The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) convened its new Future Title Task Force, which is comprised of interns and architects from across the country, to discuss the profession’s title debate. The task force is charged with discussing the terminology used for those who are candidates for licensure and those who are architects. — NCARB
The word "intern" contains a minefield of professional connotations. The job-title is often associated with a position that is unpaid, undervalued, or disposable, flying in the face of employment laws and professional ethics. And in some ways, it's no different in the architecture industry: it's deplorably and repeatedly the case that unpaid internships play an integral role in professional practice. It seems strange then, that the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) uses the title "Intern Architect" as the official term for those educated enough to pursue licensure. Under this definition, the babe in the woods can have the same title as a seasoned vet.
This disconcerting overlap of meanings has led NCARB to reconsider the term used to describe practicing professionals seeking licensure. NCARB's newly formed Future Title Task Force met late last August to outline the issues of this sticky naming-debate, eventually to determine what architects, before and after licensure, can call themselves. The variety of titles available to a pre-license architect varies state-by-state, just like the licensure requirements in general. This alphabet soup of names, with no national overarching logic, is starting to drag on the profession.
While nothing is set in stone, the Task Force has already set out to identify an overall logic for the naming regulations, with help from standards set at comparable professions in the US. Currently, the word "intern" is used to describe an enormously vague period in an architect's professional development. According to NCARB, an "intern architect" (as opposed to simply an "intern") is someone (students included) who has completed enough education to qualify for the Intern Development Program. Slightly more specifically, an Intern Architect is anyone currently chipping away at licensure's "experience requirements", set out by NCARB's IDP. Unpaid internships do not qualify as experience under NCARB's requirements, although certain "approved" volunteer work does. All in all, Intern Architects must fulfill standards of experience, education, and examination to become licensed, all of which depend on where in the US is issuing the license.
The Task Force will meet next in October, so we'll keep you posted. Here are the current members of the Future Titles Task Force:
The Task Force will no doubt recognize that there is a certain legacy around the "intern" role, that assumes poor-treatment and low or no pay is justified, and simply part of the natural "hazing" process to becoming an architect. Those who were once victims of such hazing often become perpetrators when they become authorities, under the vindictive attitude of "I had to suffer through it, so you should too". Not only does this perpetuate a cycle of abuse in the architecture industry, but it devalues architects in their most formative professional years. Here's to hoping NCARB's Task Force can settle on terms that respect the architect's experience, regardless of their progress towards licensure.