Title for Architects, Ar.


While boozing with my friends this weekend we were discussing the widespread use of "AIA"

The point was made by one non-architect that using "AIA" after one's name is essentially the same thing as using "AAA", assuming you have car insurance with the American Automobile Association. Granted one membership requires a credential and the other requires an active checking account and a few hundred bucks.

In many circles, using a professional membership, in this case the American Institute of Architects, as a credential after one's name is considered bad form. Like many, I'm a member of the AIA and I use "AIA" after my name because well, pretty much everyone else does and most of my clients think that “AIA” is the de-facto indicator an individual is an architect.

I'm sure this has been discussed a few times before but I was wondering if anyone has considered petitioning their State board regarding a new title architects could use.

Personally, I like “AR.”, an abbreviation of Architect.

For Example, Ar. John Smith

This might be an alternative for those who dislike using memberships as part of their title.
I’ve seen a fair number of non-AIA members who using “NCARB” after their name to indicate they hold an NCARB certificate. This is fine assuming the average joe can figure out what it means.

We have a few people in our office with an insane amount of crap after their name. For Example: Jane Smith, AIA, NCARB,LEED AP,CSI,CDT. THis is insane.

If the responses here are positive I might consider writing my state board to see what their thoughts are on the matter.

May 19, 08 10:39 am

your name, Architect

your name, RA

i dont think most clients will know what cdt or csi are, maybe LEED, definitely not NCARB, most likely AIA

so why not just "your name, Architect"

your work will stand behind you right

May 19, 08 10:44 am

you can always just use RA after your name if you don't want to use AIA.

May 19, 08 10:47 am
liberty bell

I use the following:

liberty bell, Architect
liberty bell, RA
liberty bell, RA AIA

marlowe, I agree that using AIA as a designation that one is a registered architect is bad form. I never realized this until someone else here, I think it was JustWhy, posted that it's like doctors calling themselves Dr. Joe Bob, AMA - it's unnecessary, and it's not really a credential, just a membership.

Then someone else posted that the AIA encourages this usage, which it think is true, and misleading, yet I still use it.

"AR. Liberty Bell" - it would take a LOT of work to get this into the lexicon: you know when you fill out forms and they give options for Miss, Mrs. Ms. Mr. and Dr.? - it would be cool if Ar. was one of those options!

May 19, 08 10:52 am

RA works but my point was the placement of the credential.

I think there is a general stigma that credentials placed before one's name carry more weight than those placed after.

May 19, 08 10:52 am

Inventing your own convention seems tricky. There is already so much confusion over architects, what we do, what licensing means that a new, somewhat arbitrary title is not going to help with. 

That said, I agree that using AIA as a short hand for licensure is not okay. While my job pays for my AIA membership (I wouldn't be a member if I had to pay) my cards say RA (I'm in Massachusetts where we are registered). While I also agree that alphabet soup after a name isn't great it seems like we need a good, short, national way of showing that someone is a licensed architect. RA would work if some state weren't holding out. LA would also work, but it should be something that is universal and agreed on. Not sure how we do that as long as the AIA wants to be the signifier of licening, but with the current movement against the AIA maybe this is the time to come together and start promoting another option. 

liberty bell

Ar. would help clear up the confusion over information architects, too!

May 19, 08 10:59 am

But wouldn't there be the same issue as with Dr.??

Not everyone that uses the Dr. prefix(?) is a medical doctor…

so maybe it should be this: Ar. LibertyBell R.A.

May 19, 08 11:10 am

The problem with "RA" is that only some states register architects, while other "license" them, and a few "endorse" them (and a few use the terms interchangeably - for instance New York uses one term on the paper document that is issued, but another on the official architect's seal design).
In some of the states that license or endorse architects rather than register them "RA" is forbidden.
A few states do specifically allow the use of an abbreviation such as "ARC" or "ARE" - but these are seldom seen, as the general public doesn't know what they mean.

May 19, 08 12:43 pm

I'm in a state that doesn't allow "RA", so I generally write out "Architect" - i.e. George Bloopox, Architect. But I don't use any title at all on my business cards.

May 19, 08 12:44 pm

Some states don't allow RA? This is officially a complete mess.

May 19, 08 12:50 pm

There are apparently legal distinctions between "license", "endorse", and "register", so states that license or endorse do not always allow RA.

May 19, 08 12:54 pm

For example, from the California board's site:
"Q: May an architect be referred to as a "registered architect" on his or her stamp?
A: No. Although some states may have used that designation, the Architects Practice Act specifies the term "licensed architect" as the required title for California licensees."

May 19, 08 1:05 pm
liberty bell

What 765 said. Almost makes me want to quit.

May 19, 08 1:08 pm

Don't quit, lb!

(it's pretty bad, though. And I'm sure our lobbying organization, the AIA has nothing to do with this clusterf*ck, right? No, they'd have no interest at all in securing legitimacy for their own title while sowing confusion about the others!)

May 19, 08 1:16 pm

when my graduate degree is done can I append my name with ", Master"?

May 19, 08 1:47 pm

765 -- are you a member? if so, I'm sure you'll already know that your "clusterf*ck" statement above is simple bs.

AIA does not govern how the different licensing boards address the rules of practice in their own peculiar jursidiction. However, AIA does have a strong interest in streamlining and standardizing the rules from state to state ... as evidenced by these AIA Public Policy or Position Statements. Note in particular Public Policy Statements #8, #11, #13 and #16.

Since AIA is "our lobbying organization" I'm sure you've invested considerable time and money supporting AIA in its efforts to streamline professional practice for all architects - not just AIA architects.

May 19, 08 2:02 pm
Chilly Willy

In New York once you pass the test you get you become licensed and get your stamp. You are always "licensed" from this point forward. However you are not "registered" unless you keep up with your yearly fees and continuing education. That is why it prefers RA because it means you have paid the man AND passed the test. I think that's why it uses both terms.

May 19, 08 2:49 pm

Medical Doctor, MD
Lawyer (Juris Doctor), JD
Accountant, CPA
Professional Engineer, PE
Nurse, RN

Architect, AIA

Are we the only professional group that doesn't have an objective title of merit, but rather an homage to our LOBBYING ORGANIZATION? Seems kind of weird to me.

What if I have a political or practical disagreement with the AIA and refuse to pay dues? I then no longer have a way to refer to myself as a professional?

May 19, 08 3:11 pm

"Doctor" as a title doesn't imply professional certification, just an educational level. JD doesn't necessarily mean you have passed the bar, just that you have the achieved the degree. Same with MD I believe, though I don't know anything about the medical field.

I suppose you could add BArch, MArch, BLA, MLA, MUP, etc to your name and it would be clear in our world what that means, though in the general public it would be greek (like when you look at an engineer's business card and see the alphabet after their name).

At least until "Doogie Howser, MArch" hits the airwaves.

May 19, 08 3:17 pm

In both the case of MD and the case of JD, the title implies readiness for certification (i.e. to pass the bar or your medical boards. However, as an MD you do have a limited ability to practice.)

My real dispute is twofold:
1. Why do we not have a title of merit to acknowledge our "special training"? After all, it's not that easy to become an architect and we do have specialized knowledge -- knowledge that a lot of non-architects casually make use of.

2. Why us our common-use title, unlike every other professional group, tied to our lobbying organization rather than our achievement?

May 19, 08 3:28 pm

So, what does everyone think of Ar.?? Just give me a thumbs up or down....If I get 25+ people who things is a decent idea, I'll write a letter and send it to the 5 states where I hold licenses.

May 19, 08 3:36 pm

call yourself an architect, architect. you earned it, it's worth it to write out all the letters or, hell, put them in your outlook digital signature if it's too many keystrokes for you.

you don't have to be aia, ra, la, ar, etc.


it's only three syllables; 9 letters.

celebrate it.

May 19, 08 4:02 pm

quizzical - actually I'm not a member, and I'm not licensed yet, either (or 'registered', or 'endorsed'). I do, however, spend a fair amount of time volunteering for the local AIA. I've seen some of these institutional difficulties firsthand, but don't let that keep you from assuming I don't know what I'm talking about, this being the internet and all. ;D

The points you're citing don't seem entirely relevant: Point 8 says basically that you can only be an architect if you have the right experience, okay, fine. Point 11 says you need you need to take the ARE, yep, so far, so good. Point 13 says if you're not an 'architect' you're an 'architectural intern' or an 'intern architect'. I've got major beef with that one, 'intern' calls to mind an underskilled student who is paid accordingly, or even worse, Monica Lewinsky, but I think that's another thread. (notice we're still not talking about standardizing state terminology yet, they keep saying 'licensure', in fact). Okay, so point 16 says something about interstate uniform criteria, but again, as far as we're concerned, it's all still 'licensure'. Nothing about standardizing the terms. In fact, this thread is the first time I've heard that 'RA' isn't a uniform interstate standard!

That's absurd. If the AIA is really interested in '... supporting the use of uniform criteria for licensure that facilitate reciprocity and do not inhibit the interstate and international practice of architecture.', then where is this on their agenda?

I'll come out and say it, I don't think the AIA cares about RA or any other standard abbreviation because they have a vested interest in the continued public misperception that you're not a bloody architect unless you've got AIA after your name!

May 19, 08 4:11 pm
Sarah Hamilton

Maybe my opinion doesn't count since I'm still an 'intern,' but just how are you planning to address Ar. LibertyBell? Is it A. R. LB, or AR slurred together? Or is it supposed to be pronounced architect, similar to how Dr is pronounced doctor? How it sounds will be important, but again, maybe I dont count yet.

I do think that Architect is a very cool word. I like how it LOOKS in print, when in English. It looks kinda funny in greek, russian, spanish, and portuguise....maybe I just don't like 'q's.

May 19, 08 4:19 pm

I agree, just say 'Architect'. If the term has legal weight, let's exercise it.

May 19, 08 4:20 pm

I have a question about the format John Smith, Architect.
I see it very rarely. Does that have anything to do with the fact that you can legally only refer to yourself as an architect in the state(s) you are licensed in? Does the use of John Smith, AIA resolve this issue by indicating your membership in an architects only club without explicitly referring to yourself as an architect?

May 19, 08 4:21 pm

I like Sarah's notion of running the A and the R together preceding the person's name:

AAARRR, Sarah, I be soundin' like a pirate!

Just use the whole thing, following one's name. It IS a beautiful word.

May 19, 08 4:23 pm


In California it is illegal to use the title "intern architect" as well as "architectural designer". Can't do it.
(Do you guys read those horror stories in the California Board Newsletter?)

May 19, 08 4:24 pm


I don't read those as "horror stories" but as reminders that someone is actually looking out for the validity of my license.

When folks do it out of simple ignorance, I have some sympathy. For the others doing it but hoping not to get caught: cough up, buddy.

May 19, 08 4:28 pm
Sarah Hamilton

wait, CA graduates with out a liscense are called what then?

OOOHHH can I put Sarah Hamilton, IDP?! Oh, wait, I haven't joined that yet either.

May 19, 08 4:31 pm

you can't put AIA after your name unless you are a RA. and if you are a AIA member that is not RA you are an AIA assoc.

May 19, 08 4:36 pm

We're all interns. I'm 30, how old are you guys?

How is this not a clusterf*ck?

May 19, 08 4:38 pm

Sarah, I propose: Martin Leitner, Nobody

citizen: I agree with you - someone should look out for the validity of our licenses. The horror stories are the ones where people are punished for oversights: having the word "architect" in a title block for an out of state project, calling yourself architectural designer when you're just out of school.

What is your opinion on this: can only a licensed architect produce architecture and conversely, is every building a licensed architect produces architecture? Let's say I am a designer and design and have built a building, is it illegal for me to refer to it as architecture?

May 19, 08 4:38 pm
liberty bell

meltiner, that last paragraph of yours has been discussed endlessly here. I think the generally acepted opinion is that you don't need to be an architect to produce what we would grant the term "Architecture", nor does being an architect guarantee that everything one produces is "Architecture". But in either case, you can't refer to yourself as one until you are one.

Sarah, you hit on a very good point, and citizen your use of it made me laugh: "Aarrr liberty bell, would you be interested in designing me new ship, matey?"

I do think it reiciculous that we can't as a profession agree upon a term like "liberty bell RA" across the whole nation. Architects in other countries must be reading this thread and thinking "They're supposedly a world power?!"

May 19, 08 4:47 pm

there's always designer. while you can't call yourself an architectural designer, you can say you are a designer at the architecture firm so and so. Be creative about it.
Liberty: i guess I should have known I was not up to an original discussion with my last paragraph.

Speaking of discussion: I wore my "Architecture Sucks" T-Shirt to the Getty Center yesterday. Got quite a few angry responses from people working there.

May 19, 08 4:57 pm
Sarah Hamilton

Mr. Leitner, That maight be an interesting and original thread.

"I wore my Architecture sucks T-shirt..."

I would love to hear some stories on reactions.

May 19, 08 5:00 pm

Love the Mr. Leitner. I think I will change my user name. Is that still legal on archinect?

May 19, 08 5:06 pm

i can only attest for myself, but my reasons for joining the aia and placing the [associate] initials after my name stem from the fact that the aia has a code of ethics that binds its members together, the fact that it lobbies collectively in the profession's interest, and is a way to celebrate my education and experience while i am not yet licensed.

May 19, 08 5:08 pm
liberty bell

That's actually an excellent point, sgnt13: only someone who has completed architectural education can join the AIA as an Associate, right? So that's a way to tell the world you are well on your way to becoming an architect.

May 19, 08 5:12 pm

don't forget about the events and parties

May 19, 08 5:14 pm
Sarah Hamilton

sgnt, does your business card have to read Sgnt, AIA ASS. or do you write out associate completely? What is the proper abbreviation for associate?

And, Sgnt, I'm not meaning to offend, its just the first thing I thought of when picturing how I could get 'Intern' off of my business card.

May 19, 08 5:14 pm

that is not correct anybody can be an AIA associate as long as they are in a related field of the profession.

May 19, 08 5:15 pm

"Associate AIA" or "Assoc. AIA" are the correct forms

May 19, 08 5:54 pm
Rules of Designation
May 19, 08 6:10 pm

thanks for posting, quizzical. So an "Int'l Assoc. AIA" is an architect, but an "Assoc AIA" isn't...

May 19, 08 6:18 pm

In many cases, holders of architectural licenses in other countries do not meet the standards necessary to obtain a license in the US.

May 19, 08 6:25 pm
liberty bell

Anti, I'm pretty sure you're thinking of Alied AIA - those are product reps and whatnot. I mean I know you love to try to prove me wrong and all ;-)

Though it does say someone "working under the supervision of an architect" can be Assoc. AIA. I'm thinking that's not a strong enough criteris, does that mean my receptionist can be?

May 19, 08 7:50 pm

trace, AAA

I think my disgruntled opinions regarding the silly nomenclature of this profession has been solved. I have AAA insurance, too, so I can probably sneak an "I" in there somewhere.


May 20, 08 8:56 am

It's not entirely true that a licensed architect can only call himself "Architect" in the state(s) where he's licensed. There are about 20 states in which an NCARB-certified Architect may solicit work in that state without first obtaining a license there (see questions 37, 38 here, so clearly in those states it would be fine to hand a potential client my card that says "George Bloopox, Architect". In other states it's not so clear-cut - generally I can hand out that card in a social situation but not in any situation that might be construed as soliciting work.

May 20, 08 9:57 am

'Ar' before name or 'P.Arch' (stands for Professional Architect) after name or in association with name is accepted in certain countries.

May 20, 08 10:01 am

Blopox, so you have different cards for different states?

May 20, 08 12:06 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: