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A business entity offering architectural services to the public typically must register with the state
board of architects and receive a Certificate of Authorization. The Certificate of Authorization, or
firm license, is necessary to practice architecture in about 60% of states. Firms practicing without one
can be liable for steep penalty fees.
Requirements for Initial Registration
Licensure for architectural firms usually follows incorporation or
foreign qualification of the business entity with the secretary
of state. Common legal structures for firms are corporations or professional
corporations (PC), and limited liability companies (LLC) or
professional LLCs. Incorporation refers to formation of the business entity, whereas foreign
qualification refers to applying for a Certificate of Authority to transact business in another state.
After registration with the secretary of state, architecture firms must apply for a Certificate of
Authorization through the relevant licensing board. It is worth noting that the Certificate of
Authorization is a separate document from the Certificate of Authority used during foreign
qualification. This can be a confusing for firms needing to file both documents, especially in Oklahoma
and Missouri, where the licensing board form is also called a Certificate of Authority application.
Applications and forms are fairly standard, but there are some differences from state to state. Our
dedicated compliance specialists can help you navigate varying
jurisdiction requirements and updated laws.
Applications require proof of incorporation or foreign qualification as well as a fee. Other required
items can include notarized bylaws and ownership requirements. For example, in Alabama there are
ownership requirements in order to obtain an architectural Certificate of Authorization. A minimum of
two-thirds of the controlling officers, partners, directors, or members of the entity must be architects
and/or professional engineers registered under the laws of any U.S. jurisdiction, and at least one must
be an architect registered in Alabama.
Fees for initial architecture licensure range from $0 to $600. Rhode Island and Tennessee do not
require a fee, while New Jersey filing fees total $600. The average license cost is $195 while the
most common filing fee is $100.
Some states combine the applications for architecture, engineering, and land surveying firm licensure
into a single design firm application. Firms that provide more than one of these professional services
may only need to fill out a single application but with a slightly higher application fee. Illinois, for
instance, uses a general design firm application for architecture, land surveying, professional
engineering, and structural engineering.
Firm license renewal varies by state. Over half of the states that require firm licensure call for
licenses to be renewed every two years. Almost all other state licenses renew annually. Tennessee is
one exception to this rule, as they do not require a renewal filing.
Like initial application fees, renewal fees also vary by state. Fees range from just $25 in Alabama
and Minnesota to $500 in Alaska and New Jersey. Firms can expect to pay closer to the national average
of $210 when applying for a license, however, the most commonly applied fee is $100.
Firm Licensing: Quick Facts
60% of states require firms to register before providing architectural services.
The average initial filing fee is $195, the average renewal fee is $210.
New Jersey and Alaska have the highest fees, at $600 for initial applications and $500 for
Applications in Rhode Island and Tennessee applications are free.
The most common filing fee for both initial and renewal filings is $100.
For nationwide architectural firms, initial registration will cost roughly $3,880, while renewal
fees amount to just over $3200.
Penalty fees vary widely by state. Some states charge no fee for late filings, while Arkansas
late fees can reach $250 and Delaware late fees are twice the amount of the renewal fee.
A slight majority of states require biennial renewal filings, while the remainder require
filings to be made annually.
Table of Firm Licenses
Looking for architecture certification requirements in a particular jurisdiction? The following table
summarizes architecture firm licensing requirements across the United States. Click on any state for
the licensing information specific to that state.
Firm licenses are not issued at the state level, however, a licensed individual must oversee all architectural work. Firms should consult board rules and state statutes before doing business.
ARE (Architect Registration Examination) - Assesses candidates for their knowledge, skills, and ability to provide the various services required to be a practicing architect.
AXP (Architectural Experience Program) - NCARB program for architectural internship, a requirement for licensure that occurs after filling the educational requirements.
BEFA (Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect) - An alternative NCARB certification that allows foreign architects to independently practice architecture.
COA (Certificate of Authorization) - The most common name of the registration required for firms to practice architecture in a given state.
Design Firm - Architectural firm registration is sometimes grouped with engineering and land surveying on a single “design firm” application form.
NCARB Certification - Licensed architects have the option to become Certificate holders to signify that they have met national standards established by U.S. licensing boards for protecting public health, safety, and welfare. Certification also facilitates reciprocal registration in all 54 jurisdictions, 11 Canadian jurisdictions, and can be used to support an application for licensure in other countries.
Reciprocity - This is when a licensed architect in one state can provide documentation (often a NCARB certificate) to more easily apply for licensure in another jurisdiction.
State Board - Often referred to as the State Architects Licensure Board or Board of Architects, an individual state’s board serves as the regulatory authority for architects. The board qualifies and licenses individuals seeking architectural licensure. The board is responsible for preserving the public health, safety, and welfare of individuals who occupy built environments.
Filing fees depend on your individual situation. We do our best to calculate your filing fees
upfront and collect those fees today so we can get started. Your specialist will determine your
exact filing fees and invoice additional fees if required.
When processing government applications or disbursing filing fees, we may add an order processing fee to cover our administrative expenses.