working for a non architecture firm as an architect


I'm wondering about the legality of a working relationship. I've had this offer a few times over my 15 years as a licensed architect. I've always been a sole prop one-man show since getting my license and like it that way. The thing I'm often presented with is this: a company uses me for many projects during the course of the year and sometimes wants to hire me as their employee. They have nothing to do with architecture, they just require an architect for design/plans as their business expands to more locations. It's of course to save themselves money as it occurs to them that if they just have me as an employee they'd be in charge and can get all the architecture they want, through me and my stamp, for a salary paid to me as their employee. Most parts of that don't work for me but was wondering if I receive an offer I can't refuse, is it legal? Legal in the eyes of state architecture boards, etc.? Thanks in advance...

Apr 21, 17 1:24 pm

Depends on the state board. My state's board would require you to have an ownership stake in the company. Other states' boards will vary.

Apr 21, 17 1:33 pm

My state is similar, 51% of ownership must be design professionals. I just turned down an interview for a firm which would have lead me to a similar question. Company is basically a staffing form for the big three, one of the services they offer is architecture. No idea how that is legal but wasn't interested enough to ask.


Thanks for the input Everyday Intern 

Apr 21, 17 2:08 pm

At that point why not put you on retainer? Pick an annual salary, consultants fees by your "employer". Plenty of time to pursue "other" interests

Apr 21, 17 6:47 pm

Thanks JeromeS. Yeah that's the more likely scenario. Just wondering if the arrangement I mention is legal. 

Apr 24, 17 3:44 pm

I know a guy who was the Architect for Circuit City.  I'm pretty sure he was an employee of the company.  It will definitely depend on state regs.

Every state entity around here has their own Architects and Engineers.  Colleges do the same.  I can't see why it would be a problem for a corporation to hire you. 

Apr 24, 17 4:22 pm

much different to be an architect for Circuit City than to be the Architect for a Circuit City. I would guess they still went to a local for record drawings.

Apr 24, 17 4:28 pm

The legal question will vary based on the jurisdiction in which you are practicing; but for the few jurisdictions where I am licensed, the answer is 'NO'.  At the very least, it would require a Certificate of Authorization from the local State Board (assuming you met the requirements for a corporation to practice architecture in that State); in one jurisdiction, I had to form a foreign corporation in addition to getting approval to practice as a corporation so I could they could properly monitor me for sales tax on some of the billings.

The more important question (I think) is: why are you willing to assume the liability that comes with signing and sealing any work for what is likely to be less money than what you would collect if you had a formal Owner/Architect agreement without the possible conflict that could arise when your employer forces you to do work that may not meet the standard of care you would otherwise be able to exercise?  Again, in the jurisdictions where I have a license, this liability cannot be 'waived' or reduced contractually, so why take on additional / increased risk for less money?.

(If, however, you were / are able to get the same or better salary AND the employer is picking up the cost of professional liability insurance while you are employed AND all premiums related to this work for the years after you have left the employer - I would try to get three years as a minimum - then, make sure you have met the conditions of the local state board for practice.  Otherwise, you still risk loss of your license...)

Apr 24, 17 5:58 pm

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