Get your architect firm certificate

Who needs a license

All firms, regardless of their business structure, that practice, or offer to practice, architecture in Washington State must get a certificate of authorization with the Washington State Board for Architects.


To qualify for a certificate of authorization, your firm must appoint a designated architect. The designated architect:

  • Is responsible for the practice of architecture by your business.
  • Has full authority to make all final architectural decisions on behalf of your business with respect to work performed in Washington.
  • Must be regularly employed in the office, having direct knowledge and supervisory control of work performed by your business in Washington.
  • Must be:
    • A general partner, if the firm is a partnership or limited liability partnership (LLP).
    • A manager, if the firm is a limited liability company (LLC).
    • A director, if the firm is a business corporation or professional service corporation.

How to apply for a certificate of authority

  • If your corporation is already registered with the Washington State Board for Architects, you don’t have to do anything. Your current certificate of authorization won’t change.
  • If you’re starting a new business, get a business license with a “Registered Professional Design Firm” certificate of authorization endorsement:
  • If your business is registered with the Secretary of State’s Office or the Business Licensing Service, apply for a “Registered Professional Design Firm” certificate of authorization endorsement to your business license under your existing UBI number:

Frequently asked questions

What’s the fastest way to apply?
We can process your application more quickly if you file online. Applications filed in person take about the same time to process as those filed by mail.
What if my business doesn’t provide, or offer to provide, architectural services, but I use “architect,” “architecture,” or “architectural” in my business name or description?
You must change your business name and license description to remove all references to “architect,” “architecture,” and “architectural.” For more information, please call the Business Licensing Service at 800.451.7985.
What is the difference between an “architect of record” and a “designated architect”?
Washington law and rule uses “architect of record“ in conjunction with stamping and sealing for a specific project submitted to authorities having jurisdiction. “Designated architect” identifies licensed architects who have been authorized by their business entity to sign and seal its technical submissions. Building officials most commonly use “architect of record” on building permits to identify the firm and/or individual who stamped and sealed.
Our law doesn’t, nor does it intend to, instruct building officials, architects, or the media regarding identification of architects and use of titles. The following titles, and other variations, are often used synonymously within the architect profession to identify participation on architectural teams, in joint ventures, or in supporting roles for a specific project:
  • Architect of Record
  • Designated Architect
  • Executive Architect
  • Project Architect
  • Design Architect
  • Principal Architect
I’m an architect but my employer doesn’t offer architectural services. Does my employer need to register with the board?
No, a Certification of Authorization isn’t required if your employer doesn’t offer to practice architecture. This exception is applicable when:
  • You’re employed as an in-house architect by a government entity, educational organization, institutional business, industrial company, or similar non-architectural business.
  • You’re an architect employed by a business or organization that doesn’t offer architectural services in this state.
  • your work includes facility planning and preparing technical submissions for any construction or alteration of buildings owned by your employer.
However, the following 3 things are important to remember:
  1. If your employer is a business, it must have a business license issued by the Department of Revenue (DOR) which classifies its business activities and the principal products and services it provides. Your activity as an in-house architect doesn’t require your employer to submit a Registered Professional Design Firm Addendum to DOR if it isn’t a principal service provided by the business.
  2. Technical submissions prepared by you or under your supervision, if submitted to building authorities having jurisdiction, must be signed and sealed. This makes you the “architect of record” for each set of documents prepared for your employer’s use.
  3. If your employer offers architectural services, it must submit a Registered Professional Design Firm Addendum to get a Certification of Authorization from the Board for Architects, in addition to having a business license issued by DOR. The addendum must list you as a “designated architect,” which requires you to have ownership and financial responsibility for the organization.
Do I need to register as an architect firm if I’m a sole proprietor?
Yes. Any business entity, including a sole proprietorship, offering architecture services in Washington State must register with the board, regardless of its business structure.
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