What are AIA, AIAS, NAAB, ACSA, and NCARB?

As you pursue the path to becoming an architect, you will come across the Collateral Organizations (Alphabet Soup) as outlined below.  In some respects, you should become familiar with them as they provide opportunities both as a student and as a professional.

If I remember back, I did NOT know of them fully until later in my architectural path.  However, once I did learn of them, I took full advantage of them.  In fact, I have the tremendous opportunity to be engaged with each of them in different ways over my professional career.


American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) – is an independent, student-run organization dedicated to providing unmatched progressive programs, information, and resources on issues critical to architecture and the experience of education.

As an undergraduate, I was not aware of AIAS, but during my first year of graduate studies, I became overly involved.  During that fall, I attended the AIAS Annual Meeting – Forum.  The following year I attended the first annual Grassroots Leadership in Washington, DC.  Later, I attended Forum again (in New York City) and was successful in being elected as national Vice-President; this offered me the opportunity to live and serve in Washington, DC.  Oddly, this was my first professional career position.  Needed to say, I got of AIAS much more  than I gave back.  Because of AIAS, I travelled to Budapest, Hungary.

Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) – is a nonprofit, membership association to advance the quality of architectural education.

As an architecture student, you interact with faculty; faculty and academic deans are members of ACSA.  Held annually, ACSA sponsors student design competitions.  Much of their programming is targeted to faculty, but they are worth checking out as a resource.  ACSA sponsors ( and IMadeThat (

American Institute of Architects (AIA)Based in Washington, D.C., the AIA has been the leading professional membership association for licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners since 1857.

Because of a program that I helped create while at AIAS – The Search for Shelter, I ended of working at AIA for a few years.  My main focus was directing the program – connecting architecture students, architects, and neighborhood community groups.

As an emerging professional, you should strongly consider joining the AIA; there are tremendous opportunities at the local, state, and national levels.  For example, attend the national AIA Convention held every year.

National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) – accredits professional degrees in architecture offered by institutions accredited by a U.S. regional accrediting agency.

As a student, the NAAB is more important than you know; you might not fully understand its importance, but they dictate what you are learning.  While architecture programs may teach the architectural topics differently, all programs are teaching from the NAAB criteria.  As you research programs, check out the NAAB website for details on the programs and their accreditation.

Albeit it was only for slightly more than a year, I had the opportunity to serve on the staff of NAAB.  I was involved in developing the Annual Report system and Substantial Equivalency.

National Council of Architectural Registration Boards – NCARB members are the architectural registration boards of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

As you begin your studies, you will want to enroll in AXP – Architectural eXperience Program; visit the NCARB website to learn the details of AXP.  During my much of my professional career, I had the pleasure of serving as an AXP advisor.  I gave many presentations on the program to students.


The Collateral Organizations are more than resources; they provide opportunities to you as you journey on your path to becoming an architect.  Do take advantage of them.

Now, you know the alphabet soup.


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