By Lexi Selvig

Securing and preserving professional credentials serves as the foundation for successful career development and effective practice management for architects, engineers, landscape architects, and all other licensed built environment professionals.  Managing your professional credentials is an important priority.

The last few decades have seen an increase in the demands and challenges of staying current with varying state protocols and requirements.  Some of these complexities include different renewal cycles, differing continuing education requirements, and inconsistent reporting processes.  Additionally, states and professional organizations require different fees, payment options, and systems of record retention in the event of an audit.    

What recordkeeping method are you using to stay on track with your license/s renewal, your continuing education and maybe even your professional memberships in ALA, AIA, NSPE, ASCE, ASLA, and IIDA among others? Are you shuffling spreadsheets and file folders? Do you as a Principal of your firm assume responsibility for credentials management, or do you delegate the task to an executive assistant? Is there an administrative assistant assigned to your project team? Or, maybe you rely on your membership benefits within a professional affiliation to record your continuing education on a transcript.   

Typical methods of recordkeeping may have unlimited potential for failure and may result in serious repercussions. Among the many documented examples are, “My basement flooded and all my records were destroyed,” or “I lost my job and I was forced to leave all my records behind and I have no access to the files,” or “I didn’t receive my renewal postcard because the state licensing board data base failed.”

Tony Whitt, Continuing Education Coordinator at the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners quoted in his column, CE Documentation in the biannual Licensing News “A common problem I hear when I fail to get the proper documents is that: ‘I went to a brown bag lunch-and-learn and they don’t give out certificates.’ To be blunt, if you can’t provide the proof of attendance, then (from my auditing standpoint) you were not in attendance.”

Staying current with your continuing education, license renewal and professional organization membership requirements is obviously best before negative issues and destructive consequences occur. Are you prepared to endure major financial losses for failed recordkeeping like fines in excess of $20,000 and public exposure on a state licensing board website?

Violation, or the voiding of contracts due to an expiring license, is different from state to state. Some states have statutes that treat residential contracts different from commercial contracts – and hold the residential contract void for lack of a license.

It’s best to know what the laws are in the states where you practice. Or better yet – don’t let your licenses lapse!

Some states hold that the unlicensed contractor or professional can recover no fees for the services performed without a license.

The following excerpt taken from an article, “Architect Not Entitled to Recover Fee for Services on Foreign Embassy Because Not Licensed in Washington, D.C.,” written by J Kent Holland, Jr, Atty. of Construction Risk Counsel, PLLC and the ConstructionRisk.com Report, Vol. 13, No. 7, demonstrates the severe consequences when credentials are not properly managed:

An architect licensed in the state of Maryland but not in Washington, D.C. entered into, and won, a competition for the architectural design of a new embassy and chauncery building in Washington, D.C. for the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”).  Because she was not licensed in Washington, she was found by the court to have violated the licensing statute and therefore not entitled to recover any fee from the UAE for the services she had performed.  The architect argued that she was not required to have a license as of the date she entered into the competition but that she would have obtained the license once she had a signed contract.  In rejecting that argument, the court stated that the architect went beyond submitting bids and actually performed architectural services without a license. The court concluded: “District of Columbia law bars an architect from recovering (i) on a contract to perform architectural services in the District or (ii) in quantum meruit for architectural services rendered in the District, if the architect lacked a District of Columbia architect’s license when he or she began negotiating the contract, entered into the contract, or performed the architectural services, even if the architect was licensed to practice architecture in another jurisdiction at such times…. There is no exception for international design competitions or the submission of bids to perform architectural services for foreign embassies (or public buildings or monuments) in the District.

Lexi Selvig

The future of professional development for licensed professionals of the built environment includes additional challenges. For example the requirement of “proof of competency” upon completion of continuing education courses/credits. As the global economy draws us into practice internationally, licensing requirements and processes differ.  Jurisdiction issues such as the recent statute changes in Kansas modifying the definition of engineering did not authorize an engineer to prepare or provide designs, drawings, specifications or other technical submissions were challenged and only through legislative action were revised. The interdisciplinary practice competition studied and temporarily enacted in Texas represent additional recent challenges.

The 21st century means consistent change and more vigilant attention to education and professional credentials management. To avoid some of the major consequences described plus the forthcoming challenges for licensing, the question is: Are you prepared?


Lexi Selvig, President of LS Credentialing Services, provides a solution to A/E professionals and firms for organizing, maintaining and managing licenses and certifications, continuing education requirements, and professional affiliations. She can be reached at lexi@aecredentialing.com and you can check out her company’s website at www.aecredentialing.com

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