Frequently Asked Questions: Certificates of Authorization (C of A)
A Certificate of Authorization is a licence issued by PEO to allow individuals and business entities to offer and provide professional engineering services to the public, as distinct from a licence issued to individuals to practise professional engineering. Section 12(2) of the Professional Engineers Act states:
"No person shall offer to the public or engage in the business of providing to the public services that are within the practice of professional engineering except under and in accordance with a certificate of authorization."
Other Frequently Asked Questions
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Are you practising professional engineering?
Are you providing professional engineering services to the public?
What are the requirements for a C of A?
What are the consequences of offering engineering services without a C of A?
How do I obtain a C of A?
The practice of professional engineering is defined in section 1 of the Professional Engineers Act and comprises three tests. Professional engineering is:
- any act of designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising, or the managing of any of these acts;
- wherein the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment is concerned, and
- that requires the application of engineering principles.
If what you do meets all three tests, you are practising professional engineering and must be licensed by the association.
An examination of your practice will help you determine whether you are offering or providing engineering services to the public. The public is usually legally defined as any person or entity with whom you have an arm's length relationship. For example:
- If you "hang out your shingle"; advertise and promote yourself - either personally or through a legal entity such as a company or partnership - as offering professional engineering services, a C of A is required.
- If you provide professional engineering services to the public through the sale of a product that is custom-designed or an original (as opposed to an off-the-shelf product), a C of A is required.
- If you work for others, but offer professional engineering services directly to the public on a part-time, moonlighting, or volunteer basis, you must hold a C of A. Under these circumstances, you should also, as a matter of professional courtesy, inform your employer that you are undertaking such work, in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest. In addition, you should provide your client with a written statement of the nature of your status as an employee and the attendant limitations on your services to the client.
In short, if you are practising professional engineering and engaging in the business of offering or providing those services to anyone but yourself or your employer, you require a C of A. In recent years, firms have increasingly secured engineering staff through a contract of service. But you may still be an employee for the purposes of licensure and thus not require a Certificate of Authorization if:
- you work exclusively for a particular firm;
- your employment contract addresses non-disclosure, ability to control work hours and time off, expectations related to performance, notice, termination and remuneration;
- your expenses are reimbursed
- you are paid a salary or wage;
- you are provided an office and equipment on business premises;
- have set work hours;
- you are provided benefits, e.g. vacation pay;
- your work is covered under the firm's professional liability insurance policy.
However, if the firm requiring your engineering expertise offers a contract for service, a Certificate of Authorization will likely be required. You are likely working under a contract for service and would thus require a C of A if:
- your contract indicates an independent contract or relationship, or the firm purchases your time from an agency;
- you are free to provide your business services to more than one firm;
- you invoice the business for your time;
- you are not paid if services are not performed;
- you are not covered by the firm's professional liability insurance;
- your hours of work are not restricted;
- you receive no vacation pay or bonuses.
Section 47(1) of the Regulation 941 made under the Professional Engineers Act requires that an applicant for a C of A designate a PEO licence holder who is an employee or partner in the firm to assume professional responsibility for the services provided. Generally, C of A holders are required to carry professional liability insurance as laid out in the regulations under the Professional Engineers Act. In the absence of insurance, they are required to disclose to each and every client that they do not hold liability insurance, and obtain the client's written acknowledgement of this disclosure.
If you operate without a C of A, you are contravening the Professional Engineers Act. Such contravention may result in PEO enforcing the provisions of Section 40 of the Act against you, which can lead to fines of up to $25,000 for a first offence and up to $50,000 for any subsequent offence. In addition, a complaint may be pursued through the association's discipline process against licensed members who operate without a C of A (see Section 72(g) of Regulation 941). PEO has guidelines and publications dealing with areas of interest to C of A holders.
The initial application fee for a Certificate of Authorization is $745.80 (application $372.90 + annual fee $372.90). Upon approval the Certificate of Authorization is renewable annually for $372.90.
If you have any questions about C of A requirements or would like an application form, please contact us.