Professional Licenses and Certifications - Definitions, Distinctions, and Disclosures

Excerpt from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Licenses and certifications show that a person has the specific knowledge or skill needed to do a job. Typically, you earn these credentials after you've completed your education. Sometimes, you become licensed or certified after you've gained practical experience, such as through an internship, residency, or time on the job.

Earning a license or certification involves meeting standards, which often includes passing an exam. Licenses and certifications are usually valid for a limited term and must be renewed periodically. An employer may require either credential.

However, there are a few key differences in the way BLS uses these terms. As shown below, one of the biggest distinctions between these two credentials is that licenses are legally required by the government to work in an occupation; certifications are not.


  • 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.


  • 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.

Sometimes, these credentialing terms are used interchangeably. For example, some states may refer to the credentials teachers need as certifications while others refer to these certifications as "add-ons" to general state licenses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics would define them all as licenses because they are issued by a state government and are legally required for many specific teaching positions.

Professional Licensure Disclosures

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point offers several programs and credentials that may lead to professional licensure within the State of Wisconsin. Other states vary in what professions they require to be licensed and how licensure functions. For example, some states require an individual to graduate from an approved program. Other states may require an individual to meet certification requirements of a national organization. A specific amount of training may also be required as well as passage of an exam based on a state-required exam score. Frequently, licensed professionals must complete continuing education on an annual basis.

If a student is planning to apply for licensure in a state other than Wisconsin after completion of their program, the student should refer to the information below or contact the other state's appropriate licensing board to determine whether the UW-Stevens Point program meets licensure requirements in that state.

Please note: licensure requirements are always subject to change. Although the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point will confirm the licensure requirements on a routine basis, it is strongly recommended that you inquire with the state board to confirm that you understand and will meet the requirements for licensure before enrolling in your program of choice.

The programs listed below represent select programs at UW-Stevens Point that are designed to provide the educational requirements for professional licensure in the State of Wisconsin. General information regarding all academic programs may be found in the course catalog. For specific information about a program and disclosure of information regarding a program's suitability for fulfilling licensure requirements in another state, use the link embedded in the program name listed below.

Education Degree Programs:

Additional Certification/Licensure Options in Education:

Health Sciences Degree Programs:

​Social Work Programs: