Difference Between Certification and Licensure

In the field of examination and practice, the terms certification and licensure get misunderstood. Usually, they go hand in hand but are different terms.


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Certain professions require certification and licensure. Certification is a voluntary process to enhance the skills, and licensure is the qualification to be competent in a specific field.

Certification vs Licensure

The difference between certification and licensure is that certification is a written document or permission stating that a specific act or event has occurred according to the norm or term mentioned. Attaining a certification is a voluntary process, and it does not affect the working of a person. Licensure is the consent given from the jurisdiction to practice in a line of work or a profession in a specific domain. Licensure gets issued by a government agency after meeting certain specific criteria.

Certification vs Licensure

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Certification is a voluntary credential issued by a private or nongovernment organization on completing the criteria or the set standard specified in the area.

The certification demonstrates that the requirements intended are based on specific international standards. Attaining the certification is voluntary, and a few examples are the CPR or first aid certification.

Licensure is a mandatory credential issued by a government as a legal license holder in a specific profession or a field of specialization, for example, a Licenced Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).

The crucial purpose of the licensure is to protect the welfare of the people as it requires regulation and minimal competency for a professional to practice.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonCertificationLicensure
NatureIt is voluntary to acquire it.It is compulsory to acquire it.
AgencyIt is issued by a private or non-government body.It is always issued by an executive body.
DefinitionIt is awarded after attaining the specifications mentioned in the certificate issued.It is a legal paper for professionals in their specific field of profession.
LegalityIt does not affect your line of work.Practicing without it will attract legal problems.
PurposeIt enhances your work with the latest knowledge.In the case of any line of profession, licensure is needed.

What is Certification?

Certifications are accreditations deserved by a person to display their proficiency to achieve a specific task. The certification is a document issued after the specified criteria, training, or education competency gets accomplished.

It gets published by a nongovernment or a private organization generally recognized by the government. 

Benefits of certification:

Obtaining certification displays a sense of dedication towards the profession and displays an effort to keep abreast with the latest knowledge.

The certification can add to the trust as it shows an endeavor to continuous learning and self-improvement. The advantage of getting certification in any profession adds to the following upper hand.

  • Competitive edge
  • Orderliness
  • Earning prospective
  • Expand knowledge and skill
  • Professional credibility

Types of certification:

There are three main classifications of certifications:

  • Corporate certifications are internal certifications of the company, and it enhances the competitiveness of the employees. Established criteria ensure the corporates have minimum certifications.
  • Product-specific or role specification certification is familiar in the marketing or IT industry as there are constant upgrades in this field.
  • Professional certification is specific to any profession to enhance the benefits of the latest developments in their field.

Attaining the certificate is a voluntary process. It is not a criterion to practice one’s profession.

Losing the certificate does not affect or prevent anyone from doing the respective jobs. It is optional and does not replace the original degree. Private or non-governmental organizations issue it.

What is Licensure?

Licensure is a verification to provide service in the selected profession, and it is a legal course of action with an explicit set of conditions in the picked function.

Not having the appropriate licensure may not give the rights for the person to work. It could even attract fines or penalties.

The procedure of licensure means public safety and welfare. 

Many professions require the certificate and licensure to go hand-in-hand. If you are a doctor, you need the degree and licensure to practice legally.

In the case of small businesses having appropriate licensure is compulsory. It could lead to serious trouble to operate without licensure.

The basic guidelines of the licensure are as follows:

  • Obtained from a government institution or agency (federal, state, or local)
  • It is legally binding for practicing certain professions like law or medicines. In the field of transportation or agriculture, licensure is compulsory.
  • Legal required in case of manufacturing, selling units like firearms or alcohol.

Benefits of Licensure:

  • It shows a symbol of professionalism.
  • Resounding status in career.
  • Authority figurine.
  • Higher salary and prestige.
  • Professionals can practice legally.

Licensure is certifying that a person has attained the qualification required in the specific field. Licensure can never be a non-governmental entity.

The names or titles used by the professionals have a legal impact on the licensure. Practicing without licensure may attract legal or financial penalties.

Main Differences Between Certification and Licensure

  1. Certification is a voluntary credential that enhances the area of specialization. Licensure is a mandatory credential compulsory in the field of specialization.
  2. The private or nongovernment authority issue the certification. Only a government agency can issue licensure.
  3. Certification is a voluntary process done by an individual or company. Licensure is a mandatory process.
  4. A CPR, Web design is an example of certification. The degree of a teacher, the doctor, is an example of licensure.
  5. A specific educational qualification is not compulsory for certification. Completion of the specified qualification is crucial for licensure.
Difference Between Certification and Licensure
  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/j.1556-6676.1995.tb01849.x
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2007.00077.x
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