By the Division of Professional Licensure

What does professional licensing mean to me as a consumer?

Licensing of certain professions serves both to protect and to benefit you as a consumer of the services a licensee offers. Professional licensure assures that a license holder has met certain minimum requirementsâ€"usually education, experience and examinationâ€"for competent practice of that profession. Licensing then holds that professional to certain standards of practice and levels of experience and knowledge. To keep a license, these practitioners must continue to adhere to the ethical guidelines, standards of practice, educational requirements, and regulations pertaining to their professions.

How do I know if a professional is licensed?

Click Check a License to check the validity of a professional license. This heading will bring you to a page that asks you to select a particular profession and enter some information about the licensee. After you have entered your search request, the screen will tell you whether or not the practitioner is currently licensed and his or her complaint history, if any.

If the profession you are seeking is not listed, chances are the individual is not licensed by one of the boards within the Division of Professional Licensure. Check out listings of other state agencies that issue professional licenses.

What can I do if I think I have been harmed by a licensed professional?

While the majority of licensees conduct themselves as true professionals, the Division of Professional Licensure will take action against those who fail to maintain acceptable standards of competence and integrity. The Division receives about 2,500 formal complaints each year. In most cases, complaints are made by dissatisfied consumers â€" but dissatisfaction alone is not proof of incompetence or sufficient grounds for disciplinary action. Select Consumer Complaints for instructions on filing a complaint against a licensee.

How can I find the right professional for the job?

First, select Locate a Professional in Your Area and choose a profession and geographic area. Then select the "License Number" of one of the licensees who is listed to see if the professional is currently licensed and to review his or her complaint history. If you already have a professional in mind, select Check the Validity of a Professional License and follow the instructions on that page. Just because a professional is subject to a consumer complaint doesn't mean he or she is not honest or competent. Most consumer complaints arise from a misunderstanding between practitioner and consumer and those kind of complaints are usually dismissed by the licensing boards.

You should also ask your friends and family if they can recommend a professional to you. Ask the professional for references by other consumers, and check those references thoroughly. You may also check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if they have any complaints about the professional.

See Choosing a Licensed Professional for some more pointers.