If the guy at the bagel shop doesn't know what he's doing, you might end up with strawberry cream cheese on your onion and garlic bagel. If the your aircraft mechanic doesn't know what she's doing, the consequences could be far more dire. Because on-the-job mistakes could potentially damage your home, your health, or your freedom, certain occupations require a worker to be licensed before they can legally practice the trade.
Who Needs a License?
Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so a particular occupation may require a license in Montana, but not in Wyoming, or vice-versa. Even if a license is required in both states, often the specific requirements to obtain the license will differ, causing professionals to apply for a license in each state where they intend to practice. A complete list of occupations that require a license to practice in Montana can be found at lmi.mt.gov/Occupation/licOcc.
Nationwide, about 22% of employed people held some sort of license.1 The occupational groups with the highest percentage of licensed workers included healthcare, legal and protective services, community and social services, and personal care and service. Other occupations that commonly require licensing include real estate brokers, insurance agents, civil engineers, architects, personal finance advisors, and accountants. Generally, the higher the level of education required for a job, the more likely that job will require a license to practice.
License or Certification?
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, there are key differences in how the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines them.
- Gives legal authority to work in an occupation
- Awarded by a governmental licensing agency
- Requires passing an exam or holding a specific degree
- Is not legally required to work in an occupation
- Awarded by a professional organization or other nongovernmental body
- Requires demonstrating competency to do a specific job, often through an examination process
The key difference, of course, is that licenses are legally required while certificates are not. Nationwide, about 3% of employed people held a certification, but no license. Occupational groups that require certification at the highest rates includes Computer and mathematical occupations; Installation, maintenance and repair; Community and social services; Healthcare; and Architecture and engineering.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, 2015.