Licensure & Registration

Engineering Licensure Across State and International Borders (UPDATED)

By David C. Cotton, JR., P.E., P.Eng., CEng, MIET

Since I wrote the article “It’s Never Too Late to Get Your PE” in 2009, my engineering career has reached different dimensions. I obtained my PE license in my home state of Colorado after living in the state for a few months, especially after needing it to begin stamping documents since I began working from home. All I remember about the process was that once again I had to get references and college transcripts and tell my engineering story again on a license application. I got my license, but the process made me think long and hard about getting my NCEES Record.

Multi-State Licensure and the NCEES Record

What’s an NCESS Record? In brief, it is a record of one’s engineering career, references and school transcripts that can be sent with a licensure application to a U.S. engineering or surveying licensure board. The NCEES Record is essential if one is considering multi-state licensure and even can be of assistance in international licensures and certifications. To start this process, go to the NCEES Records page, Click  “Apply” to begin the application. Once the application is complete and transcripts and references are sent to NCEES, you will have an NCEES Record.  With a few exceptions, applying to state boards for licensure is greatly simplified. The key thing to remember in the present NCEES process is that all your references need to be current before you can transmit your NCEES Record to any jurisdiction, whereas in the old process (before 2016), only one reference needed to be current (with some exceptions). For some states, an accelerated process for approval is used for applicants who meet the NCEES Model Law Engineer designation. The first transmission to a state board costs $175. Subsequent submissions cost $75 per jurisdiction.

Model Law Engineer is a term for someone who has done the following:

  • Earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an EAC/ABET-accredited program
  • Completes four years of acceptable engineering work experience
  • Passed the FE and PE exams
  • Maintained a clean disciplinary record

When the NCEES staff reviews your record, if your application meets the above requirements, you will be designated as a Model Law Engineer.  Between the NCEES Record and the Model Law Engineer designation, multi-state licensure will be much easier. It made my ability to get licenses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia much easier. This process also works for licensure in Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands.

Though this process, I have learned that each state and territory does things in its own way. Some licenses are renewed annually, some biennially, and some every three years. As one gets different licenses, be aware of the different continuing education requirements, corporate entity issues, and changes in the laws that come with each state or territory.



If your horizons take you beyond the U.S. borders, the NCEES Record will assist you in two ways. First, in the same way the NCEES Record is sent to individual states, one can also send a record to Canadian provinces. In Canada, licensure is handled at the provincial level in the same way licensure is handled at the state level in the United States. However, the licensing process is a little different.  In all the provinces in Canada, the engineering profession is self-regulated. There are 12 different engineering associations:

  • Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC)
  • Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA)
  • Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba (APEGM)
  • Engineers and Geoscientists New Brunswick
  • Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS)
  • Engineers Nova Scotia
  • Engineers PEI (Prince Edward Island)
  • Association of Professional Engineers of Yukon (APEY)
  • Northwest Territories and Nunavut Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (NAPEG)
  • Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ)
  • Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador (PEGNL)
  • Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO)

Because of the small number of engineering programs in Canada and the lesser degree of variability in the accreditation process, technical exams like the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and PE exams are not used in the Canadian Licensure Process. However, a law and ethics examination (Professional Practice Exam) is required to gain Professional Engineering (P Eng) licensure. While each province gives its own version of this exam, each exam is accepted for the most part by all provinces except for Quebec, due to differences in (English) common law and Quebec civil law (based on the Napoleonic code).


The United States is a signatory to the Washington Accord, a treaty which covers international engineering education and facilitates acceptance of international engineering degrees. NCEES Record holders can apply to be a part of the International Registry. Once approved, record holders can transmit their record to the following countries (as of March 2017):

  • Bureau of Certification for Professional Engineers, Institution of Engineers Indonesia
  • Engineers Canada
  • Engineering Council of South Africa
  • Engineering Council, United Kingdom
  • Hong Kong Institution of Engineers
  • Professional Regulation Commission, Philippines
  • The Board of Engineers, Malaysia
  • The Institution of Engineers, Australia
  • The Institution of Engineers, Ireland
  • The Institution of Professional Engineers, Japan
  • The Institution of Professional Engineers, New Zealand
  • The Korean Professional Engineers Association



The NCEES Record provides a great way to move forward into multi-state and international engineering practice. Setting up your record is no more difficult than registering for a state or U.S. territory license and saves you time and hassle when registering in many jurisdictions. Many states provide an expedited process for NCEES Record holders applying in their jurisdictions. Like taking the FE and PE exams, the NCEES Record provides flexible options for the future.

David Cotton is the owner of his own consultancy providing RF engineering, health, safety, and regulatory compliance solutions.   He is a Registered Professional Engineer in all 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, two Canadian provinces (ON and SK) and is a Chartered Engineer in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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