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Watch Your Language

Among the issues on the minds of AV professionals for some time are certifications, specifically as they evolve and compete with each other as the industrymoves toward an established certification for our clients and ourselves. But recently, conversations have become a forum for other issues: standards, licensing, permitting and the stamping of drawings. In my experience, these issues get jumbled when we try to talk about them, so here is my attempt to set the stage for proper discussion.

There are a handful of certifications within the pro AV industry today. These are not licenses, and they carry no legal status either within the industry or with authorities that may have jurisdiction over projects. There have been efforts to tie some certifications to a licensing requirement, but licensing is a different, albeit related, subject.

Although licensing may appear to be similar to certification in that there may be a test involved, it carries some legal status. Most people in the AV industry in the United States know of the Professional Engineer license that lets holders practice their trade in various areas of the country. But it is a license, not a certification.

A potentially confusing issue is the idea of using private industry certifications as a basis for government issued licenses, where an agency such as a state licensing board may or may not be oversee the requirements.

Licensing often will include using a stamp on documents, such as the PE stamp on electrical design drawings. The PE stamp represents the required licensing to acquire a permit to allow construction of the design.

In pro AV, this subject often centers on AV designers that provide camera-ready conduit drawings from which electrical contractors build, or about stamping AV system design drawings.

One leap many make is that having a stamp to use (based perhaps on some type of private certification) is the same as saying that AV should be regulated somehow. This is not necessarily true, and any discussion of stamps should reflect that— and there is a lot of discussion to be had.

Obviously, there's a lot to debate about these issues, and all of them are important. But be careful and informed in talking about them, because it is easy to jump the tracks from one to another without even realizing it, especially if others involved in the conversation have different ideas about what the words mean. What is clear is that we need to be on the same page when talking about these issues, using the same vocabulary with the same definitions.

So discuss amongst yourselves — just watch your language.


To comment on this article, email the Pro AV editorial staff at

Tim Cape is a contributing editor for Pro AV, the principal consultant for Atlanta technology consulting firm Technitect LLC, and co-author of “AV Best Practices,” published by InfoComm International. He's chairman of InfoComm's ICAT consultant's council, and an instructor and presenter in AV technology design and management. Contact him at

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