NCARB & AIA: Different Paths, Shared Goals

It often seems like there is a case of mistaken identity when it comes to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and NCARB, and the roles the two play. Some of this stems from our organization’s working together so closely, and so often.

So, with NCARB’s Annual Business Meeting and the Licensing Advisors Summit right around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time to clear up any misconceptions. Specifically, what makes these organizations different, as well as how they have collaborated to benefit the architectural community.


Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the two organizations is our members. The AIA presently counts over 83,000 architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners as its members. NCARB’s members, on the other hand, number only 54: They are the architectural registration boards for the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Considering the differences in our membership, it should come as no surprise that our missions vary as well. The AIA’s reads: The American Institute of Architects is the voice of the architectural profession and a resource for its members in service to society.

And here is NCARB’s mission statement: The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards protects the public health, safety, and welfare by leading the regulation of the practice of architecture through the development and application of standards for licensure and credentialing of architects.

The difference between the two can be summed up quite succinctly: AIA serves the needs of the profession; NCARB serves the needs of the public. NCARB actually released a document a few years ago entitled “NCARB and How It Relates to Architectural Professional Associations” [PDF] that delves deeper into the subject.


Both NCARB and AIA’s missions are vitally important—and it’s our shared commitment to the health of the architectural profession and the public that has enabled us to work so well together over the years.

Together, NCARB and AIA have been responsible for several game-changing advancements in the world of architecture. Past examples include the establishment and support of the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), and the development of the Intern Development Program (IDP). This partnership continues today, with joint committees in place to support shared goals, and collaborative meetings scheduled yearly to contemplate important issues.

Current activities include the joint Internship Advisory Committee’s selection of the 2014–2017 IDP Firm Award winners, and the AIA’s continued financial support of the Licensing Advisors Summit. For many aspiring architects, licensing advisors provide the first glimpse into the licensure process, providing tips and guidance along the way. You can find advisors in your area here!