Frequently Asked Questions About Professional Licenses


Whether you are seeking a Construction Licenses in California or a tourism license in South Carolina, professional licensure is essential in many industries. That’s because these licenses protect the public by enforcing standards that restrict practice to qualified individuals who have met specific qualifications in education, work experience, and exams. 

If you are considering a professional license to break into or advance your career, here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive.

What are the most popular professional licenses?

Over the last 60 years, the number of jobs requiring an occupational license, or government approval to practice a profession, has grown from about 1-in-20 to almost 1-in-4, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 2018, more than 43 million people in the United States held a professional certification or license, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Some of the most popular occupations and industries that require professional licenses including healthcare, legal, education, community and social services, protective service, personal care and service, and architecture and engineering.

What must you do to obtain a professional license?

Requirements vary from license to license, but typically you will need to demonstrate that you meet standards for that career that are typically set by the state that is issuing the license. Some specific steps may include completing specified training, logging a designated amount of work experience, and taking a licensure exam. Most exams assess knowledge of work processes, codes, policies, standard practices, and more.

What laws govern professional licenses?

Regulated professions in the United States are generally licensed at the state level, and most licensed professions require some formal postsecondary education or training as a prerequisite for entry. The competent authority for recognizing professional qualifications is generally the appropriate state or territorial licensing authority in the jurisdiction where one intends to work.

What is the difference between professional licenses and certification?

These two items are not one and the same, and it is important to know the difference. Licensure generally refers to an official process, administered by a state-level authority, that is required by law for an individual to practice a regulated profession, according to the U.S. International Affairs Office.

Certifications are generally a function administered by a nongovernmental organization, which is intended to further recognize professional competence based on having met the quality standards of the organization. The prevalence and relevance of certification varies by profession.

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