NCARB's Response to the Texas Society of Architects

The leadership of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) was notified in summer 2013 that the Texas Society of Architects (TXA) had drafted a document entitled Streamlining the Path to Licensure for review by the Large States Roundtable (Roundtable) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Leading up to the submittal of this draft, NCARB leaders met several times with TXA leadership to brief them regarding ongoing programmatic reinvention efforts and to promote a new collaborative relationship.

In September 2013, the Roundtable provided an opportunity for NCARB to update its members on its reinvention efforts, including those related to taking a fresh look at the path to licensure. We provided an overview of critical changes to NCARB’s service delivery and approach to programmatic adjustments. We articulated specific steps with timelines as part of the Council's overall strategic plans, subsequently summarized in the November issue of Architect Magazine in an article by NCARB Chief Executive Officer Michael Armstrong entitled “Not Your Father's NCARB.” After the close of the Roundtable Meeting, we were informed that NCARB would receive a formal position from the Roundtable regarding the TXA paper in December 2013.

Further communication from several Roundtable representatives indicates that only you and Michigan of the Roundtable have elected to endorse the TXA paper. We appreciate and understand that all Roundtable members (as well as NCARB) desire to see the licensure path evolve in a manner that respects the value of licensure while acknowledging the reality of the challenges and new opportunities facing today's aspiring architects. However, given that the TXA paper has been publicly published as an official position of a very large and important AIA component, we now are providing you comment on its contents in the spirit of clarifying an important dialogue and seeking a constructive interaction.

We note with interest that a number of the items listed in the document’s "Summary of Needed Changes" are exactly in line with changes already being designed by NCARB volunteers—architects from throughout the United States who nearly without exception hold AIA membership. More specifically, these areas of concurrence are as follows:

  • The Architect Registration Examination (ARE): In December 2013 NCARB announced the new Test Specification for ARE 5.0, scheduled to launch in late 2016. That specification reduces the number of divisions from seven to six, realigns the topics to track the elements of practice, removes the outdated graphic vignette tool, and will result in a faster release of scores. At both the content and administrative levels, the new ARE will provide a more relevant and relatable exam per many of the suggestions in the TXA draft.
  • The Internship Development Program (IDP): As announced last summer, NCARB launched several concurrent efforts to redesign the IDP going forward. NCARB will be ready to announce Phase One in its IDP reinvention efforts at its Annual Meeting in June. Among the options being considered for a first "simplification step" is streamlining the total hours required for completion. Going several steps further than the TXA paper, work for a complimentary profession is already eligible for IDP credit; also unlike the TXA position the current IDP does not require post-graduation experience.
  • Licensure Task Force (LTF): NCARB has also convened a multi-year Licensure Task Force populated by current and past national collateral organization leaders (including former AIA Presidents George Miller (NY) and Jeff Potter (TX) as well as two past NCARB presidents), emerging and recently licensed architects, instructors at architectural institutions and licensing board members/executives. The LTF's charge is to explore the feasibility of a "licensure at graduation" model, involving integration of internship with education, which may be piloted in the coming year.

We fully understand the skepticism from some quarters regarding the ability of NCARB to truly embrace a new perspective. In efforts large and small, we have endeavored over the past several years to demonstrate how we are laying the foundation for fundamental and necessary change through greater transparency, more efficient use of resources, and a stronger effort to be "present for the conversation" at campuses, components and board meetings throughout the United States. Significant changes to NCARB programs are also part of this foundational effort:

  • In the IDP, the duration requirement for hours worked has been eliminated and eligibility occurs at high school graduation.
  • A fresh perspective combined with new testing industry tools has resulted in a change in direction for the ARE effective late 2016.
  • Awareness is being raised through new outreach campaigns regarding shortcuts already in place along the licensure path, including ARE eligibility pre-IDP completion, and core hours earned via the Emerging Professionals Companion.
  • Fees have remained frozen for four years with no increases on the horizon; in 2013 two "amnesty" programs were offered to lapsed Certificate and Record holders for those desiring to enjoy the advantages of NCARB programs.
  • Those seeking reciprocal registration through an alternative path to the NCARB Certificate through the Broadly Experienced Architect Program have seen fees reduced, with further simplification of the program and its related programs slated for later this year.

Our efforts have been mobilized by our Board of Directors and encouraged by AIA components and leaders, academics, interns including participants in our two successive years of "Intern Think Tank" activities, and practitioners who have seen improved service and increased communication lift their confidence that NCARB can evolve. Most significantly, our Member Boards and their Executives, along with hundreds of architect volunteers around the United States, ranging from our national board to program subcommittees, have established a momentum for change that is real and sustainable.

NCARB, as a federation of 54 jurisdictional licensing boards, has maintained as its primary mission the obligation to ensure that architectural licensure indicates the ability to competently and independently protect the public's health, safety and welfare. NCARB recently completed the most comprehensive Practice Analysis of the profession ever conducted, empowering the ability to guide the Council's response to the National Architectural Accrediting Board's Accreditation Review Conference, inform the future of the IDP, and drive the test specification for the forthcoming ARE 5.0.

Several years ago, NCARB leaders and other volunteers made the same determination asserted in the TXA paper: it is time to streamline programs. Important adjustments have been setting the tone: IDP now has earlier eligibility, simplified experience settings, enhancements to supplemental experience, credit for construction work, and acceptance of academic internships; ARE early eligibility before IDP completion has been adopted by 49 states, and our Research & Development Subcommittee conducted multiple years of research leading to ending the dependence on graphic software with ARE 5.0 in 2016.

We greatly appreciate the work of the TXA in calling for new directions in the evolving path to licensure, including reinforcing decisions and directions endorsed by the Council. We also embrace the concept that all constructive criticism is useful, illuminating, and necessary. In turn, we offer our own constructive comments regarding elements of the data within the TXA paper, which are either incomplete or create opportunities for inaccurate interpretation. We hope that by finding ourselves on common ground moving forward, the opportunity for collaborative discussion will be enhanced. Accordingly, we offer in our Comparison & Commentary Statement specific responses to the sections contained in the TXA paper.

With sincere appreciation for the ongoing dialogue,


Blakely C. Dunn, AIA, NCARB
President/Chair of the Board

Michael J. Armstrong
Chief Executive Officer