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Licensing Layout: The map below illustrates nationwide licensing requirements for interior design firms.
Click on a state to read about detailed license requirements in that state.
43 States Do Not Require Firm Licensure
5 States (and D.C.) Require Firm Licensure
2 State Requires Firm Registration or Other Prerequisites
Overview of Interior Design Firm Licensing Requirements
In addition to certifications and licenses issued to interior designers, some states also require interior
design businesses to register or obtain a license. While only a few states currently require firm registration,
interior design firms operating in other states may be required to meet ownership and individual licensing requirements.
When applying for a license, interior design firms in Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia
must appoint an individual as the designer in responsible charge. The designer in charge is typically
an employee of the firm who is individually certified as an interior designer, although Florida allows
this individual to instead be a licensed architect. In Oklahoma, the designer of record cannot simply
be an employee but must hold a legal position within the business entity.
License application requirements vary by state, but many applications ask for:
Business entity information
A list of officers or owners of the firm
A certificate of authority (for out-of-state entities)
A certificate of good standing from the secretary of state
Firms operating in more than one location within the same state will likely also need to provide designer-in-charge
and contact information for each of their branch office locations. In some states, each branch office
must obtain its own firm registration or license.
Interior design firms that offer architecture or landscape architecture services in addition to design
services will typically need a separate license for each professional service they provide. A few states
do, however, issue design firm licenses that cover a multitude of architectural disciplines, as well as
engineering and land surveying, under a single license.
Interior design firms that obtain contracts outside of their home state should expect to have to register
with the board of interior designers, secretary of state, and sometimes the department of revenue before
providing services in a new state. In states with no licensing requirement for businesses, firms should
still make sure that their entity type is permitted by the state, that their business name meets state
requirements, and that there is a certified interior designer appointed in charge of all design-related
services for the firm if required.
For states with a licensing requirement for firms, the order of the licensing process varies. Some states
require firms to foreign qualify their business entity with the secretary of state before applying for
a license, while others give firms the flexibility to complete these registrations in the order they choose.
Firms should also apply for any necessary tax-related registrations before providing design services in a
state. Corporate income tax, withholding tax, and unemployment insurance tax registrations are commonly
required when doing business in a new state.
After licenses and registrations are obtained, firms must file renewals to remain in good standing.
Interior design firm licenses renew on an annual or biennial basis depending on the jurisdiction:
the District of Columbia, Oklahoma, and Virginia require biennial renewal while Louisiana, Minnesota,
and Texas require annual renewal. Along with license renewal, firms may also need to submit annual
reports to maintain their entity registration with the secretary of state.
In addition to these structured renewal events, firms must often report address, contact information,
qualifying individual, and ownership changes as they occur. States typically require these types of
changes to be reported within 10 or 20 days of their occurrence.
Firms should also track continuing education requirements to ensure that their qualifying individuals
meet their individual license renewal requirements. Designers in charge who fail to meet renewal
requirements will jeopardize the good standing of the firm license.
Keeping up with each state’s requirements, tracking renewals, and submitting the applications on time are
critical to avoiding penalties. Our compliance software and services
can help you keep track of varying jurisdiction requirements and relevant updates to state laws.
Firm License Requirements by State
Looking for interior design firm requirements in a particular jurisdiction? The following table
summarizes architecture firm licensing requirements across the United States. Click on any state for
additional licensing information specific to that state.
Interior Design Firm licensure is not required on the State level in Wyoming
Wyoming does not currently license or register interior design businesses.
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.
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