difference between certification and licensure

Designing Your Career Path: Licensure vs. Certification

Whether you’re new to college or looking to transfer schools, you’ve probably already thought about your future career. Understanding what’s required of you to reach those goals is an important part of the process. When it comes to professional requirements, government licensure and private certification are often confused with one another. It can be difficult to understand the difference because the requirements can be unclear and can vary from state to state.

Choosing a college means looking at schools that offer a clear pathway to the job you want. Understanding the difference between licensure and certification will give you a head start in your college and career search.

Let’s look at licenses and credentials and how they might fit into your future job plans.


A license is a legal document from a governmental agency confirming that a person has satisfied all the requirements to be allowed to perform their job duties in a specific area. In other words, you can’t begin working until you’re licensed. Licenses are issued by the federal government, state government, or local government. Where the license is issued determines the place or organizations in which a person is allowed to work.

For example…

Teaching is one of the many professions that require a state license. Teachers earn teaching licenses through required coursework, classroom experience, and state testing. Teaching licenses require renewal after a certain period of time. In many states, to renew a teaching license, a teacher has to complete professional development and may even be required to obtain a master’s degree in education.

If a teacher wants to move to another state, they must obtain a teaching license in their new state. This process can be as simple as transferring their license to the new state or as complicated as taking additional coursework to satisfy the licensing requirements in their new state. The same is true for many other types of professional licenses.

A license is necessary to work in the following fields:

If your career requires a license, there are usually penalties for working with an expired license since you cannot perform your job duties without an active license. To avoid these penalties, you should understand what is necessary to renew your license when the time comes. Testing or continuing education classes are typically required to renew a professional license — ensuring you stay up to date on best practices in your field.

Professional Credentials

Professional credentials, sometimes called certifications, are issued by private organizations that create criteria to verify that a person has advanced skills in their field. Certifications are voluntary, meaning you choose to become certified, although some industries or companies may require certification to hold certain positions.

People consider adding professional credentials or certifications to their résumés for many reasons. Credentials and certifications can increase your lifetime earning potential and open doors to more job opportunities. Certification in your field shows potential employers that you have advanced knowledge and skills, setting you apart from other candidates when seeking a promotion or a new job. A higher salary, better job opportunities, and less competition in the job market are all great reasons to go after professional certifications.

Examples of credentials or certifications include:

  • Academic degrees
  • Memberships in professional organizations
  • Trade Certificates

Like licensing, the requirements for additional certifications can vary depending on the organization issuing the credential.

How Do I Get Licensed or Certified in My Field?

Understanding the requirements for obtaining a professional license or certification can be challenging. As if pursuing your degree isn’t enough, you also need to know that you have what it takes to become licensed. At UB, there’s help for that.

University of Bridgeport is a career-focused university, meaning we understand that your time here at UB is leading you toward your career. UB’s academic advisors will support you along your educational journey, allowing you to understand the requirements for your chosen field. Our expert faculty and unmatched support services will help you earn your degree and graduate into a secure career. By choosing UB, you’ll set yourself on the path toward achieving all your goals — academically, professionally, and personally.

Are you interested in UB’s career-focused programs? Reach out to us to learn more. Let’s start something great together!