In 2009 (after 2008 crash) there were 105847 licensed architects.

In 2013 there were 101673 (data past this year are crappy diagrams with no hard numbers)

Source NCARB.

However in 2013 there were more reciprocal licenses.

Could it be inferred that the recession killed off architects and the remainder got reciprocal licenses to pick up work?

When is the shit going to hit the fan again?

Any predictions about how many licensed architects will be left after another recession?

Will Liz Diller become a wage slave in the service industry?
Apr 22, 16 3:12 pm

To me, it would be way more meaningful to know the comparative number of graduate architects actually working in the profession (plus those seeking employment in the profession) - that data would give us a much better understanding of the supply / demand dynamics at work. However, I've tried to research this in the past and found the data both hard to find and highly unreliable.

IMHO, just knowing the count of licensed architects - while interesting - doesn't really help us understand much about the status of the profession.

Apr 22, 16 4:00 pm


Apr 22, 16 4:08 pm
Non Sequitur

Come'on Curt... if you're going to play that card, at least go old school:


Apr 22, 16 4:11 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

yeah Non. you could switch out the graphics in Doom via the WAD file. Use to make Pac-mans in Pov- Ray......oh wait this is about architecture

Apr 22, 16 6:05 pm

One possible interpretation is that, with fewer in supply, competition might raise fees.  Of course, other variables are present.

Apr 22, 16 6:18 pm

Quiz has it right…to measure population you need to track both deaths & births. Too many things to track…I’m still licensed, but am retired…etc. Don’t think you can track the economics of architecture by counting heads, that’s probably why the data is scarce…that’s why they try to track billings.

Knowing the graduation rates, learning where the kids are going after school, how many are getting licensed year by year would be interesting to learn….trouble is “the establishment” doesn’t want anybody seeing those numbers.

"....shit going to hit the fan again? This year, sadly.

Apr 22, 16 6:55 pm

there are only 8 months left of the year.  there doesn't seem to be much of a drop in back-logs.

Apr 22, 16 7:33 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

also having a license is no indicator of having a business

Apr 22, 16 7:45 pm

As for the 105K to 101K architects. That's not a huge drop. We have too many just hanging on to this profession hell or high water. There is another factor to keep in mind, while there is a baby boomer generation retiring out of the profession as well as a number of them let it lapsed during the recession, the schools have continued to provide a high supply of which a percentage of them do become license. Lets remember that there were still quite a few who had graduated just at the time of the recession and following the recession that became licensed during the recession. I don't think our supply by now is much or any lower than we were before the recession.

It seems that while there was a dip in licensed architects during the recession, they had came back and renewed before they let their license lapse for 5 years. Especially a contingent of the 60-80+ year old generation who won't let themselves retire because they won't want to go through the requirements for licensure today because a number they wouldn't be able to just meet the new requirements. A number of them were pre-IDP or were authorized to practice through experience paths that no longer exist for them in a given state. 

Add to that, the schools are skill continuing to oversupply.

Apr 22, 16 7:49 pm

Carrera:  Do you know they track billings?  Is it just AIA members?  What if members don't report true numbers?  I can't help but think the numbers are so unreliable as to be meaningless.

In economic theory, the tell tale sign would be prevailing wage rates.  Up or down.  But then again, normal economics just don't seem to apply to this profession.

Apr 22, 16 9:07 pm

My god at this rate there will be no architects left in 98 years.

Apr 22, 16 9:47 pm

Geezer, it is a research firm the AIA hires that polls AIA member firms for "work on the boards" and has been broadening the questions... suppose it's just like any other poll as to accuracy. It was initially meant to measure how you're doing by comparison for marketing purposes and has morphed, by some, into being some kind of leading economic indicator, which it's not... more like a rearview mirror in the case of a crash.

Think the OP's notion has to do with the health of the profession and how that might be related to economics. In that regard I just don't think anyone who has a license ever really drops-out... in fact I told my wife to keep renewing mine after I'm dead because I'm never going though that shit again.

Apr 22, 16 10:16 pm

RickB, I agree with your assessment but for one point.  The schools are not supplying as many skilled architectural technicians needed to keep the industry running. Anyone can be an intern but if you are not able to draft construction documents in Revit and or CAD you are competing for the very limited number of entry level designer positions (some may say these are as rare as unicorns)

The firms I worked for in Chicago as a temp are scrambling to direct hire folks as the temp agencies have run out of skilled architectural technicians with 5-10 years of experience creating construction documents in Revit or CAD. Very few schools are graduating students who can within a few weeks of training start working on drawings. I get calls every other day looking for people with experience. We are seeing an experience gap in the profession with a huge shortage of people with what would be on the front end of the second quarter of their career experience.

