50-State Engineering Licensing Compliance Guide
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Structural Engineering Firm License

Learn about starting and maintaining a structural engineering firm license.

How to Start a Structural Engineering Firm

Engineering professionals in the United States are charged with protecting the safety, health, and welfare of the general public. Practicing structural engineering is inherently dangerous, so owners of firms need to ensure they abide by state and local requirements when registering and expanding their businesses. No matter where you are setting up your business, you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Research your state’s business registration and licensing requirements.
  • Choose your business name and entity structure.
  • Obtain a federal tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service and register with the Secretary of State.
  • Obtain necessary types of insurance, including general liability, commercial auto, and workers’ compensation.
  • Research license and registration renewal requirements and prepare to keep your business compliant.

If you are concerned about managing the business registration process on your own, you can seek guidance from the business licensing experts at Harbor Compliance. With our professional licensing services, we offer full support through all of the stages of the corporate life cycle and can provide access to expert software insights. We make preparing and filing applications easy and handle communication with government agencies on your behalf. With our software, you can track your registration status, license numbers, filing history, fees, and renewals 24/7.

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Applying for a Structural Engineering License

While all 50 states have general engineering license requirements, only a number recognize structural engineers separately from professional engineers. As environmental factors and seismic activity continue to change codes and create new requirements for structural analysis, there is a push for more states to adopt structural engineering licensing laws to promote best practices and to improve public safety.

Every state has its own licensing board, so there is significant variation in the requirements to obtain a structural engineering license. In most states, applying for a structural engineer license involves the following steps:

  • Obtain a four-year degree
  • Take and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Have four years of experience under a licensed structural engineer
  • Pass the structural engineering (SE) I and II exams

Taking the FE exam can happen before or soon after you have obtained a bachelor’s degree. In terms of experience, states may require license applicants to have experience with the following structural design elements:

  • Using three of the four most common construction materials—steel, concrete, wood, and masonry
  • Determination of lateral forces
  • Selecting framing systems
  • Selecting foundation systems
  • Applying code requirements
  • Designing multi-story or multi-level structures

Note that dual credit is not often allowed, meaning that work experience is only accepted as satisfactory if each engagement is separate and distinct.

Once an engineer has the required experience, they can take the structural engineering examinations to finish their licensing requirements. You will also need to appoint a registered agent to receive notices of lawsuits and other legal or government notices. To manage those tasks more efficiently, Harbor Compliance offers licensing management software and managed services to help simplify the application process, allowing you to focus on other aspects of running your business.

Maintenance and Renewal

No matter what stage you are in with your business, you need to maintain your license’s status. State requirements vary, but renewals are often required on an annual basis. You may need to submit a renewal application, pay a renewal fee, or pursue continuing education. Complying with renewal requirements will ensure you can continue to operate your business without disruption.

In terms of continuing education for structural engineers, in-person and online courses are offered to keep professionals up-to-date on the latest industry changes. Accredited articles and publications can also help you learn what other professionals are doing and how requirements are being met across the country.

If you are currently operating a structural engineering firm and are looking to outsource your maintenance and renewal duties, Harbor Compliance can help. We are available to review your business status, ensure you can operate uninterrupted, and explain what steps you need to take in order to ensure you remain compliant with state and federal regulations.

Explore Licensing by State

Click on a link below to view licensing information in your state.

Meeting the structural engineering firm license requirements is not always an easy process. Fortunately, Harbor Compliance License Manager helps construction professionals maintain their licenses by automating repetitive tasks such as tracking renewals. Through License Manager, you can also access Compliance Core™ - our extensive, proprietary database of nationwide licensing information - to research the requirements for the states in which you work. These tools reduce the time you spend researching state requirements and prepare your organization for success. Contact our licensing experts today to learn more.

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.

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
Accrediting board that sets standards for university programs in a variety of applied science disciplines.

American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)
Engineering, architecture, and land surveying advocacy group.

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Organization that provides continuing education, professional conferences, and advocacy efforts to the civil engineering community.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
Mechanical engineering organization that focuses on education and professional development.

Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC)
Reviews accreditation requirements and makes final decisions regarding the accreditation process.

National Council of Examiners for Engineering & Surveying (NCEES)
Develops, administers, and scores the exams used for engineering licenses.

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)
NSPE is an advocacy group for professional engineers.