“Architectural Designer,” “Architecture Student,” “Architectural Intern", or just "Designer'?

Aspiring architects beware: The rules dictating how you communicate your professional aspirations and expertise are more strict than you may think. With constant state-level enforcement of architectural licensure standards a fact of life for designers, it may be wise to review a few of the laws of the land as they relate to terminology for unlicensed designers. 

A case in point: Did you know that if you are unlicensed and refer to yourself as an “architectural designer” online or in print, you could be in violation of the law in some states? That could be the case, for example, in California, where § 5536 of Article 3, Chapter 3, Division 3 of the California Business and Professions Code, Architects Practice Act reads: 

It is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both fine and imprisonment to advertise or put out any sign, card, or other device that might indicate to the public that he or she is an architect, that he or she is qualified to engage in the practice of architecture, or that he or she is an architectural designer.

That’s not all, however. Idris Ahmed, an Enforcement Analyst with the Enforcement Unit at the California Architects Board (CAB) tells Archinect, “§5536 prohibits an unlicensed person from using ‘architectural designer’ or even ‘architecture student’ or ‘architectural intern.’” Ahmed continues, “Further it would also prohibit indicating under areas of specialty that a person specializes in ‘architecture’ or any variation of the word ‘architect.’”

Ahmed added further, “An unlicensed person is free to say that he or she has a degree in architecture if that is a factual statement.”