We can look to the recession for derailing careers and driving a lot of folks into alternate careers as the cause of this Shortage.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Apr 22, 16 10:17 pm

Scumbag Principal:

Wants to hire workers with 5-10 years of experience through temp agencies

Pays a shit wage

Wonders why he can't find anyone to hire

Blames architecture schools 

Apr 22, 16 10:39 pm

Peter Normand,

I don't think I was making an assessment on quality of skills.... nor do I agree or disagree with your point. I wasn't making a judgment on the quality of the current supply. I chose not to make that assessment in my above. In ANY case, thanks for adding this point to the discussion. I chose not to go into that end for I myself am remaining neutral with that regard and chose not to get controversial with assessing quality of the education and training.

I hope you understand why I didn't go into that. If I brought that point up, it would be more of a shit storm.  :-)

Apr 22, 16 11:03 pm

I think counting the number of licensed architects is easy. Query the information from the licensing boards. That would be able to be ascertained by FOIA requests. They can query all of them at the same time, get the number of active licensed architects. That can be done easily.

Apr 22, 16 11:21 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

wolfenstein was like pre-doom (so many levels on this one)

Apr 23, 16 12:21 am
I guess I'm curious about competition amongst us for jobs. And when a recession hits are more people walking away to do something else. Sure there are less licensed but who's left to do the work?

The original release of wolfenstein was the shit.
Apr 23, 16 2:29 am


In a way, yes. The prevailing factor is when there is less work (demand), fewer are going to have work to keep busy. The prevailing reason boils down to money. Keeping up a license comes with a cost. I won't even attempt to outline every little reason but money or lack of money/work is one strong factor.

Apr 23, 16 2:39 am

I can't imagine letting a license lapse, the cost to maintain is very low compared to the initial investment. in Michigan it's the same licence fee for everyone, architects to haircutters, $30ish a year

Apr 23, 16 10:19 am

How many licensed architects actually use their license or sign off drawings at their firms? Too many pussies get licensed an rarely use their license to either start their own practices or do sode projects....

Apr 23, 16 10:31 am

what happens if your license lapses?  you can't just pay a fine and reinstate it?

i'm a pussy that doesn't use my stamp.  never thought of it as being a pussy, just that i don't have much reason to stamp stuff at the moment....

Apr 23, 16 10:50 am

Dangermouse, Some insight in response to your post

1 working for a Temp agency I was often paid more than most full time staff because you get overtime.

2 It cost many thousands of dollars for an employer to transition a temp employee into a full time permanent employee on their payroll as they would have to pay a contract termination fee to the temp agency.

3 In most firms you are under pressure to have 90% to 98% of your time as billable hours as an entry level member of a design or production team, Very few recent graduates are capable of producing work without training and or being slow at first as they learn, and the firms have to discount or write off hours as overhead until their employees are fully trained. (Non billable hours are partially what is eroding salaries in our profession as we spend more time doing other things that clients wont pay us for.)

4. the group of people still working in our profession with 5-10 years of experience are the ones who left the profession in droves during the recession and now there is a shortage of folks with that level of experience, older folks held on, and we have plenty of graduates entering every year.

The people with experience 5-10 years are also the ones likely to be finishing the path to getting their license at this point in their careers. The dip in numbers of people working in architecture due to the recession has reduced the number of people who are at the point most of us will finish that last exam and have all of the IDP done. I think this is the main cause of the reduction in licensed architects.

As for the need to have a license, I think if you want to be a principal or advance in a management role you will have to have a license at some point to continue moving up,but I know there are exceptions to this.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Apr 23, 16 11:12 am

Why have a license then, Curt? What's the point? So many people get licensed and say they don't want to use it due to the liability...

