licensure vs. certification

Choosing a Career Path: What is the Difference Between a License and a Professional Credential?

Choosing a career starts with understanding what’s required of you to reach that goal. During your search, it can be easy to confuse government licensing and private certification, as their requirements are notoriously tricky, and they vary in every state.

Knowing the difference between a license and a credential is important because some industries require licensing while others don’t. Choosing the right college for you means knowing that the schools you’re interested in offer a clear path toward achieving your goals before you commit your time and money to one program.

To help provide some clarity to the conversation, let’s look at licensure and certification so we can better understand the differences between the two.

What is a License?

A license is a document issued by a governmental agency recognizing that a person has met the requirements and is allowed to perform a job in a particular area. Licenses can be issued by the federal government, state governments, and local city and town governments. The city or state in which the license is issued usually determines where an individual is allowed to perform the duties of that job.

For example, a teacher gets licensed by their state and can only teach in that state. Moving to another part of the country means that teachers must go through their Board of Education to obtain a new teaching license in that new state. Teachers cannot teach in public schools without a teaching license. That story is very similar across the many industries that require licensing.

Careers That May Require a License

Typically, a license is required to work in the following fields:

• Doctor
• Lawyer
Occupational Therapy Assistant
• Pharmacy Technician
Respiratory Therapist
• Teacher

If your occupation requires a license, there are often consequences or penalties for allowing your license to expire. You typically cannot perform your job with an expired license, and in many fields, continuing education in the form of classes or exams may be required to renew a license so you can continue working.

If you’re curious whether a career you are interested in requires a license, you can research jobs on the National Occupational Licensing Database.

What is a Professional Credential?

Credentialing, sometimes called certification, is when a private organization creates criteria to verify that a person has advanced knowledge and skills in their field. Certification is usually voluntary, meaning an individual chooses to pursue professional credentials. In some instances, certification is not voluntary, but required. For example, most states require Funeral Service providers to hold national certification from the American Board of Funeral Service Education.

People consider pursuing professional credentials or certifications for many reasons. Professional credentials can increase your earning potential and give you access to more job opportunities. Holding a certification also shows potential employers or clients that you have advanced training in your field, which can set you apart from other candidates when looking for a promotion or during a job search. Increased earning potential, expertise in your field, and more job opportunities are all great reasons to consider adding a professional certification to your résumé.

Examples of Professional Credentials Include:

  • Academic Degrees
  • Memberships in professional organizations
  • Trade Certificates

The requirements for certification vary by each private agency that provides the certification. Some certifications are for life, while others require renewal after a certain amount of time.

What is a Certificate?

“Credential” and “certificate” are used interchangeably, but an academic certificate is one you earn by taking coursework at an educational institution — earning a certificate upon completion of that coursework. A certificate is something you carry for life, and it does not expire. Earning an academic certificate shows you have training in a specific area from an accredited institution.

Academic certificates can help you deepen your expertise in your field, gain the skills needed to change career paths, or set you apart from other candidates during a job search. A certificate can help you increase your earning potential by giving you specific skill sets in a number of relevant and in-demand fields.

Goodwin University offers several certificate programs, many of which you can earn in just months. Right now, many people find it difficult to commit time and money to an associate or bachelor’s degree program. If that sounds like you, a certificate program can get you on the right path toward a more secure and rewarding career in less time.

Goodwin University offers certificate programs in Business Administration, Manufacturing, Computer-Aided Design, Medical Billing and Coding, Robotics and Automation, and more!

Interested in jumpstarting your career? Learn more today!