I was sent a renewal request for my AIA membership. My previous employer paid for my membership (which is about $600). I haven't really used it for anything and am wondering if I should renew it. Aside from the convention, are there any other areas where being a member is useful?


Jan 4, 18 3:54 pm

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Jan 4, 18 4:22 pm

If you live near an active local chapter, it can be a good place to network for employment opportunities. Not very useful otherewise.  Most of the people in my chapter have their dues paid by the big firms they work for.  The number of small firm owners and sole practitioners active in my chapter has dropped considerably over time as dues have gone up, up, up. 

My AIA annual dues and firm owner "supplemental dues" is probably the most painful check I write each year.  It is, by far, the most money for the least return.  I may as well be setting a stack of hundred dollar bills on fire.

Jan 4, 18 5:00 pm

It makes reporting continuing education a lot easier.

Jan 4, 18 5:48 pm
Featured Comment

MJB - like with every volunteer led organization, what you derive in AIA benefits is directly proportional to the level of engagement you pursue. 

If you're only going to be a 'mailbox member' you'll find it hard to ever justify the dues required. However, if you begin by making a concerted effort to participate meaningfully in the activities of your local chapter you will, over time, begin to see value that greatly exceeds the cost of membership.

I've been a member of AIA since the mid-1970s. Over that period of time I have served on nearly every committee sanctioned by my local chapter, plus held every elected office of both my local and my state component. As my career progressed I began to serve on national AIA committees (generally referred to as 'Knowledge Communities') and I've held a number of national AIA offices.

Speaking only for myself, I find participation in AIA to be extremely rewarding. Over the years I got to know well many outstanding professionals  around the country that I would not likely have met otherwise, many of who have become close personal friends. I've participated in important committee work of the Institute (i.e. The Handbook of Professional Practice, and the biannual AIA Compensation Report, for example), chaired a national Knowledge Community and led continuing education courses at multiple national and state conventions. 

Did it take a lot of time and energy - you bet. But, as I look back on that investment, I learned a lot from my participation and feel greatly rewarded. And, along the way, I was able to give back something meaningful to my profession.

Jan 4, 18 7:22 pm

Thank you for your work on the Architect Handbook of Professional Practice. Whatever that have been exactly.


The only benefit of being an AIA member is the 10% discount to their gift shop. 

Jan 4, 18 8:09 pm
Featured Comment

quizzical is correct. You get out of AIA what you put into it. I've gotten *enormous* benefit and enjoyment from being a very active member. That doesn't mean that check isn't incredibly painful to write every year, though, especially coming right after all the additional holiday expenses!

<related rant> My beef this year is with NCARB. $225-ish to retain membership, PLUS - and this is what infuriates me - they want to charge me $20 extra for paying by check. By corporate check, made out by my accounting department* and mailed along with all the other monthly billings and payments as part of our standard system. I'm not getting *anything* out of NCARB, especially as I only practice in one state. I may drop out of it this year, for real.

*Not really accurate, as I no longer have my own corporation as of 2018, but I did last year. And I never actually had an "accounting department" as it was just me, but I did have a monthly billing system.

Jan 5, 18 8:52 am
Non Sequitur

Donna, what's the annual cost to maintain a license? I don't have additional groups to send money to so this american system is confusing. Also, it's -40 here and my face has not yet thawed.

Featured Comment

The annual license dues in US states vary - the lowest I know of is $40/year, and the highest are in the $200 range. A lot of states renew licenses every 2 or 3 years - so you may be writing a check for several hundred dollars, but only every few years. The NCARB certificate is a separate thing - it costs $225 per year. An NCARB certificate is not technically mandatory - but many states require it in order to grant reciprocity. A lot of states don't explicitly require an NCARB certificate, but they require that your exam and internship record be transmitted directly from NCARB - and NCARB won't do that for someone who is eligible for certification, unless they get certified - so even though these states show up as not requiring a certificate, they really do require one if you're eligible for one. There are only a few states that offer direct reciprocity or comity on the basis of possession of another state's license, without having to transfer the NCARB record. In addition to this $225 to maintain your NCARB record each year, NCARB also charges $400 each time you need your record transmitted. If you let your annual dues lapse, and then in the future you need your record transmitted, then NCARB charges all your back years, plus a reactivation fee - it can amount to up to $1500 for reinstatement - that's how they keep us paying the $225 each year!   I have 4 state licenses, NCARB certificate, AIA dues, and dues for a few other certifications - all together it comes out to about $1100 per year for me in most years. Your expenses could vary, depending on the state(s) in which you're licensed, and the state where you're an AIA member.   AIA national+state+local annual dues currently vary from a low of about $450 in some states, to over $900 in others.

