Paraprofessionals in Architecture


Sparked by recent forum activity, namely the latest thread about what an entry level architect should be called and what they should be doing, I thought we should talk about paraprofessionals in architecture, or perhaps the lack thereof. 

Architects used to employ paraprofessionals, they had titles like drafters and technicians. Why is the idea of having paraprofessionals so threatening to architects? 

Architect magazine article: The Case for Paraprofessionals

"But when we use emerging professionals to manage the ebb and flow of the construction cycle, we also risk eliminating the future leaders of firms, as well as the future leaders of the profession, in hard times. To this day, the profession has not fully recovered from the early 1990s construction downturn, which forced a lot of younger architectural staff out of the profession, never to return."


Aug 7, 14 9:37 am

That's a good article. I'm not sure architects have been threatened by the idea of paraprofessionals so much as it just hasn't been seriously discussed.  This is the first I've really heard of it as a discipline-wide discussion.

However, I do know from direct experience that it can happen that a trained draftsperson just doesn't bring a level of sophisticated, educated decision-making that is desired to an architecture firm.  A close friend recently tried out a tech school grad for some pretty basic drafting and the person just didn't understand why line weight is important to legibility, how scale needed to differ depending on level of detail, what info was critical to show vs. unnecessary...pretty basic stuff.

Aug 7, 14 11:10 am

"This is the first I've really heard of it as a discipline-wide discussion." That doesn't make any sense, you've never heard of draftsman? Draughtsman? It is an old title. Then you mention that you know a draftsman? 

I'm really glad I brought this up then!

Even though I've brought this up on archinect before... admittedly I'm not Kermit Baker, so who would listen to me... Richard Balkins brought this very idea up in a recent thread. 

I worked at a firm with paraprofessionals. They certainly knew about line weight, but many had experience and weren't new. Those drafters taught me to put together a really super tight set, they taught me how to draw a wall section, write notes etc. They know more about construction and drawings than the architects, who focused on design and clients. Great model. 

Aug 7, 14 11:30 am

Tint, must be clairvoyance, just started writing in the Job Title thread then saw the new “The Absurdity of Having a License” thread and thought they were both the same subject, thanks for starting this thread. One can see emerging professional’s squirming to find higher purpose and standing in the job title thread and also see licensed architects squirming with absurd responsibilities in NYC. I see two loose wires in need of connection.

Read the article you offered and I think he is suggesting a body of people that never look to be licensed, that can float around the ebb and flow of the industry. I don’t think that is possible today. I was in this for 40 years and offices years ago had just a few licensed guys that owned, maybe 1 graduate and everybody else was from trade school backgrounds with no prospect of licensing. As time passed seemed that everyone was a graduate of some kind and expected a business card with a title on it. The supply of staff is coming from universities with people that have 5+ years and big debt. There are many places in the industry for these people to contribute and make a living after graduation but for those coming to architectural firms they are looking to climb a ladder.

 To connect the wires I suggest that those with an accredited degree and are on license track become licensed paraprofessionals, able to seal work of certain types and dollar value and the title “Architect” be applied to both paraprofessionals and licensed/registered architects. This would open a whole new world to emerging architects. The profession will benefit too in many ways and cauterize the lost work flowing out of the profession like we did with housing.

Aug 7, 14 11:42 am

This is the first I've really heard of it as a discipline-wide discussion.

Of course I've heard of draftspeople, and I've discussed/experienced it as a discussion in individual firms.

Aug 7, 14 11:55 am

Ok. But draftsmen used to be regularly employed in architecture firms, so it is only recently that this isn't a discipline-wide discussion. I can't recall the Canadian archinector that was recently talking about "the technicians" at his firm, which makes me wonder if it is a regional thing to employ or not employ paraprofessionals. 

Carrera, I appreciate your thoughts. I'm having trouble understanding why it isn't possible today. I don't think it is answer to everything, nor is it going to work for all firms, but why is it not possible, because they want business cards? Architectural technicians/draftspersons can have business cards, that shouldn't matter. Maybe I don't understand, and would appreciate if you would clarify. Thanks.

Aug 7, 14 12:06 pm

my assumption would be that architectural graduates work for less, due the fact that they expect a greater high end reward.  ultimately, if you can hire an architecture graduate as a cheaper and more disposable employee, that might be tempting for employers

job postings often focus on software requirements rather than really any other aspect of architecture right?  they're quite plainly looking for draftsmen; not people who can design or people who know building codes or anything else.  if they can get someone with 5 or 6 years of college, or even a license, for the same salary, they might as well.

