Did you know that the term licensed architect is redundant? Did you know that you cannot actually call yourself an architect unless you are licensed? Did you know that you do not need a degree in architecture to become an architect? And, finally, did you know that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is just a professional organization, is not related or connected to the California Architects Board, and does not regulate the licensing of architects?
All true. In the state of California, it is unlawful to call yourself an architect unless you are licensed by the state. (Architects Practice Act). You also cannot call yourself an architectural designer unless you hold a license in architecture.
Holding a degree in architecture is not equivalent to holding a license in architecture (and being licensed also does not necessarily mean you have a degree in architecture). There are numerous requirements for licensure, all of which involve gaining experience in various facets of design and construction as well as successfully passing many exams. Obtaining a degree from an accredited university is one of the paths that lead to licensure. There are many.
The American Institute of Architects does not have a formal role in the regulation of licensure for architects. It is a professional organization that supports and promotes the profession of architecture. It takes position on issues that affect the profession and lobbies towards that effort. The organization also provides marketing support and has written a series of contracts that are industry standards in the profession. Membership is stratified (Architect, Associate, Associate: New Graduate, International Associate, National Allied Individual) to allow for a larger base.
The next time you are talking to a designer, ask them if they are an architect.