- Licenses are used to ensure that only competent professionals are offering certain complex services.
- Many occupations surprisingly require licenses, such as makeup artists, auctioneers, shampooers and florists.
- Certifications can help you acquire higher-paying positions and attract more clients.
- This article is for job seekers who want to know what jobs require licensure and which certifications can help them stand out to employers.
You already know you need a license to become a truck driver, but did you know that nearly 1 in 4 occupations in the U.S. now require a license? According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 23% of full-time workers have a license or certification. If you’re looking to switch careers or launch a small business, you might wonder if you need a license to do so. Before you move forward, familiarize yourself with the steps you’ll need to take to work your dream job.
Here’s everything you should know about professional licenses, including which occupations require them, which types of licenses you’ll need, and how to acquire them.
What is a professional license?
A professional license is a permit from an authority to perform a certain service legally. This is typically one of the main steps preventing people from offering certain services or opening a business in a particular sector. In other words, professional licenses exist to ensure that only competent people can offer certain professional services.
To obtain a professional license, you must demonstrate that you can comply with your chosen field’s best practices and standards. Licenses are generally issued by government agencies, though you may encounter certification organizations that also offer supplemental credentials.
These are the typical steps in acquiring a license:
- Complete training. The first step to getting a professional license is to receive the proper training. This may involve enrolling in school or studying training materials in a book or online. Either way, you must train for as long as possible to perfect your craft.
- Gain work experience. Once you have completed enough training, you will need actual experience in the field. This often involves taking on an internship or apprenticeship that allows you to observe those working in the field and to reinforce your skill sets until you are skilled enough to pass the license exam.
- Pass an exam. Lastly, you must pass an exam to secure your license. These exams often include multiple components such as written and/or verbal, as well as a demonstration of your skill sets.
Did you know?: Occupational licenses are different from business licenses. Even if your occupation does not require a professional license, you may still need a business license or seller’s permit if you plan to start your own business.
Who needs a license?
There are some obvious examples of licensed occupations, such as therapists and attorneys. However, you may be surprised to learn that these 10 jobs also require professional licenses.
Did you know 41 states require makeup artists to be licensed? However, there are exceptions to these licensing requirements, depending on where you plan to perform services. Often, makeup artists working in theater, film and retail stores do not need to hold licenses. Those who work in salons or spas or who make house calls are more often required to be licensed.
Unarmed security guard
Unarmed security guards are currently licensed in 32 states. In many states, acquiring a license, or guard card, is fairly easy and can be done online, but a few states have more laborious licensing processes. For example, North Dakota requires prospective security guards to obtain 1,000 hours of experience before becoming eligible for licensure. The eligibility requirements can range from four to 48 hours of education.
Auctioneers must be licensed in 25 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The requirements range from a $15 fee in Hawaii to $650 in fees, two exams, and over two years of education and an apprenticeship in Tennessee.
Residential painting contractor
In 28 states, someone who paints home or apartment walls must have a government-issued license. In some states, including California, Hawaii and Nevada, residential painting contractors must have several years of experience before being eligible for a license.
Funeral attendants place caskets in the parlor, arrange the flowers around it, and direct mourners, among other duties. They are required to be licensed in Kansas, Maine and Massachusetts.
Interior design is typically an unlicensed field. However, in Louisiana, Florida, Nevada, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, you’ll need a license or state registration to work unsupervised in any commercial space as an interior designer.
While many people book travel online these days, travel agents are still in demand. Nine states currently license or register travel agents. Iowa previously required a seller’s permit for travel agents, but recently removed this requirement.
Home entertainment installer
Did you know that you need a license to set up home entertainment technology, such as stereo systems and audio or television receivers? In Connecticut, aspiring installers must complete a one-year apprenticeship and engage in 900 hours of technical education.
Pest control worker
Many people are surprised to learn that pest control workers must be licensed in every state. This extends to any person who will be spraying chemicals as part of the pest control process.
Florists normally don’t need a license (aside from a basic seller’s permit). However, if you’re an aspiring florist in Louisiana, you’ll need to pass an exam and pay a fee to earn your floristry license.
Which certifications pay the most?
Now that we know what licenses are, how they are used and acquired, and the surprising occupations that may require them, let’s look at some top-paying certifications. Certifications are not the same as licenses and are usually not a requirement, but they can validate your experience in your field and enable you to charge more or pursue more lucrative job opportunities.
- Human resources: Although it is not required, a certification in human resources can help secure better-paying HR jobs. The possible certifications for a human resource position are PHR, SPHR or SHRM.
- Project management: Although it is possible to be seasoned in project management without a certification, securing a certification adds value to your resume and makes you a more serious contender in many fields.
- Sales: While the sales sector is one you can break into without a certification, a certification will make you stand out as a candidate. Certifications such as MDDIC, Challenger Sales or others can snag you higher-paying positions.
- Software: No matter what type of job you are trying to secure, a certification in any type of software can help you secure better positions. Whether you earn a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certification, an ACA (Apple Certified Associate), a CISSP (Certified Information System Security Professional), a CRM software certification, or any other type of software certification, it will help make you an invaluable employee at a wide array of companies and organizations.
- Big data: A big data certification can help you qualify for high-paying business analytics or data management jobs. Most only require that you pass an exam, though the exams require a fair amount of specialized knowledge. Signing up for a training program is recommended.
Key takeaway: The requirements for certifications vary. Some require several years of experience and a set number of hours of continuing education each year, while others simply require you to pay for and pass an exam.
Are licenses and certifications a burden or an opportunity?
Some of the occupational licenses on the list can be burdensome to obtain. Many require fees, exams, and a set amount of experience or apprenticeship time. If you already have the skills and abilities necessary to do the job professionally, jumping through additional hoops is a bit of a hassle. However, a professional license or certification does add a degree of legitimacy to your field and resume.
If you’re looking to make a career jump, pursuing a license or certification can greatly expand your skill set and stand out to recruiters. Candidates in certified or licensed professions are often in higher demand because the talent pool is smaller. Securing the right licenses and certifications can boost your business to a new level of success, so take the time to apply for those that matter to you.
Adam Uzialko contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.