Aug 7, 14 12:15 pm

Allow me to paint a different picture for you then, curt. You can hire a paraprofessional with 20 years of experience for $22 an hour. They can teach your architecture school graduates how to draw wall sections and put together drawing sets so you, the principal, can work on the important stuff. Then your emerging architects will be productive and profitable and can quickly start acting like the professionals they intended to be instead of picking up redlines. You can hire an $8-10 an hour entry level paraprofessional to pick up the redlines and run the copies, the intern architect can check his work. When work gets tight, the paraprofessionals are the first to go, and they can transfer their skills to a cabinet maker, a civil engineer, a furniture designer, and more. They don't have to wait in the unemployment line putting their architecture career on hold. Imagine a firm with 4-5 principals, 3-5 mid-level architects, 1-3 emerging architects (interns), and 4-5 paraprofessionals. (that is just about the mix we had.) When I worked for the civil engineer, he had 1 very skilled paraprofessional (20 years exp), 2 mid-level techs (5-10 years exp), an engineer in training, and 1-2 interns.

Aug 7, 14 12:29 pm

Draughtsman can be made politically correct (if that is realliy such a thing) as "draughtsperson" but that title is also called drafter. In addition, the title was more famous in UK, Canada and other countries of the former British empire. It existed in parts of the U.S.

It is essentially the same title as "draftsman" which became known as drafter later. In the U.S., draughtsman stopped being regularly used and almost non-existant since long before feminism at least in the U.S. 

However, the title "draughtsman" is just a title not to imply denoting a gender. After all, the name of our race "human" uses the word 'man' in the title. Even "woman" has the word "man" so women should not get carried away over the title in this day and age where it is generally understood that men and women work in alot of fields including architecture for quite some time.

Sometimes, making changes to the title at times makes the title awkward to speak.

Aug 7, 14 1:07 pm

Technician is a good word, don't you think? The job is more than drafting anyways.

Aug 7, 14 1:17 pm

U.S. Dept of Labor's page on drafters and what they do. The words architect and architecture are abundant on this page, maybe architects need to put out a memo to the public that IDP has made this job irrelevant so people should stop going to school to be one. It would be considerate.

Aug 7, 14 1:58 pm
Living in Gin

GraduatedLicensure, do your knuckles ever get sore from constantly dragging on the ground?

Aug 7, 14 2:34 pm

I would take that a step further...part of the reason why architecture has become so marginalized is the lack of specialization.  We should have more defined specialties.  I hate the analogy to doctors and lawyers...but when you go to a doctor for a peepee problem you go to a urologist...when you come down with a case of Ebola you go to a Epidemiologist... Same for wouldn't want a dwi lawyer handling your bankruptcy.  I don't see any reason why we can't have a special designation for a residential architect with a specialized path that is more focused on residential.   No reason an architect that builds skyscrapers should have the same path as a residential one especially since residential is exempt anyways.  

Aug 7, 14 2:54 pm

i don't think lawyer education is where lawyers specialize in certain areas.  that tends to come, at least from what i've seen with lawyers i know, after they graduate and get jobs.

architects do specialize.  for example, most clients wanting a school work with architects that mostly do schools.  easier projects, with less specialized programming requirements, have less specialization.

feel free to specialize in residential architecture.  as far as i know, there is nothing barring you from following that path.

Aug 7, 14 3:57 pm


State licensing laws don't apply to Federal jobs in federal enclaves. Something to do with "Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction".

Aug 7, 14 4:04 pm
I expect that there is not much discussion because this *does* happen in a lot of firms. Mine is just one example of several in our city. We have technical professionals for the same reasons that tint mentioned.

What's to discuss?

I will say that there are often (not always) limitations in how non-architecture-school-educated staff relate to a project. Their understanding of design goals is sometimes lacking. It's just important to use all staff in the roles for which they are best suited.
Aug 7, 14 4:29 pm

Tint, sorry off visiting my doctor, had a great discussion about paraprofessionals with him and learned some things.

The article suggested populating offices with technical paraprofessionals; your question was why do I say it’s not possible today. I tried to outline this in my second paragraph, please let me expand. The short answer is supply. In 1968 when I started in a tiny firm there was the owner and 5 non-college guys (I was in college). At my second job there were 2 owners and 24 non-college guys, total. In my last years (25-30 years later) 100% of everyone in the office was a college graduate, including the person answering the phone. The reason that changed was supply. I don’t think in the last 15 years of my career that I ever saw a resume from a non-graduate (except students of architecture). Look at population statistics of universities and it’s easy to see. The high school trade schools all closed and community colleges took over but that has waned. An example: My community had a large community college attached to its state university started in 1969 with a 2 year architectural tech program….about 6 years ago another state university 30 miles away got permission to start an accredited architectural program and the state made the tech school close its doors and it shut off the supply.