Apr 23, 16 11:19 am

sorry for the long explanation, but here's my opinion in 5 parts.

i see the license as the culmination of the long process of education, idp, tests, all that.  without closing out that ultimate goal, the education and everything else seems to be worth a bit less.  also, it's a credential.

it is certainly not fear of liability that keeps me from stamping projects.  if i were to stamp a project in my office, i think i would want an equity stake in the office, or at the very least be in a better position than i am in.  if i stamped projects for my boss, that would mean i'm being taken advantage of, which is not a position i'm interested in being in.

i could moonlight and stamp my own projects, but that' just something i'm not doing.  i don't really want to spend my evenings working on decks and garage additions.  i don't know what other projects i would be working on where i had that little time to commit, and i don't think i have the contacts to get better projects.  also i don't really need the experience or money or anything like that.

from my experience and what i've seen, it seems larger offices with competent leadership and management are able to get bigger and better projects to work on.  i would prefer to be in a position where i can be an architect working on those projects.  if i were to go out on my own, i would be spending my time hustling and competing for smaller projects that a small one man (plus or minus a couple) shop competes for.

someday maybe i'll want to stamp a project.  i don't pretend to know the future.  i think it takes a lot of time, many years, to build both the experience and trust to get into a leadership position at a larger firm like that, whether you're starting it on your own or moving up in another firm.  maybe someday i'll be laid off and pushed into hanging my shingle.  in the mean time, i'm just going to try to do my best and learn whatever i can to be a better architect, and hope that i don't have to play office politics too much.

Apr 23, 16 11:41 am

Forget about a doom recession, no one is talking about the great architectural knowledge recession.  

Apr 23, 16 11:55 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

good point lego.....also, i pay NCARB $30 a year to remind me my licenses are expiring.... no-form you play Descent back in the day as well?

Apr 23, 16 12:10 pm
So what is the knowledge recession? Are you referring to students knowing grasshopper but not knowing how to draw a wall section?
Apr 23, 16 12:56 pm

    I was clear when i said architectural knowledge.  I wish it was only isolated to one area of expertise. 

Apr 23, 16 1:08 pm

When I graduated in 2006 I was proficient in AutoCAD and Sketch Up. By the time I left the profession in 2013 I was a jedi master with those programs and I was pretty dang good with detailing, understanding building science, codes, zoning . I kept searching for 2 years in Denver for a better paying job, but every call back they wanted someone proficient in Revit. I always said, "im a quick learner, and willing to be trained", but never heard back. I think they would always hire the guy that knows grasshopper and the basics of Revit for a cheaper price than what I was asking, which was only like $45k.

Soooo, ppl in the profession in my mind are kinda at fault. They would always take the cheap new graduate that 'was proficient per their resume' in Revit, verse investing in someone that had some actual experience but was honest in their knowledge of Revit.

I kinda felt like I was in a rock and a hard place since I really hadnt moved up in salary from my very first job out of college back in 2006, and now no one would hire me b/c I wasnt "proficient" in Revit.

It was either laugh or cry situation, and I'd like to think that I made some sour ass lemonade outta those lemons.

Apr 23, 16 5:53 pm

I have heard both stories. Your kind of story and I heard stories where they only hire those with 5-10+ years experience not entry level.

Apr 23, 16 6:19 pm

Yeah, back in 2011-12 it was when all the bigger firms where switching over to Revit. I think that is the purple unicorn in architecture, someone with 7-10years experience in the field but is also highly proficient in Revit, CAD, Sketch up, etc.... or at least it was that way when I was searching for the job circa 11-12'.

I guess that might be less rare nowadays, and I do hear from friend that are still in the industry that 'their firm will not hire anyone, anyone, whom doesnt know Revit'.

All in all, silly ass field that dont pay shnit!

Apr 23, 16 6:27 pm

I was silly enough to get my master too, thinking that would help. Had the accredit degree... so I can relate to all the young and dumb's (students) that think more schooling will save them.

Apr 23, 16 6:29 pm

Well, yes knowing software, and employment, is also part of it,but see thats where the problem is, people have been conditioned into thinking as an emplyee. What  I am referring to is much bigger than that, just take a look at who is in charge in your office, its a person who operates with  a  business man first and foremost. The first casualties of the great recession were the leaders that did not operate as a business man first. Just take a look around your office, you have architecture offices being lead by people who are not architects. And those architectural leaders that managed to survive at a higher up level have been  transformed  into money changers.  Consequently they have fooled everyone into thinking that working for them, and thinking like an emplyee should be the goal of every individual that aspires to call himself an architect.  Another facet is that consequently people are forgetting that this profession is a calling not a job. Thats really the biggest blow that has highly affected the way society currently views all people that call themselves an architect, and needless to say its not positive.  We let the money managers take over architects during the recession and we cant kick them out. 

Apr 23, 16 8:19 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: