NCARB President Shares Vision for the Future of Licensure

In June, Alabama architect Kristine A. Harding, NCARB, AIA, was installed as NCARB’s 97th president. In this esteemed role, she will lead NCARB and its 54 U.S. licensing boards, which serve more than 40,000 NCARB certified architects and 41,000 licensure candidates.

We caught up with President Harding to chat about the future of licensure, her plans to enhance the NCARB Certificate, and why she cares deeply about giving back to the profession.

What inspired you to become an architect?

Growing up in Houston, TX, I remember watching my mother sketch her dream home on scraps of paper. When I was a sophomore in high school, she encouraged me to take on architectural drafting, and it wasn’t long before I fell in love with the profession. I knew I wanted to pursue something creative, but I also wanted to have a lasting impact on my community.

Why is giving back to the profession so important?

Architecture is constantly evolving, and for that reason, mentorship is crucial. When I was working toward licensure in the early-90s, I was fortunate to work under Billy Herrin, a former member of the Alabama Board of Architects. He understood how important it was to find young talent and provide them with the type of experience they needed to to grow as architects.

Architects have a responsibility to pay it forward and pass their knowledge along to the next generation. My firm has three licensure candidates who are currently taking the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®). I want them to be successful, and I’m so proud that they’re pursuing licensure. I want to ensure their experiences are rich and full, so that one day, when they’re practicing on their own, they can pursue firm ownership—just as I did for Billy.

How has NCARB changed since you were a licensure candidate?

One of my first memories of NCARB was when I was trying to transfer my Record to Virginia from Texas. At the time, the licensure process was difficult to understand, I had trouble meeting the experience requirements, and it could take months to receive your exam score. Now, many of NCARB’s processes are instantaneous, the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) more closely aligns with modern practice, and exam candidates can see their score in as few as 10 days. It’s amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish.

Tell us about some of the initiatives you’ll be focusing on over the next year.

I’m going to focus on adding new benefits to the NCARB Certificate, which we expect to roll out over the next few years. Certificate holders now have free access to continuing education opportunities, and we’re looking into how we can help simplify the licensure renewal process. I also launched two new volunteer efforts: A Resilience & Sustainability Work Group will examine how NCARB’s mission and programs can encourage sustainable design; and a Model Law Task Force will take a fresh look at the value and purpose of NCARB’s Model Law. Finally, we’re gearing up for the November 1 launch of ARE 5.0, which will include six divisions and use the latest testing technologies.

What does the future of licensure look like?

Becoming an architect is not meant to be easy, but it should be attainable. That’s why NCARB has made great strides to ensure the path to licensure is flexible and inclusive. The ARE can be taken in any order, at any time throughout the year; licensure candidates can earn AXP credit while in between jobs; and experienced professionals can pursue licensure through the AXP Portfolio.

We’re also seeing increased overlap among the three components of licensure: education, experience, and examination. Seventeen architecture schools have been accepted to NCARB’s Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL), which provides students the opportunity to complete requirements for licensure while earning their degree. Plus, 50 of our 54 jurisdictions allow licensure candidates to take the ARE before completing the AXP. Together, all of these updates have removed some of the barriers that candidates faced in the past.

Finally, I think the next generation of architects will be more diverse. One in three newly licensed architects are women, and we’re seeing greater racial and ethnic diversity among new NCARB Record holders. I look forward to seeing how the updates we’re making today will influence the future of licensure.