Using term architect


I'm from Canada, so I was wondering what ar the regulations in the US for calling yourself an architect. I was looking a the AIA website, but couldn't find anything. Or is this governed by state licensing boards? In Canada it is quite strict. The term architect can only be used once you are licensed with a provincial board. You may only use the term Intern architect once you have had your education accredited and are registerd in a provincial association. Any use outside of this is illegal.....except for terms like software architect, but that's another story... Can anyone shed some light on this for me?

Jul 10, 12 1:16 am

its b.s.  In Europe, one can call themselves an architect when they finish their bachelors or diploma 

Jul 10, 12 1:32 am

i personally prefer not to give myself that title.. sounds too ego boosting.  I prefer designer or so.  In the end, a good designer is what I want to be, not have the title of 'architect' and still design crap like too many.

Jul 10, 12 1:35 am

The same is generally true in the USA in regards to states. You legally (or at least by the rules of the accrediting board) state you are an architect when in a state you are not licensed in. This is mainly due to try and prevent people from other states taking work from people licensed within those states I believe. However, I do not believe it would really be an issue if it is in causal conversations or at a party, or you can phrase it "I am an architect in (insert state here)." If you were to get reported it would likely be by someone with a personal vendetta, someone within the AIA organizational structure, or an AIA member that firmly and strictly believes in their code of ethics. 

Jul 10, 12 1:40 am

Sure. Casual conversation aside, because I get it, you want to impress the girl or because grandma doesn't understand why you aren't an architect yet after all the schooling and years of work. What's the general consensus about representing youself on professional networking sites with the title? Personally, i think it's going too far, you're setting yourself up for a very awkward job interview when you have to explain tou've misrepresented yourself

Jul 10, 12 1:58 am

Anyone can be an architect at the proverbial cocktail party.

It's after the party that you can get into trouble for using the word (or any of its derivations): in a business situation or when you start printing business cards, creating letterhead, designing a website, etcetera.

"An unlicensed individual holding self out to be an architect" is the usual phrasing in the regulatory literature here in California.

Jul 10, 12 2:02 am

Don't call yourself an architect on a professional networking site unless you are licensed. You are right, it would be going too far.

Jul 10, 12 8:36 am

You can call yourself an architect if you are licensed in ANY state.  You don't have to say only in Arizona, for example.  Once you have taken the exams, if you wish to work and stamp drawings in another state, reciprocity is not too difficult.  You may have an additional course or so depending on specific environmental factors such as earthquakes, but it doesn't mean you are not an architect just because you are only licensed in one state.

Jul 10, 12 11:51 am

It means you are not an architect within that state. It is pretty clear that you cannot practice architecture or solicit architectural services in a state you are not licensed, and referring to yourself as an architect while in another state you are not licensed it may be seen as soliciting architectural services. It mainly lies within context, but you should still be very thoughtful.

Jul 10, 12 12:11 pm

@Dena:  Not true.  My experience is state boards explicitly disallow use of the term "architect" unless licensure is held in that state, regardless of registrations in other jurisdictions.  From the Revised Code of Washington (State):

RCW 18.08.310
Authorization to practice required

(1) It is unlawful for any person to practice or offer to practice architecture in this state, or to use in connection with his or her name or otherwise assume, use, or advertise any title or description including the word "architect," "architecture," "architectural," or language tending to imply that he or she is an architect, unless the person is registered or authorized to practice in the state of Washington under this chapter.

     (2) An architect or architectural firm registered in any other jurisdiction recognized by the board may offer to practice architecture in this state if:

     (a) It is clearly and prominently stated in such an offer that the architect or firm is not registered to practice architecture in the state of Washington; and

     (b) Prior to practicing architecture or signing a contract to provide architectural services, the architect or firm must be registered to practice architecture in this state.

Jul 10, 12 12:12 pm

^ agreed

Jul 10, 12 12:13 pm

ok - to clarify the op's question: yes, each state regulates professional licensure independently. there's no national standard in that regard.


there is a gulf of difference between the COMMERCIAL use of the term 'architect' and any other non-commercial use. if your intent is to solicit work, you're acting in a commercial capacity. that's what's regulated. the cocktail party? who cares. 


generally, an architect from a another country can represent themselves as a licensed architect for commercial purposes. HOWEVER, the big caveat is that you can't say you're licensed in that state unless you actually are. so, rafael moneo may not be licensed in the us, but can call himself an architect when interviewing for a job (say at columbia u.)


states vary on how representation of the title works. GENERALLY, one cannot DO business in a state without having a business license in the state. to get the business license, you need someone to have a license in the profession that you're proposing to business in. this can vary from state to state. some, like alabama, want you to have a physical office in the state to do business there. some do not. most want at least 50% of the ownership to be licensed in the area of practice. 


states vary on how one can MARKET (or advertise) themselves in a state in which they don't hold a license. some states will allow an out of state architect to solicit for services, with the assumption that they can't actually DO the work until they actually get the license. however, some states (like arkansas) explicitly prohibit soliciting for work unless you have the license in hand ahead of time. this is how peter eisenman lost the commission to do the u. ark football stadium project. 


so, yeah, if you're from canada, what you need to check is each state's marketing/advertising rules to see if you can commercially advertise or solicit for work without a license. but in general, my understanding is that you'd be ok. just say you're registered in canada.

Jul 10, 12 12:15 pm

(sorry - tim's post hit's on a couple of the same things. beat me to the punch). 

Jul 10, 12 12:16 pm
wurdan freo

unless of course you're an IT Architect or a Data Architect or a Solutions Architect or a Share Point Architect or a Telecom Architect or a User Experience Architect or a Business Intelligence Architect or a WAN Architect or an E Commerce Architect...

Jul 10, 12 1:48 pm

Weird thing happened to me....

My license in Texas was not active for few years now...because I just never had that much work down there to begin with. But I've been doing couple of jobs for the same client in the few states I am licensed in. he wants to do a medium size project in TX and as before he was willing to pay for my license activation in TX.

I called down to verify what I need and explained to them that I want to do a project down there etc etc. Wellll....few days later I get this threatening letter from the boards that I was soliciting work in TX without being licensed in the state.

I guess I should have never mentioned that I have a project at all....

Long story short ARCHITECT=licensed (for each state)

Jul 10, 12 2:19 pm

wurdan - dude, just let it go. we use 'doctor' for a hundred things not applied to medicine and it doesn't seem to hurt them at all. 

Jul 10, 12 3:26 pm

But then again it's totally okay for computer nerds to call themselves architects even though they have nothing to do with architects.

Folks it's scary - I've even seen people who are software engineers put "architect" on their business cards.

Jul 10, 12 3:49 pm

The key difference with the software-, systems-, data-, and other such "architects" is that they don't compete with us for work.  So, while it's annoying, it's not a threat to individual livelihoods.

The issue is with others in the building / development field who do compete with us, falsely using a title reserved for those who've been through a gauntlet prescribed by an official body.

I'd pose this question to young grads holding a new MArch or BArch degree: how would you feel about one of your classmates who dropped out a year or two before finishing, then put the degree on their resume, website, or business card anyway?  "I did a lot of the work, and can do whatever my graduated friends can do," they might say.  Fair?

Jul 10, 12 4:02 pm

Citizen - I still thinks it's stupid and completely demonstrates the ineffectiveness and lack of influence that the AIA and all our other bureaucracies have even about something so basic.\

That's what is annpoying.

I agree that it is unfair when people went through the hard work to get licensed but very rarely (almost never actually) have i ever seen unlicenced individuals put "architect" on their business cards - for one thing firms would interject and ask for verifications of such certifications.  See this is total bullshit.  You're basically saying it's cool for other unrelated professions to use our title but you continue with your absolutely baseless witch hunt for young architects calling themselves architects.

Pretty soon - you will start even coming down on those who simply list "Architecture" was their major.

Jul 10, 12 5:03 pm

I agree with Gregory Walker's post at 3:26 above -- let it go folks; move on.

Terminology used by the IT industry is a big "non-issue".

Jul 10, 12 5:11 pm

So many things to discuss, but I'll let my original post stand.  Especially the part where I ask architecture grads if they'd object to non-grads claiming to have a degree.

And this: I've seen plenty of unlicensed designers use the term "architecture" and/or "architectural" on business cards.  They aren't discovered by firms because they don't apply for jobs in firms.  Instead, they market themselves directly to property owners who don't necessarily know the difference.  You think there is no difference, and that's fine.   We disagree.  No need to bring out the nukes.


Jul 10, 12 5:21 pm

I don't have a degree and I'm and Architect......Smile....Guess I'm an Outlier.. oh ya and I have my own firm.

Jul 10, 12 6:46 pm

"I don't have a degree and I'm and Architect......Smile....Guess I'm an Outlier.. oh ya and I have my own firm." 

so you're either really old or you got licensed in jersey?

Jul 10, 12 7:22 pm

I've seen plenty of unlicensed designers use the term "architecture" and/or "architectural"

I can put up with not being able to use the term architect (although I think it is stupid because it's what I do) but "architectural and architecture" is a joke.  If you create architecture you can't call it architecture?  That is beyond overkill.   Sorry but those are adjectives not titles and you can't own an adjective.  The public knows the difference they are not that stupid. 

Jul 10, 12 8:23 pm

Qualify and get one in your hands! As of now and in foreseeable future, there is no equally professional alternative to it. Other professionals like IT architects, law makers, brains behind things calling themselves or referred as architects only increase your value of intellectual capacity and general acceptance of your performance at the helm. I am all for this kind of use. It is very interesting to ran into people in a social situation who identify themselves as "-insert profession here- architects" and you saying you are the real thing helps flirting possibilities more favorable to you... Even though most architects are seriously introverted disasters in social situations, reputation is that it is a fucking sexy profession without a question...

I hope this little post inspires some of you to get it on.

Jul 10, 12 9:15 pm

Ya I'm and old fart and registered in two states and not one of them is Jersey....Oh by the way I'm still working!

Jul 11, 12 7:00 am

Ya and I'm older than 50...


Jul 11, 12 7:12 am
wurdan freo

I could really give two shits about calling myself an Architect. For the record, I am not licensed. My point without stating it as such is basically what Med. said.  Why is the industry so passionate about beating down any little beginner who might make the mistake of calling themselves an "Intern Architect" and then not give a rats ass that other professions are applying the title as they wish. Total bullshit and hypocritical. But as it is with the whole copyright battle, a complete waste of time and money. 

Jul 12, 12 11:49 am

wurdan - i don't think anyone here is saying the title 'intern architect' is 'wrong', nor beating anyone down. the o.p. is licensed in canada and trying to figure out how he can use the title for commercial purposes here. 


i totally agree with orhan above. let's get it on...

Jul 12, 12 1:54 pm

Please, wurdan, just try seeing it from the other side of the divide.  Yea copyrights are all about "the man" trying to beat down the young.  Until you're actually a copyright holder - then suddenly those laws seem like a good idea that protect your investment of work and energy.

I would never go after an unlicensed person calling themselves an architect for that reason alone.  If someone was a total asshole to me, or blatantly did things that caused significant threat to public safety, then I might report them.  But there's enough work to go around and in my area of practice (residential remodel) the requirements are so grey that it's not worth making an enemy over it. (I have, however, made many an enemy by sending polite but firm emails to posters on job boards for unpaid internships.  That's a battle worth fighting, IMO.)

Going after software architects makes us look petty - again, not worth making an enemy.

But personal opinions aside, it's important to know what the laws are in your state so you don't find yourself accidentally in trouble.

Jul 12, 12 2:02 pm

Regarding other professionals using OUR terminology, at  least we're listed first in the dictionary, as it should be:

architect  (ˈɑːkɪˌtɛkt) 
— n  
1.  a person qualified to design buildings and to superintend their erection 
2.  a person similarly qualified in another form of construction: a naval architect  
3.  any planner or creator: the architect of the expedition  
— vb  
4.  ( tr ) to plan or create (something, esp a computer system) 

[C16: from French architecte,  from Latin architectus,  from Greek arkhitektōn  director of works, from archi-  + tektōn  workman; related to tekhnē  art, skill] 


Jul 12, 12 2:17 pm
wurdan freo

The whole licensing thing and accompanying title makes me furious. Even if you have a license, it does't mean squat.  No one is going to hire you to design a 350,000 square foot hospital if you don't have the experience. The license means absolutely nothing.

I'm getting mine so that when someone asks me, "Oh. So you're an Architect". I don't have to take 20 mins to explain how even though I do all the things an Architect does, I'm trained as an Architect, I'm within the letter of the law and I own a  licensed Architectural Firm, I'm not an Architect.  No other reason. 

Also for the record, I just passed PPP.  Whoopedy! 6 more plus about another $1500 and I too can be an ARCHITECT. I'm getting it on. Just not HAPPY ABOUT IT!!!!

Jul 12, 12 3:01 pm
wurdan freo

One more thing.

In the State of Wisconsin, I can pay $150 for a commercial contractors license and legally build that 350,000 sf hospital. Is anyone going to hire me to do it?

Not unless I am qualified. The license doesn't make you qualified.

Is there any less risk in building versus designing?

I don't see it. 

Jul 12, 12 3:09 pm

wurdan - I think your commercial contractor license example is not relevant to this discussion. Qualified or not, most likely you would be required to post a huge performance bond in order to receive a contract for a 350,000 sf hospital. The bonding company is not going to write such a bond unless they confirm that you are qualified and have the necessary experience and financial wherewithal to complete the work. In that example, the bonding company is acting as something of a surrogate for the state in ensuring that you're qualified to perform the work.

Architects aren't required to provide performance bonds -- absent that qualifier, the state licensing board provides the unsophisticated purchaser of architectural services some degree of assurance that you have met at least a minimum threshold of experience and expertise.

Jul 12, 12 3:36 pm
wurdan freo

Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

Jul 12, 12 10:07 pm

...well the contractor has a license (and must post the performance bond), and the structural engineer has a license.  Given this belt and suspenders approach, what's left for the architect?  ...maybe, for example, knowing the width of the corridor for occupancy load (which has to be reviewed and approved by the building department, HOA, etc. anyway)?  Does architectural stewardship really warrant licensure?  I often feel as though the goal of architectural licensure is too self-interested and protectionist if not mafia-esque (policing the use of the word "architect" for punishment and profit?).  I think we need to question the fundamental concepts:  can we, in good faith, call Frank Lloyd Wright an architect?  or is the path to architectural licensure just another cult pilgrimage?  Would you rather be FLW or a Scientologist?  Do you prefer having the talent or the referrals?  No doubt, playing all hands wins but I think most "architects" also have a sense of economy too.

Jul 13, 12 1:32 am


Apr 12, 13 7:18 pm

In theory you're supposed to require a license to use that term.  In practice, even the interns around here seem to get away with calling themselves architects.  

Apr 12, 13 7:57 pm

I am currently busting my ass to become one!

3 more exams to go.

Apr 13, 13 7:19 pm

This is an old post, but it's something that pushes my buttons as well.

I'm not an architect, or a designer, or even in the industry. (Wait... don't kick me off the forum!) I'm just a hapless consumer trying to make sense of things I know very little about. So I'm apparently the kind of person that this whole "trademark anything related to the the term" thing is supposed to benefit.

Here's the thing: To me, the term "architecture" has to do with buildings, and houses, and where to put the kitchen, and figuring out whether this wall is load-bearing, and what kind of railings will look best on my porch. Not because a bunch of yahoos have been running around misrepresenting themselves as architects, but because "architecture" is a part of the common vernacular we use to describe all this stuff. To me, a designer is somebody who tells me what color to paint my wall and how many throw pillows to put on my couch. 

In other words, in my simplistic consumer mindset, buildings and houses are broken down into two things: architecture and interior design.

So when I want some advice on a bathroom remodel and I'm staring at a blank Google search box, what do you think I'm going to type in? It sure ain't gonna be "building designer". But of course, if I'm looking for anything remotely related to "architect" or "architecture", all I come up with is a whole bunch of architecture firms that charge $200 an hour with an 80-hour minimum, and have a combined total of 53 years of school. (I'm obviously exaggerating, but you get the point.) 

Point is, it seems horribly unfair to both consumers and to people who legitimately provide "architectural design" services (and who may have advanced degrees and years of experience) to monopolize the common vernacular.

All that being said, I DO think it's important to protect the consumer and help the general public appreciate the schooling and training that you all have. But there are plenty of ways to do this. For instance, with special designations (e.g., AIA). The medical field does this well (MD, RN, PT, etc.). And as far as generally protecting consumers, there are regulations at least where I live dictating that projects of a certain complexity have to have an Architect's seal on them. 

I'm ok with reserving the designation of "Architect" for those of you who have a bizillion years of school and paid your dues on the bottom rung of the ladder. But would hope and expect that anybody who legitimately provides architectural services be allowed to say that they do so rather than being forced to use dumb euphamisms that confuse the rest of us!

Feb 22, 14 7:00 pm

Consider that a medical student is a M.D. upon completion of his studies but before he has completed residency. It would be of benefit to the profession to encourage young architects ( there, I've said it!) to call themselves architects as opposed to Registered Architects. As in "Yes, I am an architect working for XYZ company, I hope to become registered soon!". What in God's name would it hurt?

Feb 22, 14 7:35 pm

I think perhaps you need to adjust your thinking about what professionals provide and/or offer. Yes, interior designers can remodel your bathroom, but can they do an addition on to your home, no, and that's the way it should be. Why? Well, their expertise is relegated to interior work, and doesn't deal with requisite code and zoning issues. Can a builder satisfy your bath remodel, or your addition, well, yes, but do you want them too, do you trust them to do it right, on budget, on time, and to your liking? Chances are that for most people, the answer would be in the affirmative. But, if you're looking for something unique to you, to your site, to your specific budget, that responds to your needs, then you want to hire a professional. Sure, your dermatologist can remove that unsightly mole, or skin lesion, from your face, but it's your face, and the dermatologist isn't concerned about the scare she leaves, she's concerned about removing the blemish. You get what you pay for in the end, and I'll charge based on how difficult I perceive the client and outcome to be, and if that leaves me out of a job, well, that's okay too, momma always says, the world needs ditch diggers.

Feb 22, 14 7:35 pm

"Point is, it seems horribly unfair to both consumers and to people who legitimately provide "architectural design" services (and who may have advanced degrees and years of experience) to monopolize the common vernacular."

planier - i can understand your frustration as an end-consumer. really. the trick here is that 'architect' does refer to both the act of designing a building (in plain language) and is a protected title in every state. it's something that those of us (who only need 5 years of schooling, not a brazillian) who've worked hard to earn are less than enthusiastic to share with every wannabe who says they 'do' architectural services.

and that's the real rub here: any legitimate architect isn't going to be trying to deceive the public about their capabilities (at least at a root level). 'architectural designers' can (and far too often do). and, to be fair, there are lousy architects and good designers.

so, while it can be confusing at times, in the end you (or any consumer) has to decide who you'll trust to get your work done right. hiring an architect usually confers a higher level of both results and accountability...

Feb 22, 14 7:53 pm

"it's something that those of us who've worked hard to earn are less than enthusiastic to share with every wannabe who says they 'do' architectural services"

Yes, you ABSOLUTELY need some reserved terminology or other designation(s) that signify your level of achievement. It's something to be proud of, and us 'regular folk' want to see your credentials! The the good news is that there are plenty of ways this can be done in an unambiguous manner. The even better news is that the less you try to represent this level of mastery solely using a common, generic term that means something altogether different to the general public, the less opportunity there will be for misunderstanding and the harder it will be for those without your level of experience to misrepresent themselves.

What we don't need is for other professionals in the industry to fear being sued when they're just trying to speak our language, or otherwise be forced to describe what they do in ambiguous terms that we don't understand. 

Like I said, I'm ok with "Architect" (as in the person/noun, not the verb) being reserved for those who have achieved some minimum level of schooling or experience, just not generic terms like "architecture" or "architectural".

All that said, know that I didn't post here expecting much agreement. :-) After all, this is a sacred topic, and you worked your assess off for the right to use these terms. But thought the discussion could use an outside perspective, welcome or not.

(By the way, I should add that I have tremendous respect for what you all do - thank you for making the world more beautiful and functional for the rest of us!)


Feb 23, 14 12:03 am

Planier, the point you raise is one of the reasons why 99.9% of the built world is the architectural equivalent of the Mc'nugget.  Architecture is not a thing built by a person who the state recognizes as an architect.  Architecture is a space that connects to human mind and spirit in some meaningful way.  Problem with the ownership of the term architect is that it is a term that predates the state by thousands of years.  It is also a subjective term. Most architects never achieve architecture. Some non architects do.  Maya Lin and James turrell come to mind.  Design is not a lesser term.  There are people who design things that are far more complex than buildings.    The hadron collider is designed.  Robots are designed.  The term Designer is not a shameful thing.  Architect on the other hand implies that one designs architecture.  This is confusing to me since most do not.  The circle k down the street is not architecture regardless of whether the state defines it as such.  My position is simple.  Fuck the state.  The states definition of the term only matters if one has respect for the state.  I do not.  I respect the rules only because I do not want to pay the consequences, but I do not respect the institution because it gives me no reason to.  Should I or anyone else buy into the idea that architecture is the circle k or the target?  No.  Ill go with the historical definition.  As for the title, now that's another matter.  I would respect the term RA because it is honest.  It means a person that is registered to practice architecture.  But Architect way.  Until you convince me that maya Lin is less of an architect than Joe Schmo who designed the circle k I will have a hard time buying the bs.  Also, a med school grad is called a doctor.  After they pass residency and exams they are called md.  The doctor may or may not become an md.  Some go into research, etc.   but still called doctors.  

Feb 23, 14 12:15 am

A colleague of mine recently quit his job as an intern architect to start a business in arch. viz.  He's just getting rolling, but he showed me a 'mock up' of his what his website will be, and in one of the text passages, he refers to something like "by an architect, for architects."  Now, he's withdrawing his intern status and he's not competing for architectural work. Nevertheless I'd hate to see him get sued, etc. Nowhere does he advertise design or architecture as a service he offers, but that would still feel like a verrrry grey area if it were me.

any thoughts?

Feb 23, 14 12:27 am

Bowling ball, he's probably breaking the law technically but who gives a shit.  I'm more concerned with the fact that the polar ice caps are melting and LA is running out of water.  In a time when we need inclusion why do we insist on maintaining a rigid system that promotes a homogenous profession.  Could it be money? Status? The comfort of Protectionism?  No can't be.  People aren't motivated by self interest.  People are good.  Lol. 

Feb 23, 14 12:38 am

The profession is shooting itself in the foot and muddying its "brand" if you will. Again consider the medical field. Students who have completed their formal schooling put MD after their names and are called "doctor" even while undergoing residency. So you have a group of MDs learning and being mentored by older MDs while in residency. No problem there that I can see. In the the architectural field students who have graduated from a certified five-year program, who are working for architectural firms and designing buildings that are inspected and signed off on by their mentors, are not awarded any recognition or term for their studies? A by-product of this nonsense is that there are no architects in the 22 to 25 year group as they haven't completed enough experience to be allowed to take the tests. This group of people literarily does not have a name. It really shows what registered architects think of their junior coworkers.

Feb 23, 14 9:37 am

Volunteer, couldn't agree more.  In my state architecture is defined as commercial or civic buildings over 3000 sf.   This would imply that Wal Mart is architecture and falling water is not.  This definition deserves no respect because it is out of line with reality and history.  The state had reduced architecture to a nonsense criteria and has reduced the architect to a minimally competent person who cam stamp things.  

The solution is so simple.  Leave general terms general and protect the title RA.  

Feb 23, 14 10:54 am

There is a serious conversation happening now among AIA/NCARB/NAAB to figure out how to stop using the term "intern" for graduates who are not yet registered.  Hashtag results here at #notanintern. I've evolved to the belief that it could be good for the profession, not detrimental, to allow the use of the term "architect" upon graduation from an accredited program, with "Registered Architect" being used upon licensure, with all of the legal rights that are currently ascribed to "architect".

This would be a change that would have to happen state-by-state, of course.

Feb 23, 14 11:21 am

Intern In*tern", v. t. [F. interne] 1. To put for safe keeping in the interior of a place or country; to confine to one locality; as, to intern troops which have fled for refuge to a neutral country. [1913 Webster] 2. To hold until the end of a war, as enemy citizens in a country at the time of outbreak of hostilities.

Internment is the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial.

It's perfect, why would they want to change it?

Feb 23, 14 11:59 am

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