Where we stand: Professional licensure

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Architects design the built environment where people conduct all aspects of their lives.  Improperly designed buildings can pose a threat to occupants and the public. The essential purpose of licensing architects is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and shield consumers from unqualified practitioners. Architectural licensing is granted only when candidates demonstrate sufficient professional education, complete a rigorous program of real-world experience under the supervision of a licensed architect and pass a comprehensive professional examination.

In design, architects preemptively save lives, promote health and demonstrably increase well-being in the built environment.  Diminishing the requirements for the professional licensure of architects is risky; the stakes are simply too high. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) strongly opposes any efforts to reduce or remove requirements for the professional licensing of architects.

As licensed architects, we uphold the following principles:

  • The health, safety and welfare of the public depend on having licensed, continually educated architects. Becoming a licensed architect involves a rigorous process of education, experience and examination. To qualify to enter the profession, architects must earn a professional degree. Many earn advanced degrees.  In addition to meeting educational requirements, architects must complete an extensive professional experience program that documents thousands of hours of practical experience under the supervision of a licensed architect in all aspects of professional practice. Architects must pass the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), which is composed of six divisions that test essential professional skills and knowledge. Finally, AIA member architects are required to continue their education even after being licensed, to make sure they stay up to date on the latest techniques in design and the production of construction documents.
  • State licensing boards are crucial to maintaining professional accountability and guarding against unlicensed professionals. State licensing boards regulate the profession and ensure architects have the skills and knowledge necessary to protect the public.  Boards accomplish this by setting state-specific requirements for architectural education, experience and examination. It is in the public interest to maintain strong and independent state licensing boards. Many include public members and/or practitioners from related professions (engineering, landscape architecture).
  • AIA works to uphold professional licensure in all 54 states and territories. Through legislative and regulatory processes, states review professional licensing to ensure the public’s health, safety and welfare are protected through the most efficient and effective means. AIA is engaged in educating state legislators on what architects do and the continuing importance of licensure to the profession and the public.
  • License portability for architects protects us in times of disaster. When an architect’s license is portable to more than one state, architects can provide mutual aid in a declared disaster that exceeds the state’s capacity to respond. A path to obtain reciprocity already exists in the 54 U.S. jurisdictions to enable architects to practice across state lines.  A reciprocal license can also be obtained, which is accepted in all 54 jurisdictions and is required by 26 of them. We support efforts that are currently in place to increase the ability of architects to practice across state lines.

The values of our profession require that we, as architects, have a duty as defined in the AIA Code of Ethics and elsewhere to uphold appropriate professional standards. We oppose efforts on the federal and state levels that could result in weakening or eliminating professional licensure for architects.  Simply stated, our message is:

  • Architects study and train extensively and become licensed to help ensure the health, safety and welfare of all who occupy and visit the structures that they design.
  • All U.S. states and territories require a license to practice architecture as a means to ensure buildings are safe for their occupants and the public.
  • The AIA believes the public is best served when state regulatory boards, duly constituted under state law, are free to regulate professional licensure on behalf of the public and consumers.

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