Will I need a License or Certification for my Job?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has published an article, based on BLS data, showing the occupations where workers are most likely to have a license or certification.     The report also highlights BLS growth projections for selected occupations.  

So, what is the difference between a license and a certification, you ask?  According to the BLS definition, one of the biggest distinctions is that licenses are legally required by the government to work in an occupation; certifications are not.  Below is a breakdown of the differences between the two credentials.


  • Awarded by a governmental licensing agency
  • Gives legal authority to work in an occupation
  • Requires meeting predetermined criteria, such as having a degree or passing a state-administered exam.

In 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.


  • Awarded by a professional organization or other nongovernmental body
  • Is not legally required in order to work in an occupation
  • Requires demonstrating competency to do a specific job, often through an examination process.

In 2015, about 3 percent of employed people held a certification, but no license.  Some groups, such as those working in community and social services and healthcare, have a relatively high percentage of workers who have a certification, but not a license.

You can access the national data on certifications and licenses in the U.S. here, on the BLS website.