Letters That Show MembershipIn many cases, the letters are abbreviations for professional associations. The letters AIA, for example, indicate that the architect is a member of the American Institute of Architects. Professionals must be licensed to join, but membership in the organization does not necessarily mean that the architect is more highly qualified than a non-member architect who is licensed and has experience in the type of project you plan. Some licensed architects who do not belong to the American Institute of Architects choose to join the Association of Licensed Architects. They use the acronym ALA.
Letters That Show LicensesIn other cases, the letters indicate that the pro has passed exams or met other important requirements for licensing or certification. An RA, for example, is a Registered Architect. A Registered Architect has completed an internship and passed a rigorous series of examinations offered by official architectural registration boards in the United States and Canada. Members of AIA and ALA are usually RAs, but not all RAs are members of the AIA or ALA.
Confused? Don't drown in the alphabet soup. Our glossary of Architecture Acronymns has definitions for some of the most common acronyms, initials, and abbreviations used by architects, designers, engineers, and other building professionals.