I preferred the old office demographic it was much easer to manage. But things have changed dramatically. It’s not owners looking buy more with less, the supply of technical people has been eclipsed by the supply of college graduates. You can’t build a practice around technical paraprofessionals because there are not enough of them to do it today. Is the author suggesting we reverse this? Is it being suggested that we limit the output of license track graduates? I may theoretically agree but no chance. The die has been cast and like everything else in our society there is no turning back.

GraduatedLicensure, bringing up feminism with Donna in the room? Holy smokes!!

Aug 7, 14 4:51 pm

Paraprofessionals are making a comeback in specialized high-tech applications. We now have entire subdepartments for computer modeling and 3D visualization. Most of the people hired into those studios are not architects.

Aug 7, 14 4:53 pm

so if we're seeing a resurgence of paraprofessionals, does that mean people who were stamping metal at a GM plant or machine shop or whatever 15 years ago now go to community colleges to learn autocad, and those people are filling in where a college educated emerging architect with no future would have been 10 or 15 years ago?

Aug 7, 14 5:01 pm

I am in the middle of a job change and I have talked to firms on both coasts looking for technical professionals (not licensed architects) to bring their firms up to speed on computational geometry and workflows. They generally offer more money than architecture positions. 

Problem is, when there is another downturn, you have no license and no way to stand on your own. Also, computation and computer science as a whole is so specialized that a a paraprofessional in this field cannot easily transition into another area of Comp Sci. 

Aug 7, 14 5:16 pm

 A close friend recently tried out a tech school grad for some pretty basic drafting and the person just didn't understand why line weight is important to legibility, how scale needed to differ depending on level of detail, what info was critical to show vs. unnecessary...pretty basic stuff.

Sadly, that is a pretty good description of most of the newly (and not so newly) minted architecture school graduates I encountered in the past 10-15 years. 

Aug 7, 14 6:14 pm

Yes there are good jobs emerging in computer modeling and 3D visualization but they are not paraprofessionals like I am suggesting, like in medicine.  I suppose that the word “paraprofessional” by dictionary definition is anyone helping a professional, hell by that definition the person answering the phone is a paraprofessional. Let’s just call everyone a paraprofessional and end the thread.

 I realize the discussion started with an article exploring the idea of expanding non-licensure track positions to create more versatile/flexible career paths under the title “paraprofessionals” but as I suggest reversing to fill offices with non-licensure track positions is not going to happen. Positions for licensure tracks needs to expand even if its growth is slow statistically.

 I am suggesting linking this discussion with “The Absurdity of Having a License” thread where licensure track positions could be the ones called paraprofessionals. I know some dislike parallels with medicine but they have done similar to relieve doctors from the less complicated and grow their practices. They also see this as a way to hold on to the full breadth of their practices preventing trends and thoughts of declassifying things as “medicine” and loosing them as we did with some housing. Reading the absurdity thread hints that we could lose more. Medical paraprofessionals practice quite independently and can write prescriptions. So should architectural paraprofessionals with regard to working independently and seal drawings. Imagine the possibilities of this and how it could revolutionize IDP. I submit that half the threads on Archinect would vanish as a result.

Aug 7, 14 8:27 pm

Carrera, you are saying have a professional organization and licensure separate for residential and commercial architects, or more detailed as in professional orgs and licenses for drafter, visualizer, model builder? Or a catch-all "architectural technician" license?

This is interesting. 

Aug 7, 14 8:59 pm

Archanonymous, No. I’d love to see guys like Richard Balkins Assoc. AIA be able to practice that way but the profession wouldn’t stand for it. I’m talking about guys like him in full license firms practicing that way. My doctor told me today that his paraprofessionals are permitted by him and the state to do anything within the practice within the realm of the practice. He said they have to go to school and get licensed by the state but the level of education he told me about doesn’t hold a candle to what our guys go through. This wouldn’t be anybody in the firm just those with a license track and maybe a year or two into IDP, or maybe half way there. These would be the architectural paraprofessionals with a paraprofessional license with a seal, and called “Architect”. The profession needs to let some go and soar, within the firm. Look at the lead thread story in “The Absurdity of Having a License”; it’s that kind of work that is tying up full licensed architects and killing the profession. Imagine too some of these guys soaring and operating as mini firms within the firm, learning how to bring in work of their own. What’s the incentive for guys like this today to contribute to the growth of a firm checking shop drawings all day? On certain projects or building types they could handle the whole thing soup-to-nuts with clients respecting them as “Architects” not “Intern-in-Training”.

