For most of the 54 jurisdictions protecting the profession of architecture there is a three step process to become a licensed architect. A professional NAAB-accredited degree, completion of the NCARB Intern Development Program, and the successful completion of the Architectural Registration Examination are the minimum requirements for licensure. This process is a rigorous one to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the American public. However, the process may be too rigorous.
As the American Institute of Architects and the National Council of Architectural Registration Board work to improve the experience for architectural interns through mentorship, the current economic slowdown may present a devastating unintended consequence on the future of the profession—a shortage of qualified licensed architects.
With the current challenge of successfully moving intern architects through the process of IDP, as firms slow down with the quantity of work there will be less opportunity for architectural interns to gain experience required to complete the intern development program. This will require interns to find creative methods in which they are successful pursuing their goal to obtain licensure and may discourage some intern architects from completing the process.
Fortunately each of the steps are now attainable independently from each other with the recent adoption of the concurrent timing, which allows intern architects the ability to begin the examination portion in more than 25 jurisdictions.
This will allow some architectural interns the opportunity to take the exams if they are unable to document hours due to unemployment or employment in an alternative field. However, once the exam is passed, what will become of the intern architect who never completes the development program? Large organizations in business, finance, and manufacturing are attracted to the recent graduates from design studio education for the problem solving skills that are developed in that environment. If talented individuals leave the profession, there will be a severe gap in qualified architects in the coming decades. This combined with the population cycle of the baby boomers headed to retirement will challenge firms to develop new, innovative ways, to attract and retain the talent that is currently pursing licensure.For individuals pursing a license in architecture, at this time it is important to stay informed of the process and be familiar with the situation that will help them attain their goals. As for the profession, it will be important to have the support of the licensed architects for the process to be reasonable and attainable for architectural interns. Through mentorship and communication this profession can survive this recession to be ready to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public when wheels begin to turn.