A business entity offering engineering services to the public typically must register with the State
Board of Engineers and receive a Certificate of Authorization. The Certificate of Authorization, or firm
license, is necessary to practice engineering in about 75% of states. Firms practicing without one can
be liable for steep penalty fees.
Licensure for engineering 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, 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.
Applications require proof of incorporation or foreign qualification and typically a fee. Other required
items can include notarized bylaws and ownership requirements. For example, in North Carolina there are
ownership requirements in order to obtain a Certificate of Authorization. A minimum of two-thirds of the
controlling officers, partners, directors, or members of the entity must be engineers and/or
professional engineers registered under the laws of any U.S. jurisdiction, and at least one must be an
engineer registered in North Carolina.
Some states combine the applications for engineering, architecture 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.
Initial Registration Fees
Fees for an initial license range from $0 to $600. Georgia and California do not require an application
fee, while Alaska charges $600. The average firm fee is about $135 while the most common filing fee is
Firm license renewal varies by state. Slightly over half of the states that require a firm license call
for licenses to be renewed every two years. Almost all other state licenses renew annually. California
is an exception to this however, as licenses are only renewed when firm information changes.
Like initial application fees, renewal fees also vary by state. Fees range from just $10 in Georgia and
to as much as $500 in Alaska. Firms can expect to pay closer to the national average of $115 when
applying for a license, however, the most commonly applied fee is $50.
Massachusetts Board of Registration of Professional Engineers and of Land Surveyors
Although not requiring express licensure with the Board, LLPs and LLCs, at the time of registration and in each annual report, are required to provide to the Secretary of State information about licensed professionals.
Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation: Board for Professional Engineers
Design Firm - Engineering firm registration is sometimes grouped with architecture and land surveying on a single “design firm” application form.
EI (Engineering Intern) - A term also used to describe an Engineer in Training.
EIT (Engineer in Training) - A professional designation granted upon having completed at least 3 years of school at an ABET-accredited university and having passed the FE exam.
FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) - An exam testing on basic engineering principles that is required to become an engineer in training.
PE (Professional Engineer or 'Principles and Practice in Engineering') - Means either Professional Engineer or refers to the Principles and Practice in Engineering exam that is a prerequisite for an engineering license.
Reciprocity - When a licensed engineer in one state can provide documentation (often an NCEES Record) to more easily apply for a license in another jurisdiction.
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.