For Engineers Practicing in North Carolina: Know the Board Rules

In addition to its oversight of licensed engineers in North Carolina,the NC Board of Examiners for Engineers and Land Surveyors (BELS) also authorizes domestic and foreign business entities that provide engineering services within the state. Engineering and surveying firms must be approved by and remain in good standing with BELS in order to deliver professional services in North Carolina. A firm that is actively delivering services and not registered with BELS in North Carolina is engaging in the unauthorized practice of engineering/land surveying - a Class 2 misdemeanor!

LicenseSure works with BELS on behalf of its design professional clients and would like to share some recent lessons learned:


For firms that practice in more than one state, it is not uncommon to have multiple affiliated entities providing professional services. As an example, a Virginia engineering firm formed as a general corporation will likely not be allowed to provide services directly in North Carolinai and will typically organize a professional corporation or limited liability company that meets the specific requirements of North Carolina law in order to deliver services there. It is critical that all marketing collateral used in North Carolina, e.g., business cards, stationery and the firm’s website clearly identify the entity doing business in North Carolina; moreover, there should not be multiple entity or brand names on such materials.It goes without saying that the North Carolina entity itself must also be the contracting party on any projects in North Carolina and must demonstrate indicia of independence from any affiliated businesses, such as a separate EIN and bank account.

Annual Renewals.

Every engineering/surveying entity doing business in North Carolina must submit an annual renewal to BELS by June 30 of each year. ONLY a NC-licensee and one with direct knowledge of the business operations of the entity, such as the responsible professional in charge, should prepare and attest to the information contained in the annual business renewal. The Board is receiving too many of these renewals signed by owners and officers who may not be present or have personal knowledge of the business operations, or signed by administrative personnel rather than licensees.

Business Changes

BELS requires prompt notification of specific business changes including the firm name, office locations, change in services offered and change of responsible professional in charge. Notification to BELS must be made within 30 days of such changes and should not wait for the firm’s annual business renewal.

Everyone is busy with work and corporate housekeeping issues, like those listed above, often get brushed to the side. These business management details can be misunderstood, forgotten or never known in the first place. However, the errors and omissions described above can take much more time to correct and/or explain then if they are simply handled correctly in the first place.

  1. As a general rule but with some limited exceptions, general corporations are not permitted to provide professional services in North Carolina.

About The Author

Patti Harris spent 13 years as the Managing Partner of a New York City-based construction law firm; in addition to overseeing the business operations of the firm, she advised clients on office and business management issues.

Learn more about Patti on our About page.

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