Why the AIA is the Perfect Support for Your Architecture Career

This post has been adapted from the original entry from the member-exclusive Evolution Weekly on May 22, 2016. Sign up today and get entries like this sent directly to your inbox!

Evolving Architect / 'Why the AIA is the Perfect Support for Your Architecture Career'

You may have heard about the recent convergence of Architects from all across the nation in historic Philadelphia, PA.

This week, the American Institute of Architects held their prestigious National Convention in the City of Brotherly Love to celebrate ideas, architects, and the built environment. The keynote speakers were particularly interesting choices this year and varied from the hilarious Julia Louis-Dreyfus to the clever Neri Oxman, and the legendary Rem Koolhaas.

“The AIA serves as the voice of the architecture profession and the resource for members in service to society.”
The American Institute of Architects



Since 1857, the American Institute of Architects has served its members in the pursuit of Architecture. Behind the scenes, the AIA strives to protect the interests of architects. You may not even be aware of the fights they’ve made on our behalf. When a group tries to take away inherent rights from our discipline, the AIA is there in our corner to defend us.

But the AIA is more than just advocacy.

Every year, I’m reminded of the Convention’s ability to inspire and educate. And although I was unable to attend this year’s festivities, I remember what the AIA has already done for my career and those of so many others.

So, what’s so great about the AIA?

Well, before we get to talk about everything that’s amazing, let’s start with the bad news. It’s kind of expensive. We’re talking in the range of $200 for non-licensed members and $400 for licensed members. And… that’s not just a one-time fee, it’s annual. Yikes!

But, that said. Hear me out for just a second.



About 5 years ago, I found myself at a Board of Directors meeting for AIA Buffalo/WNY (A local Chapter of the larger American Institute of Architects). At the time, I didn’t know any of the people there, save for one, and I hadn’t been to a professional meeting of architects like that in my life.

Now, as I listened, I began to understand something profound. These are the people that get me. They had their own opinions about the day-to-day workings of the Chapter, but they all stood for something more than themselves – the profession.

They cared about the way the community perceived the profession of architecture and they pushed for ways to educate and inspire. They fostered an environment in which eager and passionate professionals could help one another navigate their careers and learn from those who had come before them.

Since that meeting, I’ve been given the opportunity to tread my own path, shaping it to help those around me as well. I’ve co-founded an active committee to assist emerging professionals on their path to licensure, developed two websites, created a design competition to recognize talented designers, organized the Chapter’s Annual Design Awards, and even created a Design Awards book to compliment the event.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.



The AIA has given me a community of peers to discuss ideas with, network with, and build a better world with.

To be clear, I’m not saying, “Hey, go and sign up right now!!! The AIA is just the coolest!! You’ve got to be a part of this!!” (Side note: extra exclamation points make everything more important)

Aside from the fact that you'd likely be running away in fear, the decision to become an AIA member is a very personal one. At the end of the day, you can still enjoy many of the benefits of the AIA just by getting involved in local endeavors. Engaging in the conversation benefits us all.

If anything, being a member of the AIA has helped me realize that I’m not the only one who believes in something greater than just the 9-to-5 for the profession I love.


Go to the New AIA Website and just take a few minutes to look at all of the opportunities you could have there. If you’re interested, go a step farther and seek out the website for your local Chapter. The events are often free or at a small charge.

Pro-Tip: Schedule to go to a local AIA event in the near future. Be present and mingle. Find out more about your fellow architect. Even if you don’t end up becoming a member, at least you’ll have a glimpse of the community you could be a part of and hopefully learn something about yourself in the process.

This post has been adapted from the original entry from the member-exclusive Evolution Weekly on May 22, 2016. Sign up today and get entries like this sent directly to your inbox!

Michael LaValley

Buffalo, NY