Calling yourself an architect



my boss thinks associate architect sounds better than drafter (rightly so) and so he printed some business cards with the aforementioned title for me.

I now have a lot of business cards that have "associate architect" next to my name even though I am not licensed.

Being the devil's advocate, if someone were to sue for improper use of the term "architect". Who would be at fault? My boss who printed out the cards and the firm that is named on my business card or me, of whom the title "associate architect" is affixed to?



Mar 18, 14 1:11 pm

Probably both of you since you both know or should know that implying you are an "architect" in the legal definition is not allowed unless you are licensed.  That said, nobody would sue since no damages can be shown.  The state is the only one with legal standing and all they would do is rap your and his knuckles and tell you not to do it again.  Why don't you just print cards with your name without any title?

Mar 18, 14 1:33 pm

Yes, people can sue.  Misrepresentation carries punitive damages.  Lots of scenarios where this would be applicable.  One of the first things we do in a litigation case against architects is verify the license status because the damages can be severely increased where you can prove malice via intentional deceptive practices that violate State statutes and the consumer protection acts. 

Do you hold a degree in architecture?  If so, you might slip under the radar if you are up-front that you are in the middle of your internship and not yet licensed.  You can also save yourself if you flat out tell people you aren't licensed and it's just the title your boss gave you (he'll be the one sued for misrepresenting you to the client).  I just recommend that you tell him your discomfort with that title as it is a deceptive practice.  We use titles like Job Captain, Team Lead, Designer I or II, Senior Designer, CAD II, etc. 

Mar 18, 14 1:46 pm

Just print your degree and university on the business card; the stamp maniacs can't fault that.

Mar 18, 14 2:37 pm

But in my state anyways if you are approved to start exams you are granted the title "architect in training"  just use that or use designer or "Master of architecture".  The state cannot go after you for using the degree title that you have.  It's your property and they would be violating your property rights since you own the degree.  

Mar 18, 14 3:05 pm

I just use designer, but I think I will start using "masters of architecture" just to see what happens.  Then if they fuck with me I will go to court Larry flint style.  Lol. 

Mar 18, 14 3:07 pm

I like jla-x's approach of going to court, Larry-Flynt-style: wheelchair, foul mouth, speech impairment, chronic syphilis.  

THAT'S a legal action I'd like to read about in the quarterly Architects' Board newsletter!

Mar 18, 14 3:17 pm

A better question is who would sue you for calling yourself an architect?  How low of self-esteem do they have to have?  I think a better past-time is finding those overly-pretentious people who sue others because they called themselves an architect and kicking them out of the profession.

Mar 18, 14 3:25 pm

lol... and also a good way to have the board deny your application for licensure.  At least here there are some loosely phrased business ethics and morality clauses for reasons to deny or invalidate your license.  Requiring further appeals and lawsuits to correct. 

Easiest way is simply to read the law in your State about how that term "architect" can be used.  You can't use "master of architecture" for instance in most States lol... plus that cape and Capt. Morgan stance as you announce your title entering a room would make you look like a loon.

Mar 18, 14 3:26 pm

What a strange democracy America is...

Mar 18, 14 3:46 pm

Job Captain..of what? Team Leader...of what? Designer....of what? Senior Designer...of what? Talk about idiocy.

Mar 18, 14 3:56 pm

...of buildings?

wurdan freo

I like Master of Architecture.... but forget the Architecture part.... 

I'm going to use Master Jedi... Of course then I'll probably get sued by Disney or whoever owns Star Wars now.

Mar 18, 14 4:28 pm

Mr President....that is how  I like to be addressed. Screw being just and Architect.

Mar 18, 14 7:12 pm

Can anyone show an instance where there has been a problem with the title "associate architect"? It seems like having the modifier of associate would change things similar to "inter architect" or "architect in training".

I wouldn't interpret that as an architect, just "associated" to one.

Maybe you should just go with "known associate" :)

Mar 18, 14 8:03 pm
Cripes. Get. New. Biz. Cards. Now.
Mar 18, 14 8:26 pm

Could always have a picture of Clint Eastwood with his serape, hat, and cigar on your card along with "The Man With No Name" where your name and title should go. The card should state that you will work for "A Fistful of Dollars" and "A Few Dollars More".

Mar 18, 14 8:47 pm

can't be beat

Mar 19, 14 12:34 am

Not bad. Also, there is always "The High Plains Drafter ".

Mar 19, 14 11:03 am

"Can anyone show an instance?"  I've worked on two cases where titles and misrepresentation played a role in the damages award.

One was a civil engineer who stamped structural drawings.  No concrete idea what happened to him, but when that came to light, it destroyed his company (or at least they were no longer in business and he was being investigated by the board and the state prosecutor) .  The rumor is he lost his license, thus his ability to keep the company.

Another was using a draftsperson to perform construction administration and representing (or rather not clarifying that he was not a architect).  The contract said the architect would perform CA duties... and she got busy, so he introduced this new guy.  He was billed as a project architect, referred to as 'the architect' in meeting minutes, and never corrected them.  He approved substitutions and approved the work of the contractor that led to severe damages. Multiple mistakes during CA.  The contractor and owner thought he was an architect and as such, had the reasonable expectation that he knew what he was doing as 'the architect'.  No one was formally reviewing what he was doing from their office; which I also think the lawyers had a hayday with because that is part of the state license to practice as a architectural firm (also a protected name).

The project failed massively costing $16million to repair.  This title thing played a part in proving gross misrepresentation of the design team... it really made them look shady and greedy.  btw; the engineering was also botched and this firm performed those duties the same way from my understanding... using unskilled cheap labor to review, observe, and approve work during CA .  I don't know if the firm survived it. 

Mar 19, 14 11:42 am

Mighty I hear what you are saying but those are examples of negligence. I understand that the title situation can contribute to the perspective that the architect and his employees were negligent but the title "associate architect" is not the sole cause of the litigation you cite. A firm could in theory represent an employee as an "associate architect" as the architect's associate or employee and still act in a responsible manor so as to not create the examples you cited.  

Project managers frequently get referred to as "architect" on construction cites. It's not your responsibility to go around correcting peoples assumptions. It is your responsibility to make sure your employees and yourself are properly overseeing the work and that it is  given the industry standard of care. That is completely separate from what the title of the employee overseeing that work is called.

The only cases I'm aware of where direct litigation or penalization has resulted solely from misrepresentation have involved people actively pursuing work without a license. in which case you are fraudulently representing that you are held to a professional standard that you are not. in the case of the employee the architect and therefore his employee are held to that standard so its not a fraudulent misrepresentation. I agree that it could compound problems if there is an issue but in and of itself I don't believe the title is a misrepresentation or fraud.

Mar 19, 14 1:06 pm

I would just like to point out another scenario,

An owner of an architecture firm can represent themselves as such, similarly as "principle", "partner of blank architecture firm". So long as they employee an architect, that is held to the professional standard of care, using the title architecture firm, architecture firm owner is not fraudulent. the firm is held to the standard of care because they marketed themselves as such. Any license associated with that work is responsible for seeing that the work is held to that standard of care. It is the same case with mightyaa's scenarios. The firm regardless of who preformed the work is held to the professional standard of care. Had everyone called that employee piss-ant intern, they would have still been held to that standard of care because otherwise they would have fraudulently represented themselves when they procured the work.

Mar 19, 14 1:37 pm

Jack - you have to look at your state's use of the terms for a intern/associate/whatever that is "not quite an architect" to see what's legally allowed. It may be nothing, similar to how we operate here in Georgia. Meaning, we have no legal term that designates someone who's "not quite an architect". So, "Associate Architect" would be... on the edge. If you, yourself, were representing yourself as an 'architect' and trying to explain away the 'associate' part as your title in the firm... yeah, you could be brought up for misrepresentation. But if it was explained that you were not licensed, then ok. And I'm talking in the 'professional' realm - where the representation of your status has consequences. 


So, until we know what your state recognizes, it's hard to say. If your employer is holding you out as registered, you're screwed. 

Mar 19, 14 4:40 pm

you could spend  a bit of money and become associate aia.  nobody regulates that one right?

Mar 19, 14 4:44 pm

Just call yourself a "master builder." Sounds cooler.  Or just print a card with tiny font and a long lengthy explanation of why you can't call yourself an architect but you have a degree work in the field and are taking exams, etc.  like a paragraph in pt.3 font size.  That would be funny.  

Mar 19, 14 4:53 pm

I like how Wile E. Coyote doesn't have any contact information on his card.

Mar 19, 14 6:41 pm

He can't . Not being licensed he can't have a telephone or email account. Someone might file suit. No fixed mailing address either. He lives in a van down by the river. George Orwell would understand that he is a non-person. Except for his student loan creditors, that is.

Mar 19, 14 7:19 pm

Burn the cards.

If you are in California you can be charged with violating BPC section 5536(a) (Practice without License or Holding Self Out as Architect).  You simply cannot use the word "architect" in any way to describe yourself if you are unlicensed.  They can be really strict about it and the penalties are harsh.

The state thoughtfully provides a website of shame for everyone caught:

Jan 3, 15 7:56 pm

If you are in California you might actually be in luck. I heard that they are extremely lenient and slow to act  if you call yourself an architect and aren't. I think all they do is send you a scary letter if what you are doing comes to their attention and pretty much leave it at that. 

What I can't figure out is what those poor souls did differently to make it on their list of shame. There aren't many names posted on their list considering how many people there are out there calling themselves architects who aren't. Gosh, probably 90% of the people who teach in the architecture schools in California call themselves architects but aren't licensed. 

Jan 5, 15 7:59 pm

^ they probably crossed the wrong people

Jan 5, 15 8:21 pm

When I get my next batch of business cards printed, everyone will just have to start calling me "Sir".

Jan 6, 15 11:36 am

In the trades architect is equivalent to idiot or fuckhead.

Jan 6, 15 5:31 pm

Then upon licensure, can I be "Sir fuckhead"?

Jan 7, 15 10:15 am

isn't 'sir' is a protected title in some jurisdictions?

Jan 7, 15 10:22 am

No, the Constitution forbid titles. That is why lawyers who put Esquire after their name are only showing they have no clue.

Jan 7, 15 3:22 pm

To be exact, the constitution forbid the government from bestowing titles and from accepting titles from other countries.

People can call themselves whatever they want, but it has no recognized standing in the US.  For instance: Sir Charles Barkley, King (LeBron) James, Prince...


So, I am sticking with Sir Fuckhead. That or you can just call me Sir, for short.

Jan 7, 15 5:06 pm

Readers of this forum should be wary of anecdotal information and "I think that..." type responses that are opinion, not fact.

The legality of the use of the term "architect" and its derivatives varies by state.

The Texas Board of Architectural Examiners regulates the practice of architecture in the state of Texas.

Architecture is defined by the state as practice that occurs within specific parameters. The title "architect" is a regulated term which means that only those who have become licensed professionals may legally call themselves an architect.

When it is brought to the attention of the TBAE that a non-registrant is using the title "architect", they can and do take legal action and levy fines that can run into tens of thousands of dollars.

If you are wondering what to call yourself before you become licensed, "designer" or "intern" are perfectly acceptable terms. Calling yourself an architect when you are not one is no more defensible than calling yourself a doctor when you have no license to practice medicine.

Mar 24, 16 12:25 pm

Cool, so does the TBAE pursue legal action against the tech industry for using the term or does it just keep to eating its own?

Mar 24, 16 12:41 pm
Non Sequitur

^ It's Texas, they probably just shoot them and call it a day.

Mar 24, 16 12:50 pm

Here is what the AIA says about it, saying in essence, that if you are clearly outside the construction field and using the term for something completely unrelated, like software, than it's fine.

However, I personally object to the many articles I have seen recently describing terrorists as "the architect of the plan to blow up", etc.

Mar 24, 16 12:55 pm

Correction to my previous post saying legal use of the term "architect" varies by state. It does not vary. According to the AIA:

"In the profession of architecture, though, you cannot call yourself an architect or provide architecture services unless you are licensed. All states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories (Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) require individuals to be licensed (registered) before they may call themselves architects or contract to provide architecture services. "

Mar 24, 16 1:01 pm

Just have it changed to Architectural Designer.

Mar 24, 16 1:01 pm

Orchid, that phrase is not allowed in many states. This is where individual title laws vary.

Mar 24, 16 1:11 pm

I got spanked a few years ago for referring to myself as an "architectural designer" in Ohio, even though the title is fairly commonplace in New York, where I had recently moved from.

"Project Coordinator" or just plain "designer" seem to be the catch-all titles that many firms use for unlicensed graduates now that "intern" has fallen out of favor.

Mar 24, 16 1:17 pm

Or the ever-popular "JOB CAPTAIN".


Which is what you call someone when you want them to magically get things done with no agency to affect change without running it up the ladder first.

Mar 24, 16 1:26 pm

Whenever I see the "job captain" title, I imagine an office that looks like this:

Mar 24, 16 2:19 pm

Is the title that old?


I only heard it after I made the jump to more corporate firms...

Mar 24, 16 2:23 pm

TBAE prints their disciplinary actions in their biannual newsletter. I don't ever remember them fining an intern; they more than likely just send a letter. The folks that they lob the big fines at are usually business owners who have been pretending to be licensed to their clients.

Mar 24, 16 2:27 pm
Wow. I wish the AIA was the last say in how we get to define who is who. NCARB, along with state boards, define what is in violation of what laws.
Mar 24, 16 2:28 pm

I think it is great that when you search "architecture jobs" half of them are IT related. Which begs me to the topic of definition. Architecture as by definition has two meanings, one related to buildings and one related to designing a project. The entire profession is already muddied and has become a hierarchical disaster. Why are we so concerned what our title labels us as. I wonder if those who have been practicing for years are concerned with the younger generation throwing the term around with much lax. Well, that is how the world works. It evolves, stop being so damn sensitive. People will call themselves what they feel necessary. Having to stoop to the level of legality just shows how fragile this industry is. Its a WORD.

Mar 24, 16 3:01 pm

No, it's a legally protected title that ensure the people using it have the professional qualifications to use it. If I have a brain tumor, I want the person providing my care to be a licensed physician, not a quack who created his wall certificate in Photoshop. If I get sued or have to sue somebody, I want to be represented by an actual attorney, not some paralegal with a 2-year associates degree who thinks titles don't matter.

Mar 24, 16 3:09 pm

sometimes words have meaning.

if i say i'm a lawyer when i'm not able to practice law, that's misleading people.  if i say a watch is a rolex when i know it isn't a rolex, that's misleading people.

the question is what value there is to the title.  if someone misrepresenting themselves as an architect is just as good as someone who is honest about their credentials, then there's not much point regulating the title.  if an architect actually has some value over the average snake-oil salesmen, then there is a benefit in regulating it.

Mar 24, 16 3:10 pm

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