Licensure vs. Certification: What’s the Difference?

Posted on March 8, 2022 by Laura Worker in Business Compliance, Industry News.

Every industry has its own demands and requirements to operate a business without interruption. If you own or operate a business in architecture, engineering, or construction, you are likely aware of your licensing requirements. But, are you also aware of the benefits of pursuing individual, voluntary certifications? Keep reading to learn about the differences between licensure vs. certification, as well as the most common types of licenses, and what certifications are most popular in 2022. 

What Is Licensure? 

Definition & Purpose

Licenses are essentially permissions individuals and companies get to engage in business in a particular field. They are compulsory credentials issued by specific government agencies or entities. Examples of licenses for architecture, engineering, and construction include:

Architecture LicensesEngineering LicensesConstruction Licenses
Architecture Firm LicenseEngineering Firm LicenseGeneral Contractor Company License
Landscape Architecture Firm LicenseGeology Firm LicenseElectrical Contractor Company License
Interior Design Firm LicenseLand Surveying Firm LicensePlumbing Contractor Company License
Architect LicenseProfessional Engineer LicenseElectrician License
Landscape Architect LicenseProfessional Geologist LicenseHVAC/R Technician License

If you are looking for more information on business licensure, what you are required to have, or the application or renewal process, our licensing experts can help. 

Issuing Authority & Requirements 

Licenses are never issued by non-governmental agencies or entities. If you operate in multiple states, you may need to apply for licensure in each individual state, depending on the requirements. 

Maintenance & Continuing Education 

License renewals vary depending on state requirements, but most states have an annual or biennial renewal process. The process typically involves submitting a renewal application, paying a renewal fee, and proving you’ve fulfilled any continuing education requirements. Complying with renewal requirements ensures your business can continue to operate.

In fields like architecture, engineering, and construction, continuing education is often obligatory. The industries change so regularly that business owners and employees need to stay on top of changes and be aware of best practices. Your secretary of state can inform you of your continuing education requirements and where those credits can be earned. 

What Is Certification? 

Definition & Purpose

Certifications are written assurances of official representations that you or your company has training in a specific area of your industry. Attaining certification in any area is voluntary, so not being certified will not prevent you from operating your business–so long as you have proper licensure. However, certifications can increase your chances of winning bids–particularly when your competitors are not certified in areas you are. 

Issuing Authority & Requirements 

Certifications are voluntary. They are essentially credentials that represent to consumers, employers, and the public that an individual has met a specific set of standards in their area of practice. They are most often issued by non-governmental entities, educational institutions, and professional organizations. 

If you are looking to obtain certification, these are the most popular in AEC for 2022. 

Entity or InstitutionArchitecture CertificationEntity or InstitutionEngineering CertificationEntity or InstitutionConstruction Certification
PMI1Project Management ProfessionalNCEES6Engineering in Training CertificationOSHA11OSHA Safety Certificate
Pega2Certified System Architect PMI7Project Management ProfessionalCMCI12Certified Construction Manager
BSCAI3Certified Building Service ExecutiveNCCCCE8Certified Chemical EngineerNSC13First Aid, CPR, and AED Instructor
GAQM4Certified Agile Developer AAPM9Certified Planning EngineerESCO14Master Oil Heat Specialist Certification
MS5Manage Programs and Projects Server SECB10Structural EngineerMSI15Certified Construction Professional

1Project Management Institute 2Pegasystems 3Building Service Contractors Association International 4Global Association for Quality Management 5Microsoft 6National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying 7Project Management Institute 8National Certification Commission in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering 9American Association and Physicists in Medicine 10Structural Engineering Certification Board 11Occupational Safety and Health Administration 12Construction Material Chemical Industries 13National Safety Council 14ESCO Group 15MSI Construction

Maintenance & Continuing Education 

Certification maintenance varies considerably, as organizations and professional institutions are allowed to establish their own rules in terms of renewal. Many certifications are valid so long as the information provided is still accurate. However, as best practices change and industry technology evolves, certificates can become irrelevant or outdated. To stay on top of your credentials, check with the individual organizations. You may learn that additional coursework is required in the future to maintain certified status. 

Learn More About Business Licensing  

Architecture, engineering, and construction companies must meet minimum state qualifications in order to provide services and take on clients. That means having the proper licensure, among other things. If you elect to pursue further certifications, doing so only increases your chances of solidifying work and building your brand and firm. 

While licensing is crucial for all businesses, it is only a piece of the compliance puzzle. At Harbor Compliance, we handle all aspects of compliance for architecture and engineering firms, as well as a full range of other businesses. If you are looking for help keeping your business compliant, we are here to help. Whether you are in the process of forming your business or you are expanding to new states, our compliance specialists can answer your questions. Contact us today to learn more.  

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Harbor Compliance does not provide tax, financial, or legal advice. Use of our services does not create an attorney-client relationship. Harbor Compliance is not acting as your attorney and does not review information you provide to us for legal accuracy or sufficiency.


© 2012 - 2022 Harbor Compliance. All rights reserved. Harbor Compliance does not provide tax, financial, or legal advice. Use of our services does not create an attorney-client relationship. Harbor Compliance is not acting as your attorney and does not review information you provide to us for legal accuracy or sufficiency. Access to our website is subject to our Terms of Use and Service Agreement.