Under the laws of every state in the United States, certain professions require practitioners to obtain a license issued pursuant to state licensing guidelines.
Accountants, attorneys, engineers and physicians, in particular, must satisfy stringent requirements and attain a satisfactory score on professional licensing exams that individual states have established to qualify professionals intending to practice, which vary widely from state to state, in addition to satisfying any necessary educational degree requirements as a prerequisite to register for any licensing exam.
Precisely because the applicable statutes and specific scoring requirements vary between states, there is no national minimum standard for licensure, and practitioners must generally acquire a license in every state one wishes to practice, with certain limited exceptions that allow practitioners licensed in other states to participate in projects, represent clients or treat patients in other states. Nevertheless, the actual licensing exams for Certified Public Accountants, Professional Engineers,
Medical Doctors and Attorneys are standardized across the country.
Certified Public Accountant:
Prospective Certified Public Accountants must achieve a passing score on the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam administered by the Board of Examiners of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The examination fee for the Uniform CPA Exam varies from state to state, but for illustrative purposes, New
York State charges a $125 Registration Fee and separate Examination Fees for the four individual sections of the exam as follows: Auditing and Attestation $134.50,
Business Environment and Concepts $100.50, Financial Accounting and Reporting
126.00 and Regulation $109.00 (NASBA).
Law School graduates must achieve a passing score on the bar exam administered by the Board of Bar Examiners of the particular state in which they wish to practice. State Boards of Bar Examiners vary widely in the subjects tested, with some states testing only the six "multi-state" subjects: Constitutional Law, Contracts,
Criminal Law, Evidence and Torts. Other states (New York and California, for example) test more than twenty different subjects including the specific laws of their respective jurisdictions. Many states also require candidates to pass the Multi-state
Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which must be scheduled separately in some states, but which is capable of satisfaction prior to graduation in others. The fee for the bar exam varies widely from state to state: for example, the fee in New York is 250, while many other states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware charge
Engineering graduates must successfully pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying in order to become an Engineering Intern (EI) or an Engineer-in-Training (EIT). Individual states impose their own specific regulations and requirements, but generally, a period of professional internship is required prior to eligibility for the second phase of the examination process, the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam as the final step to licensure as a Professional Engineer.
States also vary in the examination fees, but a typical breakdown is represented by the state of Maine which imposes fees of $120 for the Fundamentals of Engineering
Exam and $170 for the Principles and Practices of Engineering Exam (NCEES).
Medical school graduates must satisfy the specific requirements of the particular state in which they wish to practice, because individual states impose different requirements and possible test combinations to satisfy their licensure requirements. Generally, the United States Medical License Exam consists of three sections (Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3), administered through the Federation of State
Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).
Examination fees are as follows: Step 1 $435, Step 2 (Clinical Knowledge) $435, and Step 3 (Clinical Skills) $975 (FSMB/NBME).
Wholly apart from regulatory licensing required under law, numerous professions and subsets of various professions have established their own voluntary certifications" and membership in professional associations. Some of these voluntary certifications are legitimate organizations whose members have demonstrated the acquisition of verifiable degrees of expertise in specific areas of their professional practice within a regulated field, such as Professional Engineers, who specialize in Environmental Engineering, Irrigation Engineering, Corrosion
Engineering and Traffic Engineering. Likewise, licensed Medical Doctors may apply for voluntary Board Certification from the American Medical Association in areas of specialty and expertise, and licensed Attorneys may apply for certification and membership in various recognized specialty practices such as the Association of Trial
Lawyers, which is recognized by the American Bar Association. Certified specialties are not legally required, but generally, the Engineering, Law, and Medical industries recognize membership in specialty areas and they are considered very respected credentials within their respective fields.
Provided they entail no intrusion into regulated professional services, voluntary "certification" is not usually subject to regulatory laws. Whereas the recognized voluntary specialized certification within well established and regulated fields such as Engineering, Medicine and Law usually uphold the same professional standards of the parent industry, this is not necessarily the case in other fields, particularly those subject to no government regulation whatsoever.
Certified Traffic Engineer:
The Transportation Professional Certification Board, Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization incorporated in the District of Columbia (SPTOE). The requirements for membership include a state license in Civil, Electrical, General or Mechanical Engineering in conjunction with a passing score in an examination administrated by the Transportation Professional Certification Board and requisite membership fees. Additional requirements include either at least four years of practice, specifically within the Traffic Engineering field, or the equivalent of advanced education in lieu of a portion of the necessary practical experience.
Likewise, engineers practicing in countries without licensing requirements for engineers must provide evidence of expertise equivalent to the standards of licensed
Professional Engineer in the United States (NYEDOP).
Certified Floorcovering Installer:
The International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association was established in 1993 and boasts 14,000 members a decade later. It administrates various exams and requires different levels of experience for a hierarchical certification status within the organization.
According to the CFI Mission Statement, the purpose of the organization is To identify and certify according to skill and knowledge, Professional Flooring
Installers who will provide Customers with an installation of which they can be proud for many years" (CFI). In all likelihood, non-CFI flooring installers also provide customers with quality flooring installation, and CFI certification is only respected by its own membership base.
Unlike legitimate specialists in Engineering, Law and Medicine, whose expertise is generally recognized and acknowledged by colleagues within their fields, certifying" organizations in completely unregulated fields represents nothing more than the attempt to monopolize segments of the industry. These types of organizations simply exist to collect revenue in the form of examination fees and membership dues. Their ultimate goal is to achieve sufficient membership so that eventually, they become recognizable enough to creates the (usually erroneous) perception that only "certified" members of the organization are qualified to provide competent services. Typically, these organizations also lobby manufacturers for the inclusion of a "seal of approval" such as CFI's "Installation Assurance Program"
IAP) to further the perception that its absence suggests lesser quality work or materials.
Personal Trainer Certification:
Perhaps no better example of abuse of voluntary certification within a completely unregulated industry are the various certification programs available for personal trainers" working in gyms and health clubs throughout this country.
There is absolutely no standardization between the many certifying agencies such as ACE, ACSM, NSCA, NASM and IFPA. Typically, these organizations collect an exorbitant fee for study materials and certification exams, and a few days or weeks) of classes. In some cases, the actual exam consists of nothing more than multiple choice, or even true-false questions that have virtually nothing to do with anything relevant to competency in the field, and no classes or practical training in the field is required to take most of the exams (IFPA).