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Number of Architects in United States Rising—Says NCARB Data

Against the backdrop of a booming economy, the United States has seen an increase in the number of architects in the country and its territories. And architects are growing in the largest economy in the world, at a faster rate than the general US population.

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NCARB says that the United States saw a 3 percent climb in the number of architects this past year. Every year NCARB requests the number of architects and reciprocal licenses from each of its jurisdictions—which include all 50 states, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

The latest 2017 data show that there are 113,554 architects in the United States and its regions, up 3 percent since 2016.

Ratio of Architects to Population—Rises in the United States

NCARB says there is one architect for every 2,900 people in the United States. Since 2008, ten years ago, the number of architects has risen by 10 percent while the overall US population has risen by just 8 percent.

According to the International Union of Architects, the US doesn’t have either the most architects in a country nor the highest level of architects per capita. Japan has over 300,000 architects and over 80,000 architecture students, essentially three times as many professionals and students than the United States. Still, the growth in architects in the United States is a positive sign for both the profession and the country. Increasing urbanization demands more architectural services as licensed professionals—architects and engineers—are the only professionals legally assigned to design and engineer large buildings, respectively.

Increasing Mobility

Architects appear to be working across state borders as well. NCARB reports that this past year’s data shows the second highest number of reciprocal licenses on record (125,348).

01 – Architects are increasing in the United States in both number and ratio to society.

“This year’s data not only shows that licensure remains valued within the architecture field,” said NCARB CEO Michael J. Armstrong. “It also demonstrates that NCARB’s efforts to streamline the path to licensure and remove unnecessary barriers has been effective. We’ve achieved this while maintaining rigor and ensuring each board’s ability to protect the public.”

Interesting facts in the data show that New York has the most reciprocal licenses while California has the most licensed architects in the country, due most obviously to that state’s very large population. Wyoming, however, has the most licenses per capita.

Architosh Analysis and Commentary

Ever since our trips to Japan to cover GRAPHISOFT events, we have been intrigued by that country’s high concentration of architects. There are reasons why some countries have more architects per capita than others. We have roughly corresponded value of architectural services to high levels of architects per capita. But there are exceptions. 

Not only do societies that value the skill, talent, and expertise of architects seem to have more of them per capita, but so too do societies that are increasingly urban. We would love to see a study that correlated urbanization to the ratio of architects per capita and the ratio of compensation. Our theory is, the urbaner a society, the denser a population, the higher the demand on the skill of architects to house that society for work and home life. This demand for expertise raises the level of need and economic value of the profession. 

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