Obtaining a License vs. a Certification

Last Updated:
Wed, 2019-01-30 14:15

When researching a new career, one of the first items you'll review are the qualifications. This will include education, work experience, licensure and/or certifications.

The first two are straightforward, but what exactly is the difference between licensure and certification?

Is licensure the same thing as certification? …the answer is no.

Licensure = mandated by the state to practice a profession or offer a service within that designated scope of practice

State defines the tasks and function of the profession

Requirements vary from state to state

May be one license or multiple (tiered) within a profession

Certification = provided by a private organization comprised of trade-specific professionals who identify tasks and duties that best represent a competent professional in the industry

Typically a voluntary achievement used to show proficiency

Covers a standardized range of knowledge and skills

Transferrable across states, since it's an industry-supported designation

Licensure and certification processes often co-exist and can complement one another. For example -- although certification is generally voluntary, it can be required to earn a license in some states.

Do I Need a License or a Certification?

We see a lot of career-changers looking for information about their intended occupation, and there's a lot of confusion about whether they should get a license, a certification, or both.

Nobody tends to like the answer… that it depends on the occupation, and it depends on the state or jurisdiction where you want to work.

A solar contractor in...

State A may need an electrician's license

State B may need an electrician's license with a specialty license in solar

State C may need a general contractor's license

State D may not need a license but may need a NABCEP Certification

State E may need a NABCEP Certification to qualify for the license

Where Can I Find What I Need?

Probably the most difficult part in all of this is determining where to go to get this information.

Many of the trades have their own "boards," and unfortunately the boards often have confusing names that you wouldn't guess in a million years (because they aren't standardized from state to state).

3 tips for learning about state licensing & certification:

Keep it simple.  Google: (your state) + (your intended career) + license

Try being general.  Google: (your state) contractor's board

Contact your local utility.  If your desired career deals with energy, your utility provider should know what its local contractors have done to meet requirements and gain business.

Google state contractor board image

From there, you should have information that will get you going in the right direction. Anything that says licensing, regulation, board, contractor, etc. will be a good place to begin researching.

What Happens if I Don't Get Licensed or Certified?

If you plan to work in a state that requires a license or certification, it's best that you do your due diligence and satisfy the requirements.

Many states impose serious penalties, ranging from fines to imprisonment, on unlicensed professionals. Furthermore, a contract between a consumer and an unlicensed contractor is not enforceable, which may adversely affect the contractor (inability to collect payment) as well as the consumer (inability to seek retribution against faulty work).

Transitioning to a new career is different from transitioning between grocery stores. Your career affects your livelihood, your family, and your happiness. It requires your full attention, adequate research, and a little patience. If you're not ready to do the research, you might not be ready to change careers.

If you are ready to change careers, and particularly if you're interested in the energy industry, Everblue offers green job training to those who need core entry-level skills and to experienced professionals who want to qualify for an industry certification.

Check back with us as we examine the licensure and certification opportunities available within the energy industry, or visit our Course Catalog for a basic overview of green career pathways.



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