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A Blueprint for Compliance: The map below illustrates nationwide licensing requirements for architecture firms.
Click on a state to read about detailed license requirements in that state.
18 States (and D.C.) Do Not Require Firm Licensure
28 States Require Firm Licensure
4 States Require Firm Registration or Other Prerequisites
Regardless of the size, maturity, and footprint of your architectural firm, licensing can be a challenge. Requirements and application processes vary by state, so what works in one state doesn’t necessarily apply in the next. Unfortunately many firms discover these challenges through trial and error when applying for new licenses, tying up valuable resources in the process.
Firms may feel relieved after obtaining a license, but maintaining a license also demands careful tracking and coordination. Filing renewal applications, managing qualifier licenses, tracking continuing education credits, and updating records with state authorities are all a part of maintaining the good standing of your license.
For firms with a presence in more than one state, these challenges are multiplied. In addition to licensing requirements, firms often trigger business entity and tax registration requirements when expanding to new states. This usually means filing with the secretary of state, department of revenue, and board of architects.
While filings to these different state agencies are typically made on separate forms, they are frequently dependent on each other, meaning mistakes made on one form can hold up the whole process. Obtaining a firm license can already take anywhere from 4 to 22 weeks, so limiting rejected filings is critical.
The following highlights areas that commonly trip up architectural firms managing licensing across multiple jurisdictions. In addition to using the informational resources provided below, you can take advantage of our full range of AE compliance solutions, from purpose-built software to expert services to make the task easier.
Obtaining Additional Licenses
When evaluating opportunities in new jurisdictions, it’s important to check requirements concerning the following:
Order of Operations
In most states, registration with the secretary of state precedes firm licensing. Yet in a few states, firms must receive approval from the board of architects before registering with the secretary of state. It’s important to understand the order of filings in a new state before beginning any applications.
In some states, architectural firms must include some form of the word “architecture” in their names, while in others, firms are subject to additional requirements if their names contain such as reference. As a result, firms often need to adopt fictitious names to operate in new states.
Many states restrict the types of business entities that can provide architectural services. For example, in New York firms cannot practice architecture as a general business corporation or a non-professional limited liability company. For this reason, corporate structure should be examined early and carefully when contemplating a new jurisdiction.
Ownership and Management Requirements
Another area to consider when licensing an architectural firm in new geographies is ownership and management. Many states require firms to have a specific share of ownership by licensed architects. In North Carolina at least two-thirds of owners/shareholders of corporations must hold an architect license and at least one of the officers or directors must be licensed in North Carolina. Because of these requirements, firms may need to form a new entity under a different mix of owners to work in a particular state.
Design Firm Licenses
Some states combine the applications for architecture with other AE disciplines into a single design firm application. Illinois, for instance, uses a general design firm application for architecture, land surveying, professional engineering, and structural engineering.
Once licensed, firms must work to maintain certificates of authorization, licenses of individual qualifiers, and good standing of their entity in each state.
Most firm licenses must be renewed every one to two years. If your firm has been disciplined by any state licensing board, this must usually be disclosed in renewals. In addition, firms should track renewals of individual architect licenses, particularly for architects in responsible charge. Since renewals require continuing education (CE), it’s important for firms to have a system in place for tracking CE credits and reminding architects of upcoming renewal deadlines.
Maintaining Accurate Records
Firms must also maintain accurate records with state agencies. To change their names or addresses, firms must notify the board of architects and fill out new certificate of authorization or change forms, depending on the state. Many firms don’t realize that if they are changing their name, they must first register the change with the secretary of state. Interestingly, in some states this requires prior approval from the board of architects!
Tracking Qualifier Licenses
In addition, firms must be vigilant in tracking the licenses of qualifying architects and promptly reporting changes in their information or status to state agencies. If a qualifier leaves, the firm has a limited time to appoint a replacement or risk forfeiting the certificate of authorization. Because most firms lack software to connect COAs and qualifier licenses, this is a major source of inadvertent unlicensed activity within the industry.
Branch Office Registration
In some states, branch offices must be registered individually with the secretary of state. Some states require an architect in responsible charge for each branch location. In addition, it’s important to accurately document which branch offices and associated architects will be providing services on a particular contract and ensure that they are properly licensed according to the requirements of the state where the work is being done. This is another area that frequently trips up multi-state firms.
Corporate Lifecycle Filings
In addition to managing COAs and qualifier licenses, architectural firms must maintain good standing in each state by maintaining registered agent service and submitting annual reports and other corporate lifecycle filings. Deadlines vary with each jurisdiction, so firms need a reliable means for tracking deadlines and alerting staff of upcoming due dates to safeguard their good standing.
Streamline Paperwork and Eliminate Risk
For architectural firms, licensing and entity management will always be complex. But with the right technology and support, your firm can navigate these complexities with confidence, agility, and efficiency. Our software and fully managed services for architectural firms provide the resources you need to reduce risk, reclaim staff hours spent on government paperwork, and capture more opportunities.
50-State Chart of Architecture 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.