In a special report issued today, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) released new data examining the impact of COVID-19 on architectural licensing and mobility in the U.S. The report—which provides a look back from January to December 2020—indicates that the combination of test center closures, transition to remote work, and fluctuating demand for architectural services significantly impacted the career progress of licensure candidates last year.

“2020 was a challenging year for every industry, and architecture was no exception,” said NCARB CEO Michael Armstrong. “As we begin to turn the corner on the pandemic, we are seeing an upward trend that reflects a renewed national focus on infrastructure that protects the public’s health and wellbeing.  This focus highlights the important role architects play. NCARB is excited to help support the pool of licensed talent, and foster this new period of growth for the field.”

Key insights include:

  • About 25,000 candidates submitted Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) reports in 2020—a 20 percent drop from the previous three-year average (2017-2019), which can be attributed to increased unemployment and delays to architectural projects.
  • Delivery of the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) dropped by 44 percent, due in large part to test center closures from March through June 2020. 
  • The number of newly licensed architects decreased by 40 percent from the previous three-year average.
  • Just over 5,800 candidates began their licensure process by creating an NCARB Record, a 33 percent drop from the previous three-year average of 8,800.
  • In contrast, applications for reciprocal (out-of-state) licenses remained relatively strong throughout 2020, with an overall decrease of approximately 3 percent compared to previous years.

While the pandemic’s long-term impact on the next generation of architects is still unknown, a mid-year 2021 review shows promising gains in several key areas. As of early June, most program metrics have returned to normal or better, including the number of new NCARB Record applications, monthly exam deliveries, newly licensed architects, and applications for reciprocal licenses.

Additional insights on the path to licensure will be available this summer in the 2021 edition of NCARB by the Numbers. To explore the full COVID-19 report, visit