The Title of (Baby) Architect

gehry baby 

The title of Architect is heavily debated within architectural circles, yet a meaningless title to outsiders.1 Unbeknownst to the public, architects have giant stipulations, and deliberations, with this word. In order to maintain a lofty air of superiority there are stringent rules applied to this title.

I have a Master’s of Architecture degree, have worked four years within several architectural offices, and have completed 6 A.R.E. tests, but cannot (yet) refer to myself as an Architect. Unfortunately, this results in many expounded conversations attempting to clarify the title “intern architect” with any (non-architecture) people.

The prototypical conversation is usually:

Non-Architect: What do you do?
Me: Architecture.
Non-Architect: Wow! You’re an architect?
Me: Actually, no. Technically, I am an intern architect.
Non-Architect: Oh?… so when do you graduate.
Me: Um, 6 years ago… I have already received my Master’s Degree in Architecture, but am not licensed yet.
Non-Architect: Huh… (Quietly assume to themselves that you must be a loser)
Me: (Divert eye-contact… bashfully walk away).


These conversations are always unpleasant; however, the post-conversation with my girlfriend is always more uncomfortable. And it is always the following conversation:

Girlfriend: When someone asks if you are an architect, you need to just say YES.
Me: But, but, but (stammering)… technically, I am not a licensed architect. I have not passed all 7 A.R.E. tests required for my jurisdiction, I have not completed the mandatory number of hours of IDP in a few categories, I was not issued a little piece of paper from the State of Montana stating that I am officially a licensed architect, and thus I do not have the authority to stamp my own drawings. Therefore, I cannot claim to be an Architect.
Girlfriend: No one understands these requirements, and they assume if you have a Master’s degree in Architecture then you are an Architect! So next time someone asks if you are an architect, just say YES.


Girlfriend has a point, and the crux of her argument is the fault of architects themselves. The general public does not understand all these circumstances, and thus my girlfriend has skirted all of the formalities and refers to me as her Baby Architect.

A baby architect is an unlicensed young architect on the path to licensure; whereas the title “intern architect” is confusing, demeaning, and leads to these unwarranted conversations. 

Furthermore, an “intern” in 99% of the Western World is someone still in College who is “interning” for a summer, thus the description of the word itself. However, an architectural graduate can work within the profession for 20 years, be promoted to principal, (yet never take the A.R.E. tests) and are still dubbed as an Intern Architect.2 

Some people have used the terms Associate Architect or Architect-In-Training. However, these terms are borrowed from alternative professions. An associate is taken from the (much higher regarded) law profession, whereas it means: in a diminished capacity to a partner. An Architect-In-Training (AIT) is taken from the engineering field, as an EIT (Engineer-in-Training), but sounds like a frivolous technical title3 (which boring engineers probably love).

However, Baby Architect breaks down the terminology and informs the uninitiated that you are in fact an architect (in the general sense) but are at the start of your career in pursuit of licensure. NCARB even created a Future Title Task Force to address the obfuscated title of “intern”, but apparently, if you throw in an undistinguished word before the word architect, then NCARB will not issue ramifications over your title. 

Within my current office, everyone is given the title of Project Manager to skirt these parameters. However, I am initiating a nationwide4 call to action to differentiate the collegiate “intern architect” from a newly employed architect on the path to licensure as a Baby Architect. 


1 By “outsiders” I mean everyone in the world who is not an architect.
2 At least according to NCARB standards.
3 Or a Vocational College.
4 Or perhaps just in my household.


  1. JK

    Here in New Zealand we are referred to as “Architectural Designers”

    If you want to see a silver lining, “intern architect” on paper does make you sound young *shrug*

    • brady ernst

      Architectural Designer does sound nice. At our firm we skirt the issue by referring to every unlicensed individual as a Project Manager. But the “silver lining” of appearing young is the premise of the problem: there is no difference between a high-school graduate making coffee runs for an architect, or a person with a Masters of Architecture degree. And while it does make you sound young, I would imagine the 45 year-old “intern architect” with 20 years experience might feel under appreciated.

  2. Ross Timm

    so quit your bitching and get licensed. I notice it is all the loser interns who complain about this.. “well I have been dong this for ten years..hmpf..” well, I busted my ass the first four years out of school to get that little piece of paper, and I had no giant cyan FAILs..

    • brady ernst

      Angry Much!
      I have passed all my tests now, but unlike most “loser interns” I still need a few IDP hours to get my little piece of paper…
      I would tell you off, but then I realized you’re from the worst state in America. I lived up there too for some time, and the lack of sunlight and cold weather makes a person bitter and stupid.

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