AIA members: how much do you pay?


Every year I think I'll join; every year I blanch when I think about writing that check. In Los Angeles combined dues (local, state, national) add up to $563 for the first year, and $706 annually thereafter.

I'm curious about regional variation. AIA members, how much do you pay in total each year?

Jan 13, 06 2:21 pm

WHAT?! $700 a year? What do you get for that? (curious)

Jan 13, 06 2:23 pm  · 
job job

$632 AIA annual and local fees that the office pays. i get a limp magazine per month

cab and ncarb fees are another joy

Jan 13, 06 2:27 pm  · 
R.A. Rudolph

Actually it's more than that in LA if you own your own company - mine were $715 plus the additional sole proprietor dues, that adds up to about $850!
You get a weekly e-mail, subscription to Arch Record & arcCA (california AIA magazine), and reduced fees for AIA related events, documents and competitions, and then you get to put AIA after your name and people think you're an architect - personally I don't think it's worth it for small companies.
Last year I applied for a fee waiver (supposedly they'll let you do it once), and paid about $250 - this year I paid the full amount (excluding the extra dues for being a sole proprietor), though only after a lot of hesistation and taking into account the tax deduction...
I figured since the convention is in LA this year I'll go to that for free, and maybe enter a project or two in the local awards program. After this year though I'll probably stop for a while.
Apparently the fees they charge are about the same as for the equivalent professional association for doctors...

Jan 13, 06 2:31 pm  · 
liberty bell

$612 annually in Indianapolis. It's worth it, to me, for the stuff RA mentioned above but moreso for the networking - I just moved to a new city and need to meet people.

Jan 13, 06 2:38 pm  · 

what a scam. a couple of fee mags and a few pennies off their events?

Jan 13, 06 2:38 pm  · 

I was an associate for a year because the cost of membership was less than the discount I got on car insurance. Since I got my license, I haven't been able to justify it (same fees as R.A. cited). Even with discounts on events, there's no way that it pencils out. In LA, LA Forum is a much better venue for networking and interesting conversation.

Jan 13, 06 2:42 pm  · 

The AIA will tell you those fees support the lobbying they do in Washington. Ha ha!

Most larger firms will pay all or at least a good chunk of the fees. Then again that money comes from somewhere and is cutting into your take home pay.

I'm not so opposed to the cost, but I feel they do very little with the money. Hence, I'm not a member. For sure if I were a principal/partner architect, but right now I don't see the point.

Jan 13, 06 2:44 pm  · 

my firm pays, so it's free. that covers at least one, sometimes two, AIA sponsored programs a month, the mag, the newsletter, certain discounts here and there...

usually can complete continuing ed credits on AIA programs.

they also have some initiatives in which i'm interested/participate including introduction of architectural education in high schools and middle schools, an architects' house tour with benefits going to habitat, a voice for local architecture community in issues of the local built environment, etc.

it's only worth the dues if the local architecture community gets together and makes something of it. you can't wait to be served.

Jan 13, 06 4:43 pm  · 

fuck the aia

Jan 13, 06 4:56 pm  · 
1  · 

I'd join just to get the opportunity to meet Allison Janney, who was doing some aia radio commercials for a while over the summer. For that kinda money they ship her to you in a big box right? all with the "this side up" and air holes punched in the sides. Then when you open it she takes you out to lunch where she compliments you on your nice black ensemble and rectangular glasses frames before hopping a plane back to the white house right? Man AIA rocks.

Jan 13, 06 5:03 pm  · 

fuck the aia spokeswomen

Jan 13, 06 5:07 pm  · 

my firm pays, too, and i think it's about $700 or so per year. the question is, what's it worth? well, so far, being able to write "AIA" without "Assoc." ahead of it has been worth about a 10% pay raise and $12,000 in firm-approved side work. i got licensed about a year ago.

many clients equate non-membership in the AIA with non-licensure. of course it's not true, but that's the perception. i had a client tell me they'd never hire a lawyer who wasn't a member of the ABA or a doctor who wasn't a member of the AMA.

again, what's it worth? well, the TSA (texas society of architects, the state component of the AIA) just fended off an attempt by the texas board of professional engineers to define the practice of architecture as a subset of engineering. without the TSA's proactive advocacy the AG of texas might not have been prompted to counter the TBPE's move.

and when you consider really how few architects there are compared to doctors, lawyers, etc the "high" fees start to make sense. 100,000 US architects x $700 = $10,000,000 in income for all components of the AIA.

