When selecting an architect, more important than their degrees or even who they have worked for is this:  have they done a similar type of job to this before and what was their level of involvement.  Most licensed architects have worked on several types of jobs in their careers, but you should always ask for examples of projects similar to your own.  Some architects go to huge firms and get pigeonholed into one type of project and become an expert on say interior design or residential work, but have no clue how to get the permits required for a restaraunt.  While an architect trying to break into a field may offer you a fantastic rate, their lack of experience may cause delays and problems down the line and you’ll have to decide if you think their commitment to your project is high enough to keep it from being a problem or if you are about to pay for their learning experience.

This applies to all sorts of projects.  If you want a certain style home, say craftsman or modern, and the architect has never designed one, you may spend a lot of time arguing over whether or not this detail is appropriate or he may spend time arguing with the contractor over how to build it.  There are also considerations such as building in unique environments, such as coastal construction for an inland architect or earthquake concerns for anyone east of the Rockies.  I know in my experience, I’ve cleaned up the mess left by inexperienced architects in the Beach region who didn’t know how to properly detail the shear connections or specified the wrong details for wind driven salt water.

It can apply even more to more complex commercial or multi-use projects.  These sorts of projects may require submissions to multiple agencies and if you’ve never worked with these agencies before, you may find several cycles of review and revision to get through.  These delays will cost you time and potentially money.

So, what do you look for?  Look for someone who has worked at least as a project manager on a similar type of building to the one you want.  You want an owner or manager to have overseen and been responsible for the building as working as a low-level intern doesn’t necessarily afford you the same kind of experience to know how to push a project like that through the pipeline.  And of course, always consider referrences as often the best indication of how a designer will perform is how he handled the last few clients.