When you graduate from architecture school, does that make you an architect? Like doctors or lawyers, you can’t call yourself an architect until you are licensed. To become an architect, you have to have a professional degree, complete the NCARB Intern Development Program which takes approximately 3 years and must be done under the supervision of an architect, pass a nationally established set of exams, and register in your state.
After you graduate but before you're licensed, while working in an architecture firm you're called an intern architect. An internship complements your education; it's where you'll learn different and related skills specific to the practice of architecture in an office environment. Internships are a rite of passage that generally involves the same intensity, long hours, and hard work as architecture school, but with mentoring and some pay as well. A few schools integrate this into their curriculum, while others help place students once they've graduated.
While most students say they intend to get licensed, many people work in architecture and never do. They work on projects not requiring a license, they work for someone else who is licensed, or they do affiliated work that doesn't require licensure, like writing, teaching, or research. The only downer here is that you may end up a highly skilled 50-year-old project manager who's still technically an intern.
Internships help students and graduates discover their own careers, develop their abilities towards licensure, and explore what it means to be an architect.