 Going out-of-town for a few days, I’ll be looking forward to catching-up when I get back to see where this discussion might go.

Aug 8, 14 12:08 am
vado retro

I did paraprofessional work for Donna back in the day. She was a good boss. I watched a recent Big Time/Small Firm youtube video about the growing trend of solo practitioners who, through connections through various social networks, are joining together to work on projects. In these cases, the architects come together and divvy the work up. This seems to be working for these solo architects who, can either get qualified professional assistance to work on their projects or can keep a money/work flow stream when their office is slow(er).

Aug 8, 14 8:22 am

^ Instead of divvying up the work, which is collusion and is illegal, it should mean that if a client comes to you and wants to build a house but you are a hospital architect, you send them to your good friend and colleague who designs houses. Referrals can't be illegal, besides, the client is being served better as a result, which is the important thing. The AIA has everyone scared that trading referrals is illegal. Pbft. 

Aug 8, 14 10:13 am
x intern

The state boards or NCARB or whoever controls the title usage needs to come together and designate a title for the professionals that aren't yet licensed or don't want or need to be licensed that doesn't have the negative cogitations of intern or AIT and make it part of the law.   The issue appears to be the people who have no intention of getting licensed having to call themselves interns indefinitely.   These people probably shouldn't be allowed access to anyone beyond the engineers who don't care what you call yourself anyway but I understand their issue.  People who after getting out of school decide this is where they wish to remain should be given the option of releasing their ability to sit for the exam and IDP and given a title that befits their position in the profession.  Building Technician perhaps,  this would clarify between people on the licensing track and people who simply wish to be a paraprofessional.  

Aug 8, 14 11:40 am

Well, if you design architecture then by definition you are an Architectural Designer.  Why is this title prohibited? Can someone please answer?  If it is illegal to be called an architectural designer then shouldn't it also be illegal to design architecture without a license?  Wouldn't this mean that about 80% of all arch employees are working illegally?   This profession wants to have its cake and eat it too.  They want the benefits of protectionism and the benefits of unlicensed labor.  

What is needed is either 

a. To disregard the stupid law and call yourself what you do and then if you get into trouble sue for violation of property rights.  Yes work is property as is ones degree.  The degree says master of architecture or bachelor of architecture...,you have the right to explain your work honestly and accuratly and your title should reflect your duties.  When you are not allowed to express what you do it did it inhibits your upward mobility.  It restricts your claim to property which is your past and present work.  

B. start an Arch intern and employee union.  Refuse to do work that cannot be accurately expressed by title and used for upward mobility.  

 C. Create your own title that is not protected.  Environmental designer, building designer, spatial artist, etc.  be creative.  Possibly this new title will actually create a real unique niche for you.  

Aug 8, 14 12:13 pm

Good points. My diploma has the word architecture on it. How is the university allowed to use that word? But I am not?

Aug 8, 14 12:42 pm


What is this animosity undertone that I am sensing in your post ?

As long as they pay the price to keep their NCARB record(s) active, shouldn't they consider on the licensure track so to speak. Sure, when they do independent work like working as a building designer to keep ends meet that they shouldn't use a title containing the words "architect", "architecture" or "architectural" for such work. There are many life circumstances with each individual that we don't understand.

In my case, I have an active IDP record even though right now I am not employed by an architect. Where I am at, there is essentially no architecture employer. This complicates matters when it comes to getting through the licensure. Such is life. I am a building designer when I do independent building design work. That is life. I am looking to eventually transforming that side of things as design/build. However, I still seek to get licensed as an architect but life circumstances may slow track things but real world reality means I do still have to make a living. 

In addition, the protection of the architect title is limited to circumstances where there is chance of confusion of title. An architectural historian is okay. Architectural designer is not. Software architect is ok. Residential architect is not. 

