PcM - Objective 1.1 - Associate / Intern Definition

I’m confused. The definition of an ‘Associate’ according to Black Spectacles flash cards is, ‘…a member of a firm with the least amount of experience’. This definition could not be further from my lived experience working as an architect in numerous firms in New York City over the years. The definition of an ‘Associate’ that I am familiar with is an honorific title given to a professional architect, licensed or not, who has shown promise and potential to advance within the heirarchy of the firm. I have never heard an intern called an ‘Associate’.

How can the definition given by Black Spectacles be so far from the reality I have seen in actual firms?

Welcome to the Black Spectacles ARE Community, @Citrillion ! Thank you for your question.

The term “Associate” and its use varies from firm to firm. Many in the industry are stepping away from the term “Intern” and also referring to unlicensed employees/aspiring architects as Associates. As you mentioned, some firms reserve the title for honorary purposes. The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (NCARB’s primary resource for PcM) typically uses the term “Associate” when differentiating between an experienced architect (licensed) and a design associate (unlicensed).

The AIA identifies its Associate level of members as “people with a professional degree in architecture, those working under an architect or enrolled in AXP, or faculty.” Prior to becoming licensed, my official job title was “Architectural Intern” but I was able to use the “Assoc. AIA” designation.

I know it can be tricky when the content you are studying does not exactly align with what you’ve seen in reality. When approaching an exam question, it is important to provide the correct answer per NCARB, not personal experiences or observations. At Black Spectacles, we align our study materials directly with NCARB’s objectives so that you are confident you are studying the right content to pass the ARE!

I hope this helps clarify the term. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Happy studying!

Kiara Galicinao, AIA, NCARB
Black Spectacles

I am still confused. I can’t find any mention of ‘Associate’ in The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (15th Edition). There is no entry for ‘Associate’ in the appendix. By contrast, the appendix does have an entry for Intern Architect. There is no entry for an ‘Associate’ in the index. However, there is an entry for Intern. This entry references the AIA definition of Architectural Positions. And there is not a definition for an ‘Associate’ on that list. The positions with the lowest level of experience are: Entry-Level Intern and Intern. No ‘Associate’.

Furthermore, the AIA only has one reference to an ‘Associate’ in the ‘Definition of Architectural Positions’, and it is an ‘Entry Level Interior Design Associate.’ Not an architect.

The Associate AIA designation has to do with membership in the AIA and not a team member of an architectural firm.

Can you point to a specific example in the AHPP where the term ‘Associate’ is used to mean an entry level architect? There is a definition of an ‘Intern’ on p.68. But again no reference to an ‘Associate’.

The Black Spectacles flash card equates Associate with Intern. They are not the same thing.

[Definition of architectural positions](https://AIA Definition of Architectural Positions)

The AIA definition of an Associate member is: An individual without an architectural license from a U.S. licensing authority who meets other architectural educational or employment requirements set out in AIA’s bylaws.

The Associate AIA member is not confined to a member of a firm with the least amount of experience.

To expand upon this definition the June 2021 AIA Bylaws define associate membership as follows:

2.21 Eligibility for Associate Membership.
Individuals without architectural licenses from a U.S. licensing authority who meet any of the following requirements shall be eligible for Associate membership in the Institute:
Those who are eligible by education or experience and are employed, enrolled or participating in circumstances recognized by licensing authorities as constituting credit toward architectural licensure, or

Those who are employed under the supervision of an architect in a professional or technical capacity directly related to the practice of architecture, or

Those who have a professional degree in architecture, or

Those who are faculty members in university programs in architecture and who are actively involved in research, administration or the teaching of architecture.

I would not equate this definition with an Intern.

Hi @Citrillion,

I hear you - you make several valid points. We will review this flashcard internally and adjust as needed to align with NCARB objectives.

We appreciate your thorough research and feedback! Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have any further questions or concerns along your studying journey.

Have a great day!

Kiara Galicinao, AIA, NCARB
Black Spectacles

Thank you :slightly_smiling_face: I would really appreciate it :pray:

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Hi @Citrillion - @kiaragalicinao and I discussed this and I wanted to share some thoughts on this topic. I have a similar experience to you, having worked in NYC for many years I also know plenty of ‘Associates’ with incredible amounts of experience who don’t fit into the definition on our flash card. In short, I’m not aware of any term we could use to replace ‘intern’ that would be universally accepted, which is part of the problem! Here are some facts about why we use the term ‘associate’ the way that we do:

  • AHPP was written a decade ago, when the term ‘intern’ was prevalent.
  • AHPP is an official resource for the ARE, so we need to teach the content, but we made a conscious decision to replace the term ‘intern’ with something else because the industry has pretty unanimously decided that intern is an outdated title. The industry, however, has not come to consensus on a replacement title that makes sense, so we, like all firms out there, searched for a replacement.
  • See this article from 2017 where NCARB themselves say (paraphrasing) “Intern is outdated, you can replace it with some other term as long as that doesn’t violate your state’s law”. Given that this was published after the publishing of AHPP, by the author of the ARE, we took this to mean that we could safely replace ‘intern’ with a term of our choosing.
  • In our search for a replacement term, we note that derivatives of the word ‘architect’ are not allowed in any jurisdictions, with a few jurisdictions not yet confirmed. So, using a term like ‘architectural designer’ would be inappropriate.
  • Only 6 states have confirmed that ‘design professional’ does not violate their laws, so we decided against that, since it might only be applicable to ~10% of the US.
  • So, what term should we use to replace ‘intern’ in our study materials? We landed on ‘associate’ because it doesn’t break any of the 55 jurisdiction’s laws and is often used in this capacity. We didn’t choose this term to demean anyone, and certainly not to demean those who are associates at firms with tons of experience, are licensed, etc. We explain in our PcM video ‘Staffing Projects’ that these terms are relatively loose, each firm will do it differently, but regardless we need to pick titles for our content and use them consistently.
  • We know this is a hot topic in the architectural community, and we would love to see some consensus on a title that makes sense for folks who have degrees, aren’t yet licensed, and have 0-3 years of experience in the field (i.e. folks who used to be called interns). If and when there is consensus, we’ll of course update our terminology throughout our materials.
  • All that said, I wouldn’t worry too much about this for the purpose of passing the ARE. It would be incredibly unfair to have a question where you would need to make a value judgment on what term to use for a specific person based on their credentials, because the industry itself can’t even answer that question currently.

Happy studying and good luck on your next exam!

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@coachchrishopstock @kiaragalicinao

Thank you for the detailed explaination of this topic. The source of my confusion was that I didn’t realize that the architectural community as a whole was moving away from the term ‘intern’. It appears that settling on an alternate definition is causing more trouble than it is worth. ‘Associate’ is not the answer! Furthermore, I was unaware of the jurisdictional restrictions of the terms ‘Architectural Associate’ and ‘Design Professional’. I think that is the biggest problem. Those terms would be quite useful and help to distinguish a recent graduate from an unlicenced experienced architect. I can see why finding an alternate term is so difficult!