The Journey To Licensure: NCARB & IDP

© / Jakob Montrasio. Used under Creative Commons

A recent article discussing the disconnect between the decades old Intern Development Program and its effective reality in the current environment brings to light shortcomings that are in dire need of redevelopment. NCARB recently announced an upcoming significant overhaul of the IDP program, which in its current state requires 5,600 hours of various logged tasks in addition to the seven exams for licensure.

While the hours undoubtedly are designed to expose you to the variety of tasks that we as architects must carry out, it does have its drawbacks in terms of power dynamics and timesheet falsification. An interesting aspect of the article exposes a study carried out by sociologist Beth Quinn who was hired by NCARB in the late ‘90s (see the study here). It was a comparison of graduates who participated in the program and those who did not. The resulting findings found that there was “no significant difference” in the skillsets and experiences between the two groups. It was Quinn’s recommendation that the postgraduate internship be eliminated as a requirement. It is no surprise that the study has rarely seen the light of day, except within Quinn’s own scholarly work.

However, it does beg the question of the effectiveness of a program that has had little growth in terms of its applicability in the fast evolving profession that we work in as architects. Perhaps, it is the method of implementation that needs revisiting in order to catch up with the fluid environment of architecture. As professionals who pride ourselves on creativity, the majority of us want to put those skills to work, but we are also the shepherds of life safety constraints which do require experience outside of academia. Thus, having a mentor and logging hours in the various aspects of architecture is not necessarily a negative aspect of the journey. The dynamics between school academia and the professional practicing side of architecture share some similarities, but operate on very different underlying forces. Lives depend on our ability to accurately distill building codes and implement them effectively into the design, and it takes experience to achieve this. The critical first few months in a firm typically entail an extremely fast learning curve.  It is beneficial to not have the responsibility on your shoulders for the first moments out of school. However, not everyone requires the full 5,600 hours to achieve self-sustainability or the comprehension to carry out tasks independently of oversight.

It will be interesting to see what changes or modifications to the program NCARB releases. One thing is for certain, we as architects are a rare breed who undergo relentless schooling and post schooling in order to make the world a better place through the universal language of the built environment.

Read the entire article here.

References: Photographs: Flickr User: Jakob Montrasio

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Cite: Tim Winstanley. "The Journey To Licensure: NCARB & IDP" 21 Dec 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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