AEC professionals use their expertise in three distinct disciplines to work together to bring a project to completion. By integrating their areas of specialization, architects, engineers and contractors can more efficiently and effectively achieve a common goal.


The acronym AEC stands for "architecture, engineering and construction".

The Role of Architecture

As AEC professionals, architects develop the design concept for the construction of new buildings or the restoration or refurbishment of existing buildings. Though visual aesthetics are an important component of their work, architects must create designs that are functional as well as compliant with building laws and regulations.

Architects have a complex role in the construction process and are involved from beginning to end. Responsibilities include:

  • Understanding the client's requirements and translating them into design drawings and models.

  • Quantifying and qualifying the project (e.g., budget, site characteristics and regulations)

  • Developing a sequence of operations and keeping records for daily progress/budget reports.

  • Managing the bidding process when contractors bid on jobs.

  • Clarifying details for engineering and construction teams and making changes to plans per their recommendations.

  • Certifying that work is completed in the prescribed manner.

The Role of Engineering

AEC professionals also include civil engineers who oversee construction and maintenance projects, such as large buildings, roads, bridges, dams and utility supply facilities. Their work includes the following responsibilities:

  • Conducting feasibility studies and site inspections.
  • Developing project budgets.
  • Coordinating resources, including employees, equipment and building materials.
  • Overseeing progress and safety on construction sites.
  • Ensuring compliance with government regulations.
  • Serving as the liaison between the client and professional subcontractors.

The Role of Construction

As part of the team of AEC professionals, construction project managers coordinate the work of skilled contractors and subcontractors. Their many responsibilities include:

  • Working with architects and engineers to develop plans, establish timetables and determine costs.

  • Hiring and managing subcontractors and employees.

  • Ensuring all work is up to code.

  • Distributing resources.

  • Managing relationships among AEC industry professionals and with clients.

  • Creating checkpoints, or benchmarks, as part of overall time management.

  • Identifying potential internal risks (e.g., unrealistic scheduling commitments) and external risks (e.g., natural disasters) and creating contingency plans.

Education and Licensing Requirements for AEC Professionals

To practice as an architect, you must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree in architecture from an accredited college or university. You must obtain licensure in the state or jurisdiction in which you work. Certification through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) allows you to apply for reciprocity in all 55 U.S. jurisdictions. Membership in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a desirable credential and can increase opportunities for employment and higher pay.

Like architects, civil and construction engineers need at least a bachelor's degree in their field and licensure by their state. Civil engineers who provide their services to the public must be licensed as Professional Engineers (PEs). For PE designation, you must work four years under the supervision of a qualified PE and pass an exam given through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

Although a bachelor's degree isn't strictly required for a job as a construction project manager, AEC firms are increasingly looking for candidates who hold a degree in construction engineering, building science, construction science or surveying and civil engineering. Associate degrees in any of these fields can be a good first step for someone with construction experience but no formal education.

AEC Industry Terminology

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is one of the most important terms in AEC industry terminology. BIM is digital technology used to create a 3D model that enables management, coordination and simulation throughout the lifecycle of a project.

Like most industries, AEC has its share of jargon and acronyms. Get help with AEC industry terminology by downloading a glossary of terms, such as the free glossary created by the AEC business management firm BST Global.