Occupational Licensure

Occupational licensure is the method by which government agencies authorize individuals to engage in a particular government-regulated occupation. Federal, state, and local government agencies grant occupational licenses and set certain professional standards via state or federal law or regulations. Licenses are typically mandatory and often require a certain level of education, experience, and/or passing a licensing exam. Some examples of occupations for which a license is required in Massachusetts are teachers, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, and commercial drivers.

Occupational Certification

Many occupations either requires a certification or the certification is highly desired by employers. Certification provides confirmation of job qualifications, and may be required to obtain certain occupational licenses. Like occupational licensure, occupational certification may require a certain level of education, experience and/or training, and/or passing an exam. Examples of occupations involving certification include computer engineers and computer repair technicians, biomedical engineers and medical lab technicians, and careers in the protective service, utilities, and construction industries.

In recent years, the military has begun to recognize the value of obtaining civilian certification while serving in the military. The military has adapted some of their training programs to meet civilian certification standards, making it easier for military veterans to obtain occupational certification as civilians. Military medical training has been successful because many of the medical commands have had their training programs accredited for civilian certification requirements. For example, Emergency Medical Technicians in all services are required to obtain certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.

Barriers to Obtaining Civilian Occupational Credentials through Licensure and Certification

Civilian licensure and/or certification requirements may affect veterans in one of the following ways:

  • Veterans may possess equivalent civilian credentials for employment that does not require a license or certification. Veterans in this category seeking employment do not necessarily need to pursue occupational credentialing via a license or certification.
  • Veterans may leave the military with all the civilian credentials they need. Service members may leave the military with credentials recognized by civilian credentialing boards. In recent years the Department of Defense and military services have increasingly incorporated civilian credentialing into their training programs. The healthcare and aviation fields have been the most successful.
  • Veterans may be certified to work in a particular field, but lack the required license. These veterans must obtain a license from the appropriate government agency. Because certification and licensure requirements are often similar, veterans may experience little difficulty in obtaining the license.
  • Veterans may leave the military with the education, training, or experience necessary to become licensed or certified, but lack the formal civilian credential. These individuals may be able to follow an administrative procedure to obtain the license or credential. The procedure typically requires completing an application, documenting military training and experience, and taking an exam.
  • Veterans may have to supplement their military education or training and obtain additional education, training, or experience. These veterans may experience periods of unemployment or underemployment until they are able to get the education, training, or experience they need to meet the requirements to obtain an occupational license or certification.