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2010 AIA/NCARB Internship and Career Survey

Recession Takes Its Toll on Emerging Professionals, But Most are Bouncing Back

Despite current economic hardships, the next generation is committed to the profession.

by Jennifer Riskus
AIA Research Manager

To say that the Great Recession has wreaked havoc on the profession is certainly not too strong a statement. But perhaps nowhere in architecture has this been harder felt than by its emerging professionals (EPs). More than 25% of the more than 10,000 EPs surveyed earlier this year in the 2010 AIA/NCARB Internship and Career Survey reported that they had been laid off, a staggering number by any measure. By comparison, only 5% of EPs reported being laid off in 2007.

Even more devastating: 17% of EPs are currently unemployed, a huge increase from the 3% who reported the same in 2007. Of those EPs currently unemployed, almost half (46%) are looking for a job.

Can there be any good news for EPs and the profession? Actually, yes.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of those laid off say they plan to return to the profession when the economy rebounds (see Figure 1). Interestingly, this optimism is apparently somewhat higher for women than men, with 59% of women saying they will return to the profession compared to only 51% of men. And more than half of those laid off, both women and men, have been rewarded for that confidence and already have found a new job. Nearly three quarters of those found their next job in six months or less (see Figure 2). Seventy percent of those currently employed are in professional architecture jobs, with an additional 10% in architecture related fields.

To maintain their hirablility through the downturn, EPs have kept themselves busy even after they have been laid off. More than two thirds (68%) have sought additional training to increase their marketability, including acquiring LEED accreditation, taking the Architecture Registration Examination (ARE), or attending software training sessions (such as BIM).

Internship, IDP, ARE

What are the experiences of EPs as they progress through internship, intern development programs (IDP), and the ARE process? Nearly all of those surveyed (96%) are involved in the IDP process, an increase of 7 percentage points from 2007 (see Figure 3). In fact, more than three quarters have either already completed IDP or are currently participating in it. Of the 3% of respondents that have not established an NCARB record, 47% intend to establish a record in the future, with the most common reason for not yet having established a record being that they are not yet eligible. On average, participants report that it took them three to four years to complete IDP. AIA and NCARB have developed the Emerging Professional’s Companion Web site, where Interns can get credit towards IDP completion, even if they are unemployed

The majority of survey respondents (65%) have either not yet taken the ARE or do not intend to ever take the exam (See Figure 4). However, more than one in 10 have taken and passed all divisions of the exam, with the Building Design/Materials & Services division reported as being the most commonly completed division of the ARE 3.1 exam, and the Programming, Planning, and Practice and Site Planning & Design both tied as being the most commonly completed divisions of the ARE 4.0 exam. For those who have not yet taken the exam, the most commonly cited reason was lack of eligibility (41%), followed by not having enough time to prepare (20%) and the exam cost (15%). For those who have taken the exam, the primary reason for doing so was personal goal fulfillment (64%) and career enhancement (21%).

Maybe not a lost generation, but heavy losses

Make no mistake, despite their commitment and resilience, the Great Recession has dramatically changed the momentum of a generation of EPs, particularly those who have not yet obtained licensure, and will likely effect the profession for years to come.

Among those EPs without licensure, more than half (57%) flatly say they do not believe it is worth the time or to obtain this level of professional certification, an increase of 11 percentage points from 2007 (see Figure 5). And even more disappointing, more than one in ten (12%) say they have not sought licensure because they have already decided to leave the profession due to the economy.

When asked to compare their career expectations with the reality of what they’ve experienced so far, EPs say on average they are happier with the type of work they’re doing than they expected, but their day-to-day professional satisfaction with work is lower than they anticipated. (Figure 6). But--as a sign that some things never change—they are dissatisfied with their compensation. Both the lower compensation and reduced day-to-day job satisfaction levels may be directly related to the economic downturn and the impact that has had on firm operations.

The good news for the profession? The vast majority (83%) of EPs surveyed plan to obtain licensure, and despite the recession, only 2% expect to have a non-architecture career. Eighty percent fully expect to work in a traditional practice, perhaps the strongest sign that this time around there will not be another “lost generation” of architects


Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6


AIA and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) jointly commissioned a survey of 55,000 IDP record holders, recently licensed architects, and other EPs in January 2010. The 2009/2010 AIA/NCARB Internship & Career Survey (previously conducted in 2003, 2005, and 2007) aims to provide insight into the career path choices of architectural interns.

The 2009/2010 survey received 10,500 responses, a 19% response rate with a confidence interval of +/-1.1% at the 99% confidence level. The research was conducted by The Rickinson Group, an independent marketing research supplier, which consulted with AIA and NCARB to make any necessary questionnaire changes, programmed the online survey, fielded data collection, and tabulated and analyzed the results.


Back to AIArchitect July 30, 2010 Issue

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