AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BC+C, ID+C, O+M, ND, CID, RA...What is it with Architects and the Alphabet Soup after their Names???

So just what is it with Architects and the Alphabet Soup they have after their names...

Mary René Clawson AIA, CID, LEED AP NJLIC 13635, NYLIC 022949

Breakdown: I currently have 3-A's, 3-C, 2-D's, 2-E's, 4-I's, 1-J, 3-L, and 1-P 1-Y then those numbers....all after my name.  Let's look at what they mean and others you may see after an Architect's name and what I may have to add in the future to further qualify myself as the expert...

AIA = The American Institute of Architects  

Only those that have passed the Architectural Licensing Exam and have paid their dues to the organization may use the letters after their name. Others may join the organization but may not use the letters AIA, they must write out the words, The American Institute of Architects they are known as Intern Architects (those who have a degree from an accredited program and are in the process of fulfilling the internship requirements necessary to sit for the exam) or those in allied professions or sales may join and write American Institute of Architects Allied Member after their names.

NCARB = National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.  

The NCARB Certificate allows certificate holders to automatically qualify for reciprocal license in most states and some foreign countries. It does not mean that your are automatically granted a license and it does not mean that if you don't have the certificate, that you will not get a license to practice in states other than where you took your exam; however, it is supposed to make it easier.

RA= Registered Architect. One can be a licensed architect meaning they have passed the national exam in a particular state; however, they must maintain their continuing education and pay the associated fees within the state to be registered and to practice architecture in the state that the project is located in...i.e. Just because your architect passed the exam in New York, if he or she does not register with the state and pay the fees, they can not practice. If they passed the exam in New York and they want to do your new kitchen addition in New Jersey they must register in the State of New Jersey.

NJ # 0000000 - Letters in New Jersey were not enough ...the state requires Architects to use their License number on everything as well. Anyone claiming to provide Architectural Services or using the words Architect, Architectural Design, Architectural Plans etc. must follow it with the name of the Professional and License number, including business cards, letter head and advertisements. So besides all the other letters I also must add my number. I must also add my name and NJ number to the business cards of those in my office that are not licensed and have their name on a Clawson Architects Business Card to let the consumer know that I will be the one that will be professionally responsible for the Architecture.

LEED AP= Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional.  

The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. In my humble opinion, this is what architects have been trained to do since the beginning of time....but in the "certified" world, it is one more credential that all have been called to gain to demonstrate their worthiness to the general public as a valued asset to the project. It should be noted that one does not need an Architectural Education, or background in architecture to be a Leader in Energy and Environmental Design. Anyone can study and take the test including window sales men, the Benjamin Moore Paint sales associate, attorneys, lighting designers and building managers. In the future, within the next year all LEED AP's must specialize and include even more letters:

LEED AP BD+C = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Accredited Professional specializing in Building Design and Construction

LEED AP ID+C = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Accredited Professional specializing in Interior Design and Construction

LEED AP O+M = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Accredited Professional specializing in Operations and Maintenance

LEED AP Homes = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design of New Homes

LEED AP ND = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design of Neighborhood Development

CID = Certified Interior Designer in the State of New Jersey.

While Architects again have always designed space, and I do not believe that it stops at the exterior shell, the American Society of Interior Designers in New Jersey lobbied the State quite effectively calling for anyone that is providing interior design services to be certified by the state including Architects. So, in order for me to continue to offer full service to my clients, I am now a Certified Interior Designer.

ASID = American Society of Interior Designers

A few more that you may see Architects use:

PE = Professional Engineer. Mechanical, Electrical, Structural and Civil all use the same letters. For a while and in some states they still allow Engineers to take the Architectural Exam if they are Professional Engineers and they pass the exam.

AICP = American Institute of Certified Planners. The American Planning Association is a professional institute, providing recognized leadership nationwide in the certification of professional planners, ethics, professional development, planning education, and the standards of planning practice. For a while Architects were permitted to take the test to become Certified Planners, but now the certification is state by state and requires that you pass a test, pay fees and maintain continuing education credits.

In short, each and every letter takes time to earn, cost money to keep and requires continuing education/maintenance which again takes time and costs money. This is all done in the name of protecting the consumer by qualifying the Professional you are hiring.

All states and professional group websites have ways of verifying those credentials, but be sure that you are using their "real name". An example... my name may be listed as Mary Clawson, M. Rene Clawson, Mary R. Clawson or even just Rene Clawson...YOU CAN LEAVE THE ALPHABET OFF.

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The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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