651: Professional

One of the most meta things I have experienced in a long time was, when researching professional licensing, visiting the pages explaining how one can become a Certified Licensing Professional. But this particular certification isn’t for someone who helps certify and license others in their professions — it’s for those who work in intellectual property.

And this is just one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of professional licenses and certifications available just in the United States, not even getting in to the worldwide availability and requirements.

There is technically a difference between a professional license and a professional certification. As the US Bureau of Labor Statistics describes it:

Earning a license or certification involves meeting standards, which often includes passing an exam. Licenses and certifications are usually valid for a limited term and must be renewed periodically. An employer may require either credential.

However, there are a few key differences in the way BLS uses these terms. […] one of the biggest distinctions between these two credentials is that licenses are legally required by the government to work in an occupation; certifications are not.

I n 2015, about 22 percent of employed people had a license. Occupations with the highest percentages of licensed workers include those in healthcare, legal and protective service, community and social services, and personal care and service.

Licenses, however, are not always controversy-free requirements to work in particular professions. In 2015, both the Brookings Institute and Governing Magazine ran similar articles pointing out some of the questions around the practice. Quote:

When hiring an electrician, it’s important to be able to figure out whether the person knows what they’re doing. Selecting an amateur might send your house up in flames. […] In the United States, a third party does the job of sorting out the charlatans from the pros. […] That way, identifying qualified electricians need not involve letting a few houses go up in flames, and a person who buys or rents a house can have relative confidence that there are not hidden defects in the home’s wiring.

But many states require a license to legally perform a job where the risks of getting it wrong seem far less dire for potential consumers. For example, some states require that florists and make-up artists satisfy expensive and time-intensive requirements before they are legally permitted to perform their jobs. Also subject to such requirements in various states are locksmiths, ballroom dance instructors, hair braiders, manicurists, interior designers, and upholsterers.

This regulatory practice is known as “occupational licensing,” and it has spread to cover around 30 percent of the U.S. workforce, up from just 5 percent in the 1950s.

So – knowing that some professions it makes sense, but others it may be more questionable, how would you handle the question in your own profession?