The National Council of the Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has released its latest NCARB by the Numbers report that offers a glimpse at the profession through statistics on licensure, education, and experience. Unveiled July 22, the 2021 edition of the annual data publication is the first time, in its decade-long history, that the report includes data on Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) pass rates by demographics.

This year’s data was collected from some 32,700 test takers and shows that white candidates were more likely to pass the ARE than those of color, and males were more likely to pass than females (although the findings show that Black or African American women outperform Black or African American men). Similarly, candidates aged 18 to 29 have the highest pass rates, while those 40 and older have the lowest.

“These findings, while not surprising to architects of color, are unacceptable,” recently inaugurated NCARB President Alfred Vidaurri Jr. said in a statement. “I challenge us to do better. During my year as president, analyzing, understanding, and addressing these disparities will be a key focus—and I invite the entire profession to join us.” 

Though the 2021 report does show increases in overall diversity—half of new record holders identify as non-white and two in five newly-licensed architects are women—it is worth noting that 2020’s increases in racial and ethnic representation are limited to the Asian and Hispanic or Latino population. The proportion of Black or African American candidates in the profession has seen little change over the past decade and continues to be underrepresented compared to the U.S. Census data—nearly 14% of the U.S. population identifies as Black or African American, but only 2% of licensed architects in the country can say the same. 

This new data, according to NCARB, has prompted the organization to act to quell disparities in licensure by identifying the causes and presenting solutions. A proposed solution to the cost—one such barrier to entry that discourages some from pursuing the profession—would be to provide free practice tests to candidates. Each ARE test costs $235, but test takers spend more than $500 on test prep materials alone, according to data from an earlier survey by NCARB and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). Later this year, a joint report will also be published by the two organizations about the key findings on equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession. NCARB also seeks to collect community feedback in two new outreach initiatives and is conducting an external audit of the ARE. NCARB hopes to launch its new resources in mid-2022.