There is legal limitations that must be kept in mind. Part of the limitation is judicial ruling/interpretation that includes recognizes that the licensing title laws may not be enforced in such a way that would un-duly abridge rights under the U.S. Constitution such as the rights protected under the First Amendment but can only to extent be enforced to protect the public from a harm. Therefore, it has to be essentially justified. If it is clear the person is not an architect.... that is okay. An architect is a designer. When someone says they are an architectural historian, then they are a historian and the subject of their specialty of study is architecture. However, architectural designer is unacceptable for a non-licensed to use because architects are designers and therefore a probable risk is confusion and misrepresentation of the client, who is a reasonable person, may lead to commissioning the unlicensed person for work that requires a licensed person. Where an unlicensed person exploits that, that is where the problem is. Remember.... this is about CONSUMER PROTECTION but I know there is a nebula of politics that surrounds this which includes "protectionism" (as often discussed here to refer to a theory of licensed architects trying to stifle and eliminate competition through legislation to outlaw the competitors). In the real world, there is probably some truth to that historically and to some extent, today. It isn't all that way. 

Lets take the software architect title into consideration, is there reasonable confusion of what a software architect does and what we do as architects or building designers? In general, no.

Now to the "Residential architect" title, yes.... this title refers to an architect who happens to specialize or market his/her position in residential work. However, architects are licensed to design any building so in essence it is a claim of a license when using the architect title (especially the noun 'architect') in connection to work involving the designing of buildings.

This is why I use the title building designer for independent work involving the designing of buildings. 

In the past since the beginning of licensing laws and the exemptions, there has been essentially an agreement that people who are not licensed doing work involving exempt projects to have a title(s) they can use without being penalized that is a reasonable descriptor of what they do. Otherwise, it can open up things to lawsuits and ugly politics. Therefore, since the licensing law protects certain titles and prohibits those certain titles from being used by unlicensed persons, any other title would therefore be legal. Since the title 'building designer' does not contain the words 'architect', 'architecture' or 'architectural' or other colorful variants in spelling of those words like 'arkitekt' or 'arkitecture' or 'arkitectvral' and others which visually would look to similar and enough to reasonably cause confusion and misrepresentation of an reasonable person. 

Lets remember that many of the clients we go after are not involved in architecture enough to know and understand the industry as we do.

Architecture field (and related professions) is not a part of their daily lives. 

I don't refer to myself as a building technician as a business because my role is much more involved than a technician because I am legally responsible to my work under Oregon law.

One thing that would make things better is that non-licensed staff should never be given the title "Project Architect". However, firms should have them use the title "Project designer" instead even if the rank is essentially the same as long as the position is not "Project Architect of Record" or "Project Archiect of Responsible Charge"  (the architect that would be stamping). If an experienced unlicensed yet certified person such as a CPBD could be designing an exempt project in an multidisciplinary firm and uses his/her CPBD stamp, then he could be a "Project Designer of Record" (or Project Designer of Responsible Charge).

Nothing in the law says that a certified professional that is not a licensed architect or engineer can't stamp permit/construction documents that does NOT require to be stamp/sealed by an registered/licensed architect or engineer. In those projects that are exempted from licensing law should be allowed to be stamped by any licensed/registered or certified person in good standing by their licensing board or certifying organization. 

Personally, we should not bar out-of-state architects from using their architect title on exempt projects (and use their stamp) not requiring a stamp of an architect or engineer registered in the state where the project is located ---- without having to undergo reciprocity. 

I know the current legal environment doesn't quite allow that in many states. I suppose that can be revised over time. 

That is another topic.

Aug 8, 14 1:22 pm

In case you all missed it in Richard's long post this:

In addition, the protection of the architect title is limited to circumstances where there is chance of confusion of title. An architectural historian is okay. Architectural designer is not. Software architect is ok. Residential architect is not. hitting the nail on the head.  It's not a protected word, it's a protected title when used in the context of providing professional services. In other contexts it doesn't really matter.

GradLicense, if you think these anti-feminist jokes are funny, they're not. You're adding nothing to the discussion.

Aug 8, 14 1:28 pm


Aug 8, 14 1:52 pm


Thanks for emphasizing that and restating it in another way if it isn't understood how I stated it.

I agree.

Aug 8, 14 1:54 pm

I'll add, that it's a protected title when used in the context of providing, advertising, or offering to perform professional services involving the design, engineering and construction of buildings and other structures. 

Building design services are professional services even though not licensed as it pertains to exempt buildings. The idea is to not represent oneself as a licensed architect when you are not and about not representing that you are authorized to perform professional services that are required to have a licensed architect not professional services that doesn't require a registered/licensed professional.

That is why it is important to understand there are professionals and there are licensed/registered professionals. Not all professionals are licensed/registered.

I'm with Donna in that it is how the laws are written.

There are creative ways to refer to some types of exempted 'architectural services' (ie. not requiring a licensed architect) but we use a different wordage. 

