Georgia’s New SE License

Contributed by Angelina V. Stasulis, PE, SE

SB 310, signed into law by Governor Kemp in 2020, created a new license: Professional Structural Engineer (SE). Beginning on January 1, 2021, any plans for “Designated Structures*” in the state of Georgia must be signed and sealed by a Professional Structural Engineer. Professional Structural Engineer licenses are issued by the PELS Board. Individuals wishing to obtain an SE license must meet the requirements of the PELS Board and submit an application directly to the PELS Board.


About Engineering Licensure 

Unlike a driver’s license, which has reciprocity across state and national borders, engineers’ professional licenses are state-specific. Within a given state, the power and responsibility associated with a professional license are dictated by that state’s individual laws and rules. Though many states share similar requirements for licensure, you cannot sign and seal drawings without a license from that specific state. 

Licensure applicants in each state must demonstrate competency through education, experience, and examination. While specific requirements vary by state, standards for evaluation are consistent across the country. Education is evaluated via a national accreditation program (ABET). Experience must be obtained under the direct supervision of a licensed engineer. Examinations are developed, administered, and scored by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).  Recognizing the vast differences in knowledge required to attain competency in different engineering disciplines, NCEES offers their Principles and Practices of Engineering exam in a variety of disciplines. These disciplines have evolved overtime, most relevant is the recent separation between Civil Engineering and Structural Engineering exams in the 1980s.


Licensure for Practitioners of Structural Engineering in Georgia Prior to SB 310

There are two different Principles and Practice of Engineering exams with Structural content: the 8-hr PE Civil-Structural and the 16-hr PE Structural. The PE Structural examination was created to replace the Structural I and Structural II exams mandated by some western states in the early 2000s and provide some standardization in examinations for advanced structural topics. The PE Structural exam provides a more rigorous assessment of a candidate’s structural design and detailing knowledge, including emphasis on lateral design and detailing due to high seismicity and high wind loads.

Georgia’s PELS Board required that applicants take the exam most closely associated with their experience and area of intended practice. Regardless of the exam passed, Georgia granted successful applicants the same license regardless of the exam passed: “Professional Engineer”. Practice was limited only to the applicant’s “area of competency”, as defined and enforced by the applicant themselves.


Licensure for Practitioners of Structural Engineering in Georgia Under SB 310

SB 310 creates a Professional Structural Engineer (SE) license, which is awarded to applicants who pass the 16-hr PE Structural Exam. As of January 1, 2021, a Professional Structural Engineer (SE) license will be required to design, sign, and seal “Designated Structures*”, as defined by Georgia's PELS Board

Examples of Designated Structures include: 

  • Buildings in Risk Category III or IV as defined by the International Building Code
  • Buildings with a covered gross area of 100,000 square feet or more
  • Buildings with an occupied floor elevation 45’ or more above the average ground level
  • Buildings with a height to least width aspect ratio of the structural lateral load resisting buildings system is great than or equal to seven
  • Buildings designed using nonlinear time history analysis or special seismic energy dissipation systems
  • Bridges designated as “complex bridges” by the Georgia Department of Transportation

For a complete definition of “Designated Structures” see Rule 180.2-.04 in the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia

Only Designated Structures are required to be designed and sealed by an individual licensed as a Professional Structural Engineer. Structures not classified as “Designated Structures” or components of Designated Structures (examples: cold-formed metal framing, retaining wall design)  may be designed by either a licensed Professional Engineer, provided it is within the PE’s area of competency, or a Professional Structural Engineer. The process for PE licensure remains unchanged. See PELS board for details. 

The Professional Structural Engineer license is supplemental to the Professional Engineer license; all SE license holders will also hold a PE license.  Existing PE licensees who meet the requirements for the SE license will keep their PE, and be granted an SE as an additional license. New applicants for the SE license will receive both a PE and an SE license upon fulfillment of the requirements.


Obtaining a Georgia SE License

The path to obtaining a Professional Structural Engineer license in Georgia varies based on the applicant’s qualifications. In order to minimize interruptions to business, SB 310 provided a method for “grandfathering in” (via affidavit) some currently Georgia PE holders engaged in the practice of structural engineering. Per SB 310, this period expired December 31, 2020. As of 2/9/21, the PELS Board website provided an ambiguous extension, stating: "Due to COVID, there was a delay in making the Affidavit available; therefore, the Board will allow additional time as necessary to complete the affidavit."

Once the affidavit period ends, any applicant for Georgia’s SE license will need to fill out the SE License Application form (yet to be published by PELS), and meet the current requirements, which may include passing NCEES’ 16-hr PE Structural exam.

(view flowchart)



Additional Resources and Information


PELS Board Link

Direct Link to PELS Board Affidavit Form (active as of 12/14/20):

*For a complete definition of “Designated Structures” see Rule 180.2-.04 in the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia