Deciphering Architects' Credentials

As Nick Serfass once said during an episode of NCARB Live, “I’m a huge fan of credentials. I have about 50 letters after my name, and I plan on getting more.” While some can be earned by documenting experience and passing an exam, others require an architecture license. Here’s a breakdown of the profession’s most commonly used credentials.

Having an NCARB Certificate signifies that you’ve met the national standards for licensure and can expedite reciprocity, or the ability to seek licensure in other jurisdictions. Remember to thank anyone with a NCARB credential, because the program helps subsidize the cost of the ARE and IDP!

Registered Architect (RA)
This qualification is sometimes used by architects who are not affiliated with other professional associations to signify licensure.

AIA Membership
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a professional membership association for architects and emerging professionals. The organization offers several designations based on licensure status and other criteria:

  • AIA: Members who are licensed in the United States
  • Assoc. AIA: Unlicensed members
  • FAIA: Members elected to the AIA College of Fellows
  • Hon. AIA or Hon. FAIA: Honorary members

Don’t forget, recent graduates of NAAB-accredited programs can receive a free membership for up to 18 months!

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, and maintenance of sustainable buildings. Similarly, LEED professional credentials demonstrate a level of experience in the green building marketplace:

  • LEED Green Associate: Professionals with a documented understanding of current green building practices
  • LEED AP: Professionals who passed the LEED exam prior to LEED v3, which launched in 2009
  • LEED AP Building Design + Construction (BD+C): Professionals with expertise in the design and construction phases of green buildings

CSI Membership and Certification
The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is a national association for the construction industry. In addition to membership, the organization offers several certification programs of interest to both emerging professionals and architects. In fact, you can earn IDP credit for completing the following:

  • CSI Certified Construction Specifier (CCS): Professionals with knowledge in various aspects of specifications development
  • CSI Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA): Professionals who can develop, administer, and enforce construction documentation
  • CSI Construction Documents Technologist (CDT): Professionals with knowledge of the writing and management of construction documents

Project Management Professional (PMP)
Since project management is a vital component of professional practice, it’s no wonder so many architects pursue this credential. Using PMP means you’ve met the program’s certification requirements and passed the exam.