When you are working as an employee of an architect, it is clearly covered in exemptions in most state laws so that you won't be fined for doing your job under the direction and control of your employer/licensed architect supervisor.

Aug 8, 14 2:23 pm
x intern

My point was there should be a distinction between those on the licensing track and those who are not.  This does a few things, it allows firms to hire these individuals as essentially modern day educated draftsmen and project managers (paraprofessionals) knowing they are satisfied in their role and have no intention of moving up into the role of project architect or in larger firms associates and principals.  With a few exceptions I doubt many architectural firms would want someone in a leadership role who for no reason other than lack of motivation chose not to get their license.   You either are or you are not, there is no grey area.  For anyone complaining about this I would bet the process of getting a license has not changed since they started school.  You knew there were requirements beyond college when you started down this path, many seem like it surprised them and they don't understand why the world is shaming them by calling them interns because they fell they should be called Architect.  If you want to call yourself an Architect become one.    Its silly really, the IDP and tests just are not that hard, just a few more hoops.  

Aug 8, 14 2:40 pm

i think she separated that out because your wall of text was too long to hold the attention of many readers.  140 characters is how we do things now.

Aug 8, 14 2:40 pm


Sorry for the length. Okay. It must be the habit of having to write 10-15 or 25+ page research reports every couple of weeks for each course in my Masters degree oriented historic preservation courses.

I also tend to get more deeper in most posts to communicate points very thorough and part of the length comes from use of examples to explain a point thoroughly because some people here seems pretty dense to get it with 140 characters.

Why the same people ask the same question multiple times after it has been explained to them is amazing. 

That's another topic.

Aug 8, 14 3:00 pm

Gray areas? So I have a degree in architecture, but halfway through taking the ARE's I was laid off and took another job in another career which has nothing to do with buildings but it would still be very useful for me to be able to use the word.

To make it even grayer, sometimes I get small freelance design jobs because friends and family still think of me as an architect and they will no matter what because they can't comprehend the distinction, but I have no intention of finishing the ARE to do a basement reno or kitchen design here and there. Buuuut it would be helpful in my other career to say I am an architect, even though I'm not licensed as such with the state, because other wise I feel like I am being forced to throw it all away, do you know what I mean? This is a real identity problem, not just being difficult or dense here. 

So as long as I'm not using to sell professional design services, I'm ok? I'm not so sure. I would never put it on a business card of course, but the word architect in my bio would be nice... instead of explaining the situation to people that don't care. But I don't dare, perhaps I am paranoid. 

I teach/consult at a private school (not quite, but works for discussion purposes). 

Aug 8, 14 3:04 pm

you don't have to apologize to me.  i'm not bothered, i was just trying to help by pointing out how internets work in case you missed it.

Aug 8, 14 3:05 pm
x intern


If you aren't using it in a professional way it doesn't matter (at least to me,  others may feel different but I doubt any one would mess with you, I think its common practice to call yourself architect when it doesn't really matter, bar ect.) if your doing work that is architectural and calling yourself an architect (even residential reno's) different deal.  You shouldn't.  Its about liability and professional responsibility.  Even if you don't need a stamp as an architect you are liable for meeting code and probably local regulation (I've never worked on a house nor been sued so....)   your friends get forced to rip out something or spend a bunch of money because of something you did,  it will get important real quick.  

besides if your halfway done with the ARE and have your IDP completed seems like it would be worth the couple of weeks and few hundred dollars to get your license (once you get it you have it forever)  Your probably 50,000$ and 8 years into the process seems like bailing now is the waste. If your done with architecture and your work has nothing to do with architects or architecture who the hell would ever know or honestly care.  You put it on a resume you could get yourself in trouble if they ever investigated you.   

Aug 8, 14 3:21 pm

This isn't Twitter or instant messaging. This is a forum. It doesn't positively have to be read while at work during a 5 minute smoke break or something. Take mental note and read it when you have more time. In fact,  the post shoud be able to be read in less than 5 minutes for someone with a bachelor's degree level education.

That's another matter.

Trust me, I know how internet works. My background includes software development and computer networking.

The Twitter generation needs to develop their attention span because it is a skill they lack because they don't challenge themselves to read through 3-4 inch thick books a week.

Aug 8, 14 3:23 pm


EVERY building design project is a professional services that you are offering.

Just call yourself a building designer. You can say you have a degree in architecture. No one is EVER going to fine you for saying you have been educated in architecture. You are a building designer or designer. If you finish the rest of your exams, you will then be an architect (authorized to professionally use the architect title) as long as you keep the license/registration active and in good standing. Yes, you can have employment in other fields even though you are a building designer or licensed/registered architect (upon licensure/registration of course). 

The same way, you can be a parent, a son/daughter, a computer tech, a building designer or architect, all at the same time. 

I am technically a software developer/programmer still. Even though I don't do it as much as I used to. I am also a building designer. They are multiple facets of who I am. 

Occupationally, it isn't always 1 person / 1 occupation ratio. 

You may have a job at a non-architecture job but still also do design work so you're a designer still. Even if it is not full-time. It is still professional work and you should treat it professionally and it is a business so treat it as a business as a sole-proprietor operating in your real legal name. 

Aug 8, 14 3:35 pm

Thanks guys, it is good to hear your opinions. To clarify, I don't solicit for building design jobs at all and when I do get something, it truly is the bottom of the barrel stuff basement remodel, house addition schematics, schematic plans for a doctor's office, etc. I have been asked to do more basement remodels but I won't do them. I am not a building designer. 

Where I want to use the word is when I describe myself to potential clients in my other field, it is a self-employed endeavor with my husband and combining our skills sets looks really, really good and we could do a lot more if I could call myself an architect. I've asked my architect friends and they all have said I should not use the word. So I haven't.

I have tried "designer", "studied architecture" and "architecture degree holder with 8 years of experience in architecture firms" but I have stopped using all of these because they aren't right. If I remember correctly, there was a woman that had a degree in architecture and wasn't practicing but was quoted in a magazine for something else she did and she said, "... as an architect, I..." and she wasn't selling architectural services, just that she had a thought process from her time in architecture that was important to her (which is pretty much how I want to use the word) and someone saw it and turned her in and she was fined for it. 

My rolling clock for the ARE ran out and my NCARB record expired. Plus I'm not interested. I don't want to pay for it every year and do CEU's. 

Aug 8, 14 3:53 pm

tint you're in Colorado, right? According to this previous legal decision you're fine to call yourself an architect in your business (education) but not when you're designing basement renovations for your family and friends.

Aug 8, 14 4:07 pm
x intern

Nice Donna.  I would run with it tint.  If your not practicing architecture its unlikely you will be messed with.  Seems like most of the time its other architects turning you in that gets the officials involved.  I suppose getting in the press could as well but surely our officials have better things to do messing with people who have left the profession.   There has to be a line of sanity/common sense applied one would think.  

Aug 8, 14 4:20 pm

Thanks Donna, I had forgotten about that case, but I remember it now. 

Some of our clients have been architects, and contractors too, but most people wouldn't care certainly. 

It would be nice if in our printed material I could use it, but I don't think I will. Maybe I should call a lawyer and get their blessing, cause it would be awesome. I will only use the word when with kids, when I do a cool drawing for them and they ask how I learned to do that. But think of it this way, my husband has a degree in psychology but he is not a psychologist (a protected term) and we won't use that term either, even though it would be nice too. BUT one could easily mistake him/us for selling psychological services because it is close enough to education where it would not ever be misconstrued that we are selling design services. Ug.  

Aug 8, 14 4:34 pm


If there are reporters for newspaper or magazines where it is published then use your intelligence to not call yourself an architect. Even if you don't call yourself a "building designer", you can call yourself a designer. Building designers do design not just new construction design but remodels, restoration/renovation, additions, as well.

Historically, building designer was simply another word for an architect before there was licensing laws. So why not use it?

Do you realize that building designers isn't always cheap bottom of the barrel projects?

Let me point to some of my colleagues.

Richard Wright

James Lucia

Jim currently works with an Architect in Florida.

The kinds of projects that you'll get as a building designer runs the gamut. If you don't have a name for yourself, you'll likely get only the bottom of the barrell because people with higher end projects isn't going to trust putting their million dollar custom homes in the hands of a newbie/inexperienced. Too much rides on the success of the project so you need to have a good reputation. 

Scott Amarant:

Just to show the gamut varies:

Logan Cartwight

Phillip Greenblatt

There is a range. Most of these folks have some experience behind them. There are those with less experience but okay. 

My suggestion if you do not wish to further your pursuit as a licensed/registered architect is possibly  for you to pursuing as a building designer... better as a Certified Professional Building Designer. However, you may still need to do continuing education as a certified building designer or if you want to do design/build to have to have a contractor license. NOTE: Just because one is a contractor doesn't mean they have to physically do the construction work themselves. They would just be the prime contractor in responsible charge and supervise tradesmen and subcontractors to make sure the construction work is being performed adequately and therefore functions as a CM/PM.

