How to Obtain a Professional License

Each state has the right to require people to become licensed in their profession before practicing that profession.   Licensing requirements exist to protect the public by ensuring that people who claim to be professionals have the necessary qualifications to complete the job. While each state has its own licensing requirements, there are commonalities among the states and between the different types of professional licenses available. 
Typically, a state has separate licensing boards for the different types of professions that are licensed in that state. In order to obtain a professional license, an applicant must first find out what the board requires for a person to become licensed. Some states have this information online and in other states you must call the specific licensing board. 
Typical License Requirements
Given the wide variety of professions that are regulated, it is not surprising that there is a wide variety of licensing requirements. For example, states require that different criteria be met for medical doctors, lawyers, psychotherapists, day care providers, and contractors. However, professionals should be prepared to satisfy the:
  • Education Requirements: some licenses, such as a license to be a pharmacist, or a license to become a registered nurse, require an applicant to complete a certain degree program prior to being licensed;
  • Experience Requirements: some licenses, such as the licenses needed to become a psychologist or an architect, require an applicant to complete a certain number of work hours under the supervision of someone who already holds a license; and
  • Examination Requirements: some licenses, such as the license to become a lawyer or an accountant, require applicants to pass a formal examination or test before getting a license.
The Application
One you satisfy the education, experience and examination requirements for the license that you seek, then you can complete the application process. Typically, the application asks requires you to submit documentation that you have completed the education, experience and examination requirements, and asks you to complete basic information about yourself.
One of the most significant questions on the application itself is whether you have ever been convicted of a crime. It is important to answer this question honestly since the licensing board is likely to conduct a background check on you and find out about any prior convictions. Be sure to explain any outstanding circumstances surrounding your conviction and any steps toward rehabilitation that you have taken.
Additionally, it is important to file your application on time and with any required filing fees to prevent delays in the approval of your license.
What to Do if Your Professional License Application is Denied
If your license application has been denied then the licensing board will typically provide you with a reason for the denial. You may be able to provide documentation that addresses the board’s concerns and rectifies the matter. If that is insufficient, and you believe that you qualify for a license, then you may be able to appeal the denial decision.
It is important to contact the licensing board for your profession in the state in which you want to practice your profession to learn the specific requirements that apply to you before you begin the licensing application so that you can maximize your chances of being granted a license.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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