I Am Not An Intern

A few months back I wrote about the use of the word "Architect" and defended keeping its integrity intact.  I made the statement (and stand by it) that only those who earn their license should be permitted to call themselves an "Architect".  Shifting focus now, I believe our next addition to the conversation would be the use of the word "intern" for recent graduates and unlicensed professionals.  This topic of debate has now shown up all over the place from LinkedIn forums to AIA blogs, and I believe it's just as important as the capital 'a' Architect discussion.  

Naming conventions come and go.  They change often and sometimes dramatically, but either way you can bet that when a new series of conventions are introduced they won't last much longer than a generation, maybe two.  With a constantly shifting focus on increasing visibility and understanding for the field of architecture, NCARB and the AIA have been stuck in the middle of who can be called what, when and why.  The "Architect" debate to me, is not even a debate.  It's the same thing as calling yourself a doctor when you are not, it is illegal and hurts the reputation and integrity of the discipline.  With that out of the air, let's focus on the traditional convention for an 'intern'.  

I am not an intern.  I am however a recent graduate working in the field of architecture making strides toward my license.  But please, refrain from labeling me as the 'i' word, not that it's bad but I think I've earned the right to be more than a summer laborer who is working for little or no pay. When people ask me what I do for a living and I say that I am an architectural intern, intern architect (which apparently now is an absolute no-no) or just flat out intern, they ask me when I'll be graduating.  My loan payments tell me I finished school about 10 months ago.

I take my career and my profession very seriously.  I believe there is a lot of pride to be had in being an architect so in that I refrain from calling myself as such until I earn the right and follow their conventions for personally labeling.  I'm tired of feeling like I'm subservient to the world in calling myself an intern (in this there is a discussion to be had about the significance the word intern has on our society as a whole) and see the label as an outdated and non- warranted idea that should have stayed in the creator's brain.

An intern is a position held by somebody still in school, at least to the general public, the very people we serve daily.  By definition, the word actually fits just as well as my proposed alternative, however social conventions have led people to believe certain things or be seen in a different light.  If the people that we serve can't even understand our career stratification, how can we ensure that they know they're going to the right person to solve their issues?  We need to make one final push for a standard that not only informs the public but also allows the people within the field to feel more pride.

A Solution

To me, I'm not sure why this still exists.  I think it's an easy solution that is only one (or two, if you'd like) word(s) and will make everybody feel a little more adult-like and established.  The convention should be:

Apprentice.

Or architectural apprentice, if you'd like to add on some clarification that you are not forging metal at the blacksmith's shop all day.  This would effectively remove the tag intern architect from those who have either a B.Arch or M.Arch (note that B.Science in Architecture should not be included for those who have a four year degree because it is not accredited) and give it to only those still in school (or graduated with a B.Science in Architecture).  This would effectively give a little more refinement to the overall tiered naming conventions and give an additional 'oompf' to the graduated individual working under an architect studying to become one themselves.  The new system of labeling would be as follows: Architectural intern, architectural apprentice, architect. Three concise levels of being for an architect.  Some may forever stay an apprentice, choosing to refrain from mastering their skill on paper, others may never return to school after their initial four years and forever be labeled an architect intern.  Whatever the case may be, there are three defined levels that cannot be confused anymore.  And if someone is caught using the wrong label (i.e. architectural intern calling oneself an architect) they can be banished from ever receiving their license, depending the severity of their actions.

I do not think that this is a huge problem to fix.  As the constant calling upon NCARB to look into changing it gets overlooked, there should be more and more blogs, articles, etc. just like this to raise awareness and call for change, both publicly and within the profession.  I am not an intern. I feel as if I've earned my right to not be called such but realize I still have quite a while before I can call myself an architect.  And that is okay.  To me, it gives something to be desired and worked towards.  I will continue to strive forward and eventually become the captial 'a' Architect, but until that time, I'm changing my signature to Vincent G. DeFazio, Architectural Apprentice.