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In many career fields, there are different types of professionals, each focusing on a particular area of work. For example, in the medical field, you have doctors, nurses, and physician assistants, each with their specific area of focus. In the legal field, there are attorneys, legal aids, and paralegals. When in need of a professional service, going to the right person is essential. 

This is the case when you’re designing your home. There are draftspersons, architects, and architectural designers, for example. Designing a house is not like decorating your front yard with nativity sets, where you could just click here for more info, and you would be able to get what you want.

 So, who do you go to – is it the architect, the draftsperson, or the architectural designer? Each of these professionals can perform the role of designing your home, but they have different sets of skills to tackle the task. Each has a specific role to play, so how do you choose who to point you in the right direction? 

In the United States, legal requirements may demand that you use an architect in certain circumstances, so be sure to check the legal requirements before starting your project. For more detailed information on these legal requirements and how they may impact your project, consider consulting a comprehensive legal resource. You can learn more on platforms like Lawrina, which offers a wealth of information on legal statutes and regulations that could affect your decision-making process when engaging professionals for architectural projects.

We’ll start by taking a brief look at each of these professionals to help you appreciate their roles and know how each can be of service to you.

Registered Architects

A registered architect is a building designer who has a university-level education and is licensed to be legally responsible for all their work. The first step for an architect to be registered in the United States is graduation from university with a five or six-year architectural degree. Then, they must complete at least two years of on-the-job work and pass all the exams laid down by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Architects must also undertake training to fulfill the continued education requirements needed to maintain their licenses.

With their high level of education and training, architects are held legally accountable for their creations. They’re held responsible for the safety, health, and welfare of the public in terms of the buildings and projects they are responsible for. So, when appending their name to a set of plans, they accept legal responsibility for this, exposing them to liability claims should anything go wrong.

The significant difference between an architect and other design professionals is that an architect is licensed and has legal liability. It’s important to note that in the US, people can only call themselves architects if they’re registered. This registration is required for each state, so if a person isn’t registered in a specific state, they may not call themselves an architect in that state.

Architectural Designer

An architectural designer is one step below an architect in expertise. For an architectural designer, there are no laid down requirements for education, training, or licensing. They often work hand-in-hand with an architect, helping create and document design projects. This is how many of them gain valuable on-the-job experience.

Some architectural designers have a university degree in architecture but, for one reason or another, have not taken or passed the NCARB examinations. These exams are no piece of cake, so some architects may take several years to pass them all. Some architectural designers are highly educated and skilled people who want to avoid the added responsibility of bearing legal liability. So, they are not registered and choose to continue their careers as architectural designers. 

Many architectural designers have come into the architectural profession via alternative routes. They may have come through interior or industrial design or something completely different and have been trained to read and create architectural drawings. Designers who have arrived via this route often have great ideas on the subtle changes in a design that can assist with the end result, as they are often highly creative and have excellent skills in terms of decor.

This means that the skill levels of architectural designers vary, as their education, skills, experience, and training vary from one person to another. The most significant difference between the architect and the architectural designer is that the designer cannot produce a set of stamped plans for a municipal building department to get a permit for construction. 


Like an architectural designer, a draftsperson has no specified education, training, experience, or licensing.

A draftsperson can perform many tasks that an architectural designer or an architect can. Many draftspersons are highly skilled at using design and drafting software to create architectural drawings from rough plans drawn up by an architect. This means that as they work, they become proficient in reading and, in some cases, creating plans.

There are college courses for drafting, so some draftspersons may have certificates or diplomas for drafting, but they don’t have any formal education in designing. Their exposure to the actual design of a project is often through converting the rough drawings to a computerized set of drawings.

What does this mean for you?

Depending on your local law, along with the size and complexity of your project, you may be required to use the services of a registered architect. It would be best to ascertain this by speaking to your local municipal building department.

You have more options if you’re not required to use a registered architect, so you can decide what level of design professional you want to use. You will have to look at the complexity of your project, the importance of good design in your project, how complex the approval process is likely to be, and your own knowledge of design. The last thing to consider is the skills that each type of professional can bring to the project, as the more education, skill, and experience they have, the higher the fees are likely to charge.

The critical thing to remember is that the design is vital to the success of any project. Good design can be the difference between an exceptional project and a good one. A great design can minimize construction cost and ensure that ongoing maintenance and operating costs are reduced as much as possible. Here, you may need to consider the finishes used in the construction or how rooms are heated and cooled. 

Good design has the potential to change how people live or work and help them live happier and healthier lives. If a project is well designed, it will result in a building or other construction that is fit for purpose and works well, but if done poorly, your project can become a money-sink that will gobble up funds and lead to dissatisfaction.

The decision on which of these design professionals to use must revolve around where you’ll get the most bang for your buck and how to get you the end result you are looking for. Your project will cost a lot of money, and placing those funds in the wrong hands can lead to financial loss. 

Which One Do You Choose?

At the end of the day, the choice of using an architect, a designer, or a draftsperson lies on your shoulders. Research the design team that you want to use and insist on viewing other projects that they have undertaken. Speak to the owners of those projects for an unbiased view of how the project was handled – whether their ideas were taken into account and how closely the project came out in terms of budget. Carefully review the fees that will be charged and compare them to determine how fair they are.

It’s up to you to be informed and do your homework. A registered architect will have all the necessary education, skills, and legal accountability, while the architectural designer and draftsperson may appear as largely unknown entities. Choose the person that you feel most comfortable with and believe you’ll be able to work with to help you develop and build your dream home.