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Professional Licensure and Certification

This guide provides information on professional licensure, including links to study aids


Professional licensure and certification are all ways in which an individual's knowledge and proficiency are attested to by a reliable third party, typically as the result of the individual passing one or more examinations or completing a specific training program. In most fields, licensure or certification can drastically increase potential salary; in some fields, it is required to work independently.

Professional Licensure

Professional licensure, also known as professional registration, is a method by which a government ensures that only highly qualified people are allowed to practice certain professions where incompetence or malpractice could pose a danger to the public. Specific programs at Illinois Tech where licensure is common or expected include architecture, civil engineering, law, and psychology.

In the United States, professional licenses are regulated at the state level. While this means that a practitioner must be licensed in every state in which they work, many states and some international governments have “reciprocity agreements” that allow a licensed professional from one jurisdiction more easily obtain a license in another jurisdiction.

Because licensure is state regulated, the actual requirements differ from state to state. The International Affairs Office of the U.S. Department of Education has compiled a good list of licensure information by state. It can be found at


Certification is also known as professional certification, trade certification, professional designation, or qualification. Certifications are typically managed by professional societies or industry, rather than government. Because of this they have no direct legal standing, but are nevertheless sought after by employers as proof of competency in a specific area.

Certifications are not to be confused with certificate programs. Certifications are a proof of competency in a particular field: certificate programs are a type of degree offered by various colleges or other educational organizations.