Non Sequitur

Thanks for the info. I have nothing like this NCARB to deal with up here is the freezing wilderness north of the border. Single provincial registration costs me $950 CAD (~$700 USD) per year. About twice that for anyone holding a certificate of practice.


NCARB is a ripoff and they can be because there is no way to stop them.  Who does NCARB answer to? Nobody.

I have seen NCARB board retreats and annual council conferences that were really fancy and obviously expensive.   That's where the money is going. 

In theory, state boards should tell NCARB what to do, but the reality is the opposite.

NCARB should be only a lean, low-cost centralized clearinghouse for registration records.

Jan 5, 18 11:52 am

NCARB's board is made up of members of the state boards, elected by the state boards. The annual council conference is attended by the state board members. The state boards don't insist on curtailing the fancy retreat and conference expenses, because they're the ones taking turns going on the fancy retreats and conferences.


Yes, very true. I do think the NCARB executive staff in DC pulls a lot of the strings and provides continuity for this cozy set-up as the state board members come and go. In their yearly reports to registrants, my state board constantly references the "guidance" and "assistance" of NCARB HQ in shaping policies and programs. I suspect NCARB ghost writes the rules and policies the USA and state board members don't have the time or interest to look at anything critically.

I mean, I think the general idea of national registration standards is a good thing. But if I'm already paying $225 for membership that keeps my record active why do I then have to pay FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS more to get that record emailed to another state? It's a total racket. And I'm someone who has defended NCARB vigorously MANY times here on Archinect: when I was going through the exams, back in the old days before all the records were electronic, every single time I called NCARB headquarters and spoke to someone about my record they were helpful and knowledgeable and quick. Now I just think to myself "I'm paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket so the CEO of this monopoly can be paid over $400K/year in 2016* to travel to a bunch of fancy meetings?" (*Public record - check Guidestar)


I know! And they always state that the high certification and transmittal fees are high in order to subsidize the costs associated with developing and administrating the exams. I would feel more ok with subsidizing the younger generation as they get through that stage - if I wasn't constantly seeing the evidence that what we're really subsidizing are the party culture and lavish lifestyles of NCARB higher-ups.

IIRC, I did the math a couple of years ago, there was about a 5-6 year window where it made financial sense to keep your NCARB record active after earning your first license, if you were planning on getting reciprocal licensure during that window. If you weren't planning on getting a reciprocal license during that window, it made better sense financially to let the record lapse and pay the maximum fee when and if you ever needed to get reciprocity. In other words, if you plan on staying where you are at and don't need to practice in other jurisdictions for 5-6 years, don't pay NCARB to maintain your certificate ... you'll end up paying more in the long run to maintain a certificate you don't use.

***Changes in fees may render the paragraph above incorrect. It's your money, do your own math.

Jan 5, 18 12:26 pm

I agree with that - but I think I came up with 7.5 years at the time that I did that math. But another thing I factor in is time to reinstate if I let the certificate lapse. There are a few times I've been hired by firms where one of their criteria was that I could get reciprocity within a couple months (so that they'd be able to use me in their marketing materials and proposals in those states). My past experiences with NCARB cause me to think that if I were to let my certificate lapse and then find myself in need of quick reciprocity years from now, it might end up taking several months longer if NCARB reinstatement were part of it. If I were to factor in the cost of lost projects or lost employment opportunities, the payback period for letting it lapse could be a lot longer.

