What’s the difference between membership and certification?

During one of our A-Team huddles, our key membership services person, Raven, shared the three questions she’s most asked.

Number one is, what’s the difference between membership and certification?

In a nutshell, being a member says that you’re a part of something. Being certified proves that you can do something.

Membership has benefits, but certification goes further to ensure members are qualified to do the job. 

Membership typically denotes belonging to a group, while certification implies that an individual has met certain standards or completed specific requirements.


Being a Professional Member of AIBD says that you’re a professional building designer. 

According to our bylaws, you must be actively engaged in the profession, either as the proprietor or as a design employee of a firm.

Being a Certified Professional Building Designer, or CPBD tells the world you have at least six years of experience, or a combination of education and experience, and that a third party has tested your skills, knowledge, or abilities.

It also says that you subscribe to an annual personal development plan and continue to be professionally evaluated yearly.

AIBD membership can provide a sense of community and connection to others with similar interests. 

As a member, you get access to exclusive resources such as the Designer Docs and CAD Detail libraries.

You can also take advantage of discounts or other perks, such as sixty percent off all of AIBD’s digital education, and entry fees for ARDA are reduced by one-third for members.


On the other hand, begin a Certified Professional Building Designer® (CPBD®) is a way to demonstrate that you have the knowledge or skills required to perform a particular task or job.

Certification offers a sense of legitimacy, credibility, and confidence.  

I’ve heard people say, earning their CPBD designation opened up new career possibilities and helped them earn higher salaries

In some cases, certification may also be required to practice in certain private communities, such as the Woodlands in Texas and PGA National in Florida.

The Benefit of Being Both

As of the end of last month, one in four AIBD members is an active CPBD.

Regarding personal certification, AIBD follows the ISO 17024 international standards. Following these standards will always mean you can earn your certification and not be required to be a member of AIBD.

For AIBD to be an influencer in our industry, we must encourage you to be both.

There is strength in numbers.

As members, you are the strands that make our rope strong. The more strands, the more weight we can carry as an association.

Being a CPBD is the fiber that determines the resilience of the strand.

Our seventy-year history shows that those who are both members and certified have longer and more rewarding careers.

And we want to help ensure that’s the case for you. 

There’s one benefit that is available only to Certified Professional Members of AIBD.

Use our one-minute whiteboard video to explain how you are qualified to do the job and provide consumers with peace of mind that they are working with a reputable and trustworthy designer. 

AIBD Whiteboard Video Image

As long as you are a current member and an active CPBD, you have an implied license to use this tool.

Contact us to obtain the MP4 file for your use. Use the info@AIBD.org email address with the subject title “Whiteboard Video.”

We’re also experimenting with ways to affordably customize the video to include personalized information at the end. 

Please include it in your marketing to stand out from the competition and show your commitment to quality service. 

When choosing between businesses, consumers will often choose those that have been certified over those that have not.

So, consider getting certified if you want to get the most out of your membership. It’s a worthwhile investment that can pay off in many ways.

Oh, and by the way. You DON’T have to be a member or certified to take advantage of our opportunities for professional development or networking.

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