graduation, licensure candidates with a degree from an accredited program progress toward licensure more efficiently—and with greater success. In fact, these graduates complete the ARE six months sooner than their peers from non-accredited programs.

Awareness of the licensure process is also increasing among students. In 2015, a record number of newly licensed architects started the path to licensure while in school. As the components of licensure become more intertwined, this positive trend will likely continue—particularly once the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) launches over the next several years. Spearheaded by NCARB, the initiative encourages accredited programs to incorporate professional experience, as well as the opportunity to take the ARE, into curricula. 

New Architecture Students on the Rise

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In 2015, more than 7,000 new students enrolled in a NAAB-accredited program, a 7 percent increase from the 2013-2014 school year. This represents a positive change in direction, following three years of decline. Of those new students, 45 percent are enrolled in Bachelor of Architecture programs, 54 percent in Master of Architecture programs, and less than 1 percent in Doctor of Architecture degree programs.

Overall Enrollment Continues to Decline

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More than 24,200 students were enrolled in a NAAB-accredited program last year, a 3 percent drop from the 2014-2015 school year. Of those students, 57 percent are enrolled in Bachelor of Architecture programs, 43 percent in Master of Architecture programs, and less than 1 percent in Doctor of Architecture degree programs.

Number of Graduates Back on Track

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In 2015, 6,348 degrees were awarded by NAAB-accredited programs, a 7 percent increase from the previous year. This marks a return to the five-year average of around 6,350 degrees awarded annually. Of those graduates, 57 percent were male, and 43 percent were female. For comparison, 58 percent of graduates in 2014 were male, and 42 percent were female.

More Newly Licensed Architects Pursued Licensure in School

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Creating an account with NCARB, known as an NCARB Record, is one of the first steps on the path to licensure. Of the newly licensed architects in 2015, 43 percent started their NCARB Record as students, the highest proportion to date.

Most Licensure Candidates from NAAB-Accredited Programs

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Of the licensure candidates who completed the IDP in 2015, 86 percent held a degree from a NAAB-accredited program. This proportion has hovered between 81 and 86 percent over the last decade, confirming that earning a degree from an accredited program remains the preferred path.

Graduates from Accredited Programs Have Higher ARE Success Rates

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ARE candidates who graduated from a NAAB-accredited program achieved a higher exam success rate (the average pass rate across all divisions). In 2015, graduates from accredited programs had a 66 percent success rate, compared to 60 percent for graduates from non-accredited programs. However, this difference has been greater in years past—six percentage points in 2015 compared to 9 percentage points in 2011.

Graduates from Accredited Programs Have Higher ARE Division Pass Rates

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In 2015, candidates with degrees from NAAB-accredited programs outperformed their peers across all ARE divisions. The difference in pass rates was greatest in Building Systems, with graduates from accredited programs outperforming graduates from non-accredited programs by 10 percentage points. Construction Documents & Services and Schematic Design had the smallest difference, with graduates from accredited programs typically performing 2 percentage points better than their peers.

Graduates from Accredited Programs Complete the ARE Sooner

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In 2015, exam candidates who graduated from a NAAB-accredited program finished the ARE in two years—six months sooner than candidates from non-accredited programs. Historically, graduates from accredited programs have typically completed the exam two months sooner.