Everyone knows electrical engineers must pass a professional engineer's exam and obtain a license to legally design electrical systems for public facilities in each state they perform work. What many don't realize is that — to a certain extent — the same holds true on the construction side of the house. When you get right down to it, electrical contractors and electricians actually have it much worse, considering the number of local and state licensing requirements they run up against when crossing city, county, and state lines to work.

The situation is so confusing on this front that one must turn to a document like State Electrical Regulations, a guide to state electrical codes, enforcement, and licensing published by the National Electrical Contractors Association. This publication summarizes the major provisions of electrical code, enforcement, and contractor/electrician licensing requirements for each state to help electrical professionals better understand the diverse needs in this area.

All of these regional licensing requirements translate into a nightmare for contractors — all of the extra hours of study required for the licensee, time taken out of their busy schedules to sit for these numerous exams, and don't forget the considerable amount of cash the company must fork over to cover the host of administrative fees involved, which sometimes includes travel costs. I say it's time to put an end to this madness and immediately move forward on plans for a national licensing program — for engineers and electrical contractors alike. To see what other industry veterans have to say on the prospect of a national licensing plan, turn to the cover story, “License Overload,” on page 42 for more perspective.

Don't get me wrong. I hear you naysayers loud and clear. I can even sympathize with what I can imagine are your perceived arguments — some of which almost certainly include the following points. National licensing might be a great idea in theory, but it would never work in practice. You point out that licensing isn't really a problem, as some states already offer reciprocity agreements to ease the burden on electrical engineers and contractors/electricians. If that's not enough, there are too many different versions of the National Electrical Code — or variations of it altogether — in different stages of adoption all across the country that would make this concept virtually impossible to implement. You even bring up the fact that the current licensing system helps weed out those unsavory and unqualified workers from the industry ranks. I say, so what. Are these valid points? Absolutely, but they're not powerful enough to derail my argument.

Just envision the idea for a moment. A national licensing plan would eliminate redundancy — fewer tests to take, less paperwork to file, and reduced application fees. It would also allow qualified designers and installers to more freely move from one region to another, without the worry, time, and expense of acquiring additional licensing approval. More important, it would also bring uniformity to a bureaucratic system in dire need of consistency.

Would this be a simple plan to implement? Of course not! Nothing worth its weight ever is. But I believe the end result would be well worth the effort. So how many of you are ready to rally behind my cry for change and push for a national licensing plan?