^ This is a very good point. It took NCARB 5-6 months to issue my certificate after initial licensure last year. Add on top of that the time to transmit the record to a state board and you could be waiting awhile. Perhaps the time to begin the reinstatement process is when you start thinking about making a move to another firm instead of after you have an offer in hand. 

That being said, I think the desire within NCARB is to eventually get faster. At least that has been the case with the ARE (candidates can now get provisional pass/fail feedback at the end of the test), but there are probably a lot more people complaining about it there. Maybe potential certificate holders just need to complain more.


Yes, the ARE results are certainly faster now, for most people. I tested many years ago and at that time a wait of 6+ weeks was their standard for the graphic divisions, and 4 weeks for the multiple choice exams. Also they did an unannounced secret cut score study in 2004 that held up everybody's results for as much as 4 or 5 months, causing general outrage. It does seem they've been a little more transparent about when/how they're conducting that sort of thing since then - and in some cases they've even offered compensation or waived exam fees to the victims (er... study participants).  My initial certification application also took about 5 months - I'm surprised to hear they haven't sped that up since then!


It took NCARB a whole year just to establish my record so I could start recording IDP. I used to joke that they kept my record shoved behind a radiator somewhere. And we pay for "Filing fees". Pbth.

Back to the AIA ... when I got my license last year I looked at joining AIA and ultimately decided against it based on how much time I would be willing to put into the organization. I think many of the above posters are correct that you'll get out what you put in. In my particular situation I couldn't see myself putting much into the organization in the upcoming years except for the dues, and I didn't see myself getting much out from only doing that.

Jan 5, 18 12:30 pm
Featured Comment

The OP should maybe check out some of their local chapter's events and see how they like them.

Chapters can vary a lot in the quality and frequency of events and also the extent they welcome new people.  My current chapter occasionally gets very insular, resulting in newcomers and people in the wrong clique getting blocked from access to committee and board positions.

Jan 5, 18 12:51 pm

thisinotmyname, your featured comment is excellent - checking out the local chapter is the best idea. 

But as an alternative view to your second paragraph: When I lived in Philly the AIA chapter was really cliquish; here in Indiana we're almost *overly* welcoming - show up to a meeting here and we might immediately ask you to serve on a committee LOL!

Jan 5, 18 1:29 pm

Happy to support important research like this...

Kidding aside, the AIA in Dallas offered fantastic exam prep classes with free pizza. They also promoted happy hours for interns and newly licensed architects with lots of other networking opportunities. 

I do wish the national organization would lean a little more towards the center and not be so polarizing. 

Jan 5, 18 2:12 pm
Non Sequitur

what, no link to the survery? how can I keep sketching without knowing the best pen to appear superior to my peers?


It's a trap, they all lead to soul-crushing student loans and a general contempt for contractors.

Maybe I should lay off Archinect for some of the "news" they post under that title. ArchDaily posted that stupid pen article as "news" ... I like to think Archinect would have posted it as a feature.

I forgot, when considering the value of my NCARB membership, that they did give me this once:

It measures *and* it's a level *AND* it's a keychain. So there's that.

Jan 11, 18 8:39 am

Wow! So jealous. I've not yet attained The Level of the Key Chain. By my estimate I've paid in about $4275 in NCARB fees and dues so far in my career. Maybe the key chain comes at $5000. Something to aspire to.  Always good to have goals.


Wow! In a plastic case with an ill-fitting paper insert too.


I would think you would get laughed at if you ever pulled that out and tried to measure something with it. It looks like something we give kids out of the treasure chest for doing their work.


LOL.... thanks for the laugh.


At first glance I thought that advertised some kind of zero carbohydrate diet.


One problem with the AIA is their deliberate effort to confuse the public between AIA and licensure, in general, the public equates having AIA behind your name as being a licensed architect which is not the case.  AIA is simply an organization/club (a very expensive one at that)  that provides peripheral but not essential services/documents for architects, but those cost even more on top of the excessive membership fees to access; contracts, design awards, etc.  I'm sure it is a great organization for some and you get out of it what you put it - as stated by many, but I really never found much benefit personally.  

Jan 11, 18 9:20 am

Having AIA after your name does mean you're a licensed architect (though not necessarily in the state in which you're an AIA member.) It's just that the opposite isn't also true.


redundant much?


We're not saying the same thing.


I'll add to Bloopox said.... having.... "firstname lastname, AIA" means the person is an architect licensed in the U.S. by any one of the licensing boards that makes of the NCARB member boards.


Any organization that requires me to not only pay for national membership, but state membership, and any other sub branches is garbage.

I'd pay if there were a national-only membership.  The closest AIA chapter is over an hour and a half from my home.  Closer to two hours.  They do nothing for my area. Why pay? The state chapter is even less involved in my region.  

Jan 11, 18 9:43 am

Same here for me.... basically. All my local AIA chapter is happening in Portland, Oregon.... basically 1.5 to 2 hours. Depends on how the flow of traffic is if you take the shorter route.

They from time to time keep asking about me renewing membership and all that. I also got my back fees with NCARB record back up and still have to renew again in February. Whatever..... 


"I also got my back fees with NCARB record back up and still have to renew again in February.".... I am now up to current on it so I can renew again in a month.... LOL!


I used to live 3 hours from the nearest AIA club. I didn't know AIA disliked rural areas so much, but they do!


I'm not sure it is "AIA" but the majority of architects and other members of the AIA. They do tend to concentrate where there are architecture schools are. I do see where that can make sense for having chapters but if architects themselves were more distributed then it would make some sense to establish more "smaller" chapters so travel would be more manageable for people to use. People prefer not to spend more than 30 minutes to an hour at most which is about 50 miles radius. AIA would need a viable membership mass in the rural areas so it can do things effectively.... including grassroot advocacy of the profession and so forth. While AIBD has been working towards this, it is about being active tightly with the communities and being located near county seats or largest cities in the various counties makes reasonable sense when you are outside the large metros like Portland or Seattle. It is just my opinion but it makes practical sense in my opinion.


I can understand people not wanting to travel great distance to travel to AIA events. If they want to be active in the AIA, they want AIA events close to them. Since architects have been congregating themselves in cities where there is architecture schools, I suspect that is a contributing factor. I think this trend is larger than architecture.


I'll chime in here... it is also the AIA who perpetuates the idea that architects are just pretty-makers and have no real skills or abilities other than aesthetics. The AIA is for a certain type of architect and you should know if you are one of those or not.

Jan 11, 18 10:22 am

You mean dressing up as your favorite building doesn't convey an image of practicality, seriousness and professionalism?


ha ha. Those people know how to have fun. (sarcasm)


edit- oops wrong thread.

Jan 11, 18 10:29 am

ahh, the perks of protectionism!

Jan 11, 18 10:48 am

I think chapters or whatever should be organized to about 50 mile (or 1 hour driving radius... able to access via local public transits). However, I see problems with the AIA doing this at this time. For similar reasons for even the AIBD is also true with the AIA. We are too concentrated into big cities and if you live outside or away from the big metro areas a fair distance, you will have difficulty being actively involved with such chapters but finding a pool of members outside the metropolitan centers is very small. So much recent trends have been a concentration to the big cities instead of being a more widely distributed bunch. 

I don't expect any change on that front anytime soon !!!!

Jan 12, 18 1:15 am

AIA = Architecture Fraternity

Jan 12, 18 9:56 am

I think of joining every single year. I want to be part of a club. 

Jan 13, 18 11:06 am

The LI Chapter held a posthumous memorial award ceremony for my old man, and I was invited to attend and speak. 

Afterwards the chapter president - a guy who dressed, looked, and acted like a corporate lawyer - said "Your father came to me for business advice". 

I highly doubted that my father, who was notoriously bad at the 'business' part of his practice, every asked anyone - let alone some political stooge - for anything, so I replied, "And my father said you came to him for design advice".

Jan 13, 18 7:29 pm

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