AND when you consider that the AIA over the past 150 years has honed and perfected a ready-to-use set of contracts for your purchase...meaning thousands of architects don't have to spend millions of man-hours writing their own contracts and paying thousands of lawyers millions of dollars to thoroughly review those contracts (lawyers SHOULD do a spot check on even the AIA contracts, though)...the fees start to make even more sense.

AND when you consider that local AIA chapters provide essentially a free way to market your services via their websites...a free way to find jobs via their want ads and resume i have to keep going?

last and: and by the way i'm a loner, not a joiner, and i have nothing to do with local/state/national AIA chapters save having my dues paid by my firm and reading architectural record.

Jan 13, 06 5:24 pm  · 

what's that old saying ... democracy's the worst possible form of government ... except for all the others ... that's how i tend to think about aia

if not aia, then who ?

you can say "fuck aia" all you want ... but without some voice and some effort at collective action, this profession would be in much worse shape than it's in now

i've been a member for MANY years ... when i was younger, i ignored the aia ... later on, i began to get involved and the organization came alive for me ... i made many friends who have helped my career, i've learned many things i would not have learned otherwise, i've had many good opportunities to develop leadership skills, i've met many important people i otherwise would not have met ... all things considered, i think aia has been very beneficial to me ... moreover, i also think i've made a meaningful contribution to our profession

like every endeavor in life, the value of aia is totally a function of how much you put into it ... if you simply remain a mailbox member, it will be of no value to you at all

Jan 13, 06 9:01 pm  · 

That's true, but I wonder how much the AIA really has to offer someone who has less than 15 years in the profession. For me, it is clearly a great way to meet other principals, develop contacts with other senior memebers of firms, learn about insurance and condo liability, but I'm licensed with 6 years experience and the AIA has nothing substantive to offer unless trying network to get another job. The contract documents are great, but then you pay for them every time you use them. Marketing the firm is great if you have a firm that needs marketing. Failing that, as a non-bus dev person working for someone else whose main concern is education, the AIA doesn't offer much.

Jan 14, 06 1:27 am  · 

I agree as well for the newly licensed architect, the AIA is a major networking and possibly a great teaching resource especially at the conventions. I've been licensed for over 3 years now and I work for a design-build company so the AIA label allows clients to view me as the architect and not a contractor pretending to be an architect.

The AIA is slowly working with the "younger generation" and shedding the "establishment" mentality by working with the newly licensed architects, I think they call it emerging professionals? The main benefits for me other than the label has been the knowledge communities of Technology in Practice and the Best Practices resources.

The AIA needs to reverse the mentality alot of architects have who do not join and work progressively to enhance and build the profession. As architects, we need to take a similar stand ourselves and make the AIA work and prove it to us that they have the same view...

Jan 14, 06 10:51 am  · 

just so you know the AIA has $56 Million in the kitty. (the incoming president announced it at a recent convention)

Jan 14, 06 11:41 am  · 

AIA >>> $56 Mil.
abracadabra, faia >>> $26 + some coins..

Jan 14, 06 11:59 am  · 

AIA's government advocacy leader to become Louisiana Senator's Chief of Staff - read

Jan 14, 06 1:18 pm  · 

... let's slow down a little here ... i'd like to ask Cameron Sinclair to verify his facts ... in the recent past, i've been very active in aia at the national level ... while i'm not privy to the balance sheet, i'm almost certain the aia doesn't have anything close to $56 million in reserves ...

it's possible that Kate suggested the annual operating budget might be $56 million, but most of that goes to deliver programs and services to the members and scholarships to students

national dues are $272 per person for a full membership and $96 per person for associate members (the rest of the dues referenced above are dues collected by local and state components) ... currently, there are approximately 57,600 full members (about 63% of licensed US architects) and approximately 14,400 associate members

based on the numbers in the paragraph above, members contribute about $17,000,000 in dues to annual operations of the institute ... the cost of running the national component each year is WAY more than that ... the remainder of the budget comes from the sale of contract documents, the annual convention and other sources of non-dues revenues

personally, i think membership is a bargain -- and i've paid my own dues for many years

Jan 14, 06 3:23 pm  · 

i quite the aia. after a full paying member 25 years.

Jan 14, 06 3:47 pm  · 


I checked the AIA's website and in my quick search I didn't find anything about the current year. However, I don't doubt Cameron Sinclair's statement, because I did find this from the previous year:

"AIA Executive Vice President/CEO Norman L. Koonce, FAIA, delivered the preliminary 2004 Annual Report to Grassroots attendees February 11, 2005...

* Sales of contract documents have exceeded projections by 64 percent, resulting in revenue-sharing with state and local components of nearly $3 million. Our current electronic format is receiving great reviews, and more and more licenses are being issued to a broad spectrum of users. This success is the result of implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan for documents nearly three years ago, and investment of $4.5 million during that time.
Koonce noted that in 2001, the Institute faced a serious crisis—the dire financial situation that affected the security and future of the AIA. Through sound fiscal management and a lot of hard decisions, “we prevailed, and words cannot express our pride at meeting the challenge. The Institute is now in excellent financial condition,” said Koonce.

A return to sound footing
AIA Treasurer James A. Gatsch, FAIA, provided attendees with an unaudited overview of the current financial outlook for AIA. During the financial crisis, AIA leadership created a plan to ensure the future health and security of the Institute. That plan called for the AIA’s total net assets to equal 20 percent of annual budgeted revenue by 2007. Gatsch reported that that goal has now been met—three years ahead of schedule. At the end of 2003, net assets totaled $5.2 million, with investments equaling $8.4 million. The unaudited 2004 net assets are $9.7 million, with investments totaling $23.7 million. In addition, Gatsch reported that the AIA did not use its line of credit during 2004.

And the good news continues: for every $1 of increased dues revenue, non-dues revenue was augmented $16. The AIA Finance and Audit Committee, however, is already considering the effect of a decrease in dues revenue in 2008, when the temporary dues increase recently adopted for the advertising program expires..."

Jan 14, 06 7:19 pm  · 

The whole idea of adding AIA after one's name to appear to be an architect to others is my biggest beef with the system.

AIA is essentially an evil corporation. Either you drink the $700 bottle of Coca Cola to improve your career, or you don't. Good luck suckers...

It's a monopoly. What are our alternatives?

Jan 14, 06 7:29 pm  · 


SARA, the Society of American Registered Architects; membership is $95.

Anyone ever hear of 'em?

Jan 14, 06 8:19 pm  · 

i agree with quizzical -- i'm not sure i accept Cameron Sinclair's statement based on the evidence presented here and from what i've seen over the years -- CS has thrown this big, dead, smelly cat out there on the table and he needs to back it up with facts (much more than what Bloopox provided) or withdraw it

"AIA is essentially an evil corporation" -- oh, please. this sounds like the paranoia associated with microsoft -- if you don't want to join aia, don't join -- but, then don't whine about how screwed up the profession is and how nobody respects us and what we do

we need a professional association to represent us and our interests -- you can stand on the outside and complain about the rain, or you can participate and try to make things better.

Jan 14, 06 9:16 pm  · 

I think that why a lot of these folks aren't members of the AIA is precisely because it hasn't represented the interests of architects - or only have concentrated on the narrow majority of them while ignoring everyone else. But you are right - unfortunately there isn't an effective alternative currently, so folks are left with the choice of joining an VERY imperfect group, or having no advocate at all.

Jan 14, 06 9:36 pm  · 

Just for the sake of conversation, I should say that my boss is a Director of our local chapter, and he basically has dismissed much of the governing structure he has to work with as being mostly interested in self-congratulatory awards programs and devising programs to justify themselves, without ever really accomplishing anything.

Jan 14, 06 9:41 pm  · 
quizzical & bluegoose

My facts would be her saying it in person at the AIAS forum on January 1st, in front of 600+ people. when I turned to the person next to me and said 'did she just say $56M' they affirmed it.

She could have meant 'annual budget' and not 'reserves' but still if it is a $56M annual budget it means that assets will/should be higher.

I have not seen internal audits but the AAF has $7.5M in net assets on a $2.6M annual budget so imagine the AIA having far more.

More food for thought: Christine McEntee, formerly CEO of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), was named the AIA's new executive vice president and CEO effective February 1, 2006

/not dissing them, just laying out the facts. A number of local chapters are pretty amazing (ie. NY, Boston, SF).

Jan 14, 06 11:28 pm  · 

affirmed => i meant confirmed. it's 10pm on a Saturday and I'm working. bite me.

Jan 14, 06 11:28 pm  · 

more looking about found this... it is a couple of years old but tells the tale of the AIAs' late 90's losses.

If I am wrong, so was Kate. carry on.

Jan 14, 06 11:38 pm  · 

and the College of Fellows investments

that's another $2.35M.......

Jan 14, 06 11:45 pm  · 

perhaps my post above was a bit more inflamatory than i intended ... it is regrettable this post produced such controversy, particularly since this is a matter of checkable fact

i think i know a few people who can confirm the actual situation and perhaps direct us to a URL somewhere where we can verify the real situation

give me a few days and i'll report back

Jan 15, 06 10:49 am  · 
Ms Beary

Agree with garpike. I believe it is unethical to sell the AIA as the architect title givers. They sell this to the public with mixed messages, and when in fact it is just a professional CLUB, is so HIGHLY unethical and therefore unacceptable and something I cannot contribute to.
On the other hand, I am proud to see Kate as the new pres. She was my pro practice teacher! Go Kate!

Jan 15, 06 11:26 am  · 


not inflamatory at all, at least not to me. I've been called alot worse on archinect.

the one thing I've been never able to confirm is whether the AIA is a non profit organization or not (the website is .org). A number of trade associations are so it would make sense for the AIA to. If so, their records should be public but I cannot find a 990 anywhere.

more food for thought: This was on Bob Vila's website (i know but architecture should be for all) on how to choose an architect...

"Check to see if the architect is a member of The American Institute of Architects (AIA). Membership in the AIA means that the architect subscribes to a professional code of ethics and has access to a variety of professional and technical resources."

the copyright is, the AIA.

also: here is some information from a company that will sell AIA member data

Jan 15, 06 11:58 am  · 

text on architects from bob vila's site

suggests searching AIA data base for finding an architect to install his tiles..

Jan 15, 06 12:20 pm  · 

The AIA is a 501(c)6 non-profit...
Here's Guidestar's 990 form for 2004...

It shows $40 in assets, although that includes real estate, of which I would think that the Headquarters is a signficant chunk.

If you dig in there deep enough, you should be able to find out how much all the big wigs make.

NCARB is also a 501(c)6, but they don't have a 990 with Guidestar, and they won't send me one.

Jan 15, 06 1:02 pm  · 

that's just the national chapter. I'm sure adding in all the local chapters they have serious spending power.

thanks for the link.

Jan 15, 06 1:08 pm  · 

can somebody please write what they want AIA to do for them?

for example, i would like AIA to read me a nice story everynight before i go to sleep.

Jan 15, 06 1:32 pm  · 

basic synopsis:

convention $4.3M
professional development $4.9M
publications & royalties $15.5M
Public Relations $2.2M
Member Services $2.3M
Dues $13.3M
rent of space $500K
investments (stocks/bonds) $23M (in.c $254K in interest)
land/building/etc. $32M

advertising $3.3M
top 4 'bigwigs' make $1M.
mortgage paid on HQ $1M (of $14M owed) w/ 7% interest
consultants $1.3M
periodicals/software $1.2M
grants/donations $1.3M
taxes $440K
grants/scholarships for students $270K

so all in @ $100M with real estate/investments etc. - $44M in annual income = $56M

Jan 15, 06 1:35 pm  · 

270 K for scholarships/grants is very small considering the money involved.
just one more nail for my 'do not become a member' argument within myself.

Jan 15, 06 1:47 pm  · 

270 k. like .5 percent.

Jan 15, 06 1:52 pm  · 

FYI: the AAF and the College of Fellows are 'sister organizations' of the AIA.

Jan 15, 06 1:52 pm  · 

cameron, have you guys ever asked for a grant from AIA for AFH?

Jan 15, 06 2:02 pm  · 

yup. received $10,000 for Tsunami work (thanks to requests from AIANY). The BSA has donated $70,000 for various causes through its' local members.

for point of context we raised just under $1M this year. i made $12K.

Jan 15, 06 2:07 pm  · 

looks like they were very generous towards AFH. like %3.7 of 270,
go head give yourself a $10 bonus you deserve it.
hey, if you ever need some canned food and stuff let me know man, i was a little over donated last year.

Jan 15, 06 2:20 pm  · 

For me, it might be worthwhile if the AIA:

Worked as an effective advocate for individuals pursuing licensure. From what I've seen, the AIA and NCARB are essentially the same body when it comes to licensure issue.

Acted as critic: I can't think of one instance where the AIA came out in opposition to ANYTHING. I don't think they have the resources since so much time is spent on commissioning surveys that support the status quo.

Led green initiatives: The AIA is involved in green programs and policies, but they hardly ever seem to be the driving force, more often they sign on to support programs that have been developed by other organisations.

Impelled innovation: The AIA has the resources to provide grants that will stimulate building and policy innovation. I've never heard of them doing anything like this in a significant way.

Encourage pro bono work and outreach into the community: The American Bar Association and AMA both have mechanisms in their national organisations that support this type of work. The AIA has... um.. a smattering of small local organisations (independent of National), and a recognition award for Cameron. Pretty poor.

Dumped all of the bullshit non-architecture services. Why are they spending resources providing market rate life insurance, AIA branded credit cards, when I can get these services elsewhere?

Spent less time and resources on awards. They AIA awards program seems to act as an alibi for not being an effective advocate for good design generally. Instead, we get 10 projects, documented by color photos, and the rest of the profession is ignored.

Had a larger public presence: I hear their advertisements, but when was the last time that the AIA was mentioned in a news story? Can't think of an example. Think of how often we have heard of the ABA recommendations on judicial appointments, or the AMA weighing in on health care policy.

Instead we get these reasons for joining the AIA:

Access to members section (the practice companion is in there. It's also on your bookshelf and in your local library)
Educational programs for CES credits. (CES requirements were pushed by the AIA, and now they are using it as a revenue generator. Shit, I can get 1 CE for reading a 3 page advertisement for Andersen windows)
A free copy of the Emerging Professionals Companion
The AIA Governmental Affairs group (hello? anybody out there?)
Architectural Record - in our office this is often used for keeping the side tables near the front desk from floating into the air)
Access to the AIA Library (which is in Washington DC)
Access to the Knowledge Communities
AIA Trust (You can buy insurance from them - a service I can from any number of places at the same cost)
AIA Advantage (Membership benefits that are pretty lame compared to what I get from my AAA card for $25 a year, plus 3 free tows)
AIA Mentoring Program (Tools for being a better mentor)
AIA Media Resources Center (Mostly a resource for local chapters, not individuals)

Jan 15, 06 2:23 pm  · 

abra - our $10K was not from the $270K student grants but the $1.3M grants/donations programs. so more like .7%

it was nothing to sniff at as it came at a time we really needed it.

I agree with you on alot of points you've made. Would have liked to see the AIA go on the news post-Katrina and do talkshows/news commentary. The AIA is changing, it just needs nudging/shoving once in a while.

I think they should also financially support the AIAS Freedom By Design Program 100%. no questions asked and no taking credit.

ps. we got a recogntion award? really? -- and remember folks, awards don't build buildings.

Jan 15, 06 2:49 pm  · 

Ha ha - maybe it was just misplaced optimism making me think that the AIA had recognized you guys. Please remove one positive from the pro-AIA column.

Jan 15, 06 2:54 pm  · 

i would like AIA to,

* lower its fees to 205$ flat a year (national+local) for membership so, low income independent minded architects can join in larger numbers and bring in fresh energy.

Jan 15, 06 3:21 pm  · 

* give a lot more grants and scholarships.
* get out of credit card and insurance business but instead start a co- op that develops funds to own/build affordable housing for/by ..., architects. yeah.. real estate.. great public visibility for architecture..
* say to bad and unjust developments, "goddamit, we don't like this..!"

Jan 15, 06 3:23 pm  · 

Blue Goose, yes I am paranoid. But without reason? Also, who is whining? Oh, you are assuming I whine about the profession. Don't assume.

I just read about SARA above. Sounds great, but damn if I got that I would have to explain to all of the single-minded clients that I chose SARA over AIA because of this and that and they would most likely not want to hear my complaints - that is if I would be lucky enough to have clients. The would probably leave if they didn't see that AIA. It is not like adding MD, but do they care to uderstand this?

Jan 15, 06 3:48 pm  · 

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