As for Continuing Education, just do them. It isn't that much work. It's ALOT less than college. It's like 8-16 hours a year. Think.... 20-30 hours out of what is it???? 8760 hours a year. No excuse for such a little committment of your life of which you can do online at your own schedule more or less. When you are in business for yourself, you set your own work schedule not the client. Okay, there is somethings you have to work between you and the client but otherwise, you run your work schedule as you see fit.

At least, your effort wouldn't be in total vein because as a building designer, you are applying your education and your experience to your work.

BTW: As a building designer, you don't have to be "AIBD member" or necessarily NCBDC certified and therefore take the CEU but I would recommend the certification as that can be used as a leverage in the marketplace. There is 8 CEU hours a year to be done and renewal fees of course.

NCBDC certification and AIBD 'professional society' membership (with certified professional/professional membership level, Associate level and I think Allied membershipand several others) is two seperate things even though it is under the same organization. NCBDC is an independent council within AIBD.

Some may suggest you complete your licensure and I would recommend that if you still wish to pursue licensure. It is all up to you.

I wish you luck, though. There are many options before you and no one recommends you applying the architect title if you are not licensed as one. Certified Professional Building Designer can be described as the closest you can be to an architect without actually being one.

The "Certified Professional Building Designer" title and the CPBD initials is in fact protected in a different way under trademark laws and being certified is providing a license to the trademark. Still... protected and should be respected as one that requires a degree of energy and effort as it isn't just paying for it. Regardless of technical legal methods behing how the title is protected, you still have to qualify, take an exam and pay for the certification dues, take CEUs, uphold the code of ethics and conduct, pay renewal fees and so forth.

As building designers we do take and protect the CPBD title as it is an honor in its own right not all too differently than licensed architects do. Never use the CPBD initials and "Certified Professional Building Designer" title unless you are one in active good standing. It's more a matter of respect and honor which we do understand... I believe. 

If you were licensed architect and passed the ARE, you can be a CPBD without having to take the examination. 

What certified professional building designer means? It means you have demonstrated via a peer review process to have a certain level of competence. It can make you stand out above the most bottom of the barrel rift-rafts. It provides for a certain degree of assurance and comfort to your clients that you have a certain degree of verified knowledge and skills to do the project. You would have a CPBD seal/stamp to stamp your plans and specifications. Never use it where a licensed architect or engineer's stamp is required. Common sense. 

Aug 8, 14 5:09 pm

Richard, thank you very much, you are a knowledgeable and helpful guy. I didn't mean to imply that basement renos are bottom barrel but I guess I did, sorry. I have no interest in designing buildings though, at least not beyond schematics, so that isn't my problem. I can send any commissions I get your way!

I would like to use the word architect because I wish to remain aligned with the a way of thinking I learned in architecture school and it shows a professional level study. It could benefit the profession indirectly to have people like me in other disciplines, especially education where I get to work with kids.


P.S. If I get to use the word architect and get rich, then I'm throwing you all a big party....... IN ASSSSSPENNNN!!!! 

Aug 8, 14 5:22 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

i think this is what most of are asking for essentially...

from Carrera above

"Medical paraprofessionals practice quite independently and can write prescriptions. So should architectural paraprofessionals with regard to working independently and seal drawings. Imagine the possibilities of this and how it could revolutionize IDP. I submit that half the threads on Archinect would vanish as a result."

Aug 8, 14 6:58 pm

You already can. 

One way is to become NCBDC certified and use the Certified Professional Building Designer stamp:

The one on the right that is triangular. Don't use that person's stamp. In addition, it is protected by federal laws. If you have 3 years of work experience in architecture/building design and at least a BA/BS in architecture or 3 years of architecture related education. Up to 3 years of the 6 years of education/experience can be attributed to your degree. A minimum of 3 years of experience. Once you have that and three submit a set of construction documents for three seperate projects from which you had significant involvement and qualified references then you schedule/pay and take the CPBD exam. If you pass it, you are then certified. Then you take your continuing education and renew each year.

Another example:

This is an alternate career path from which some of you may consider if you don't want to proceed through the architect license path. 

I personally believe a CPBD is more employable to an architect then a building designer who isn't in that it at least indicates some degree of education and skill ESPECIALLY if you don't possess an NAAB accredited architecture degree.

When you are a CPBD, you can use the CPBD seal on ANY project that doesn't require an Architect or Engineer's stamp.

Aug 8, 14 7:36 pm

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