We began a conversation the other day about licensure being a grift. There is a difference between licensure and certification.
A license is a permit, issued by the government, that allows a person to carry out a certain activity. In order for licensure to exist, the government must first make it illegal to perform the activity, then issue licenses that permit those possessing those licenses to perform the activity.
Certification is where an entity certifies that a person meets certain standards. The entity issuing the certification can be a private business or a government. The value of the certification lies with the reputation of the entity that issues it. A certification can be issued without license- for example, UL laboratories. The government even issues licenseless certification- high school diplomas.
The issuance of a license can involve certification by the same agency that issues it- an example of this is a driver’s license. The DMV both ensures that the applicant for the license meets certain criteria and issues the license.
Alternatively, a government may require that another, outside entity certify that the applicant meets licensing criteria prior to issuing the license. Examples of this include lawyers and nurses. Passing the Bar exam or the NCLEX is a precursor to receiving a license to practice those professions.
A license can be issued without certification at all. Fishing licenses, for example. No one cares if you know how to fish- FWC just wants your license fees.
The only real reason for licensure is so that the state can control who can and cannot perform certain activities. The state always uses safety and quality control as the reason for requiring licenses, but this is the government we are talking about here. This means that politics eventually carry more weight than competence or safety.
This becomes a problem when the certification required to obtain a license is different for one group than it is for another. Say an American doctor or nurse has to pass certain hurdles while foreign doctors and nurses have different, lower standards. The oft quoted problem of a barber requiring more hours of training than a paramedic in Florida. (it’s true- Florida requires 1,200 hours of training in order to take the exam to be a licensed barber, but 1,112 hours of training and clinical time to be a licensed Paramedic)
Nursing is a great example of colleges grifting the system. In order to sit for the registered nursing exam, you must have at least a 2 year degree. That means 72 credit hours, but 30 of those 72 hours (42%) are courses like US History, English Composition, and Humanities that have absolutely nothing to do with nursing.
The reason that this happens is the people who are already practicing in that field want to make sure that there is a restricted supply of their skillset, so that pay remains high, or in some cases it is because colleges want to make lots of money. This is why Physician assistant programs also lobby so hard to have the degree requirements increased. There are a few colleges that teach PA as a 2 year associates degree, a couple that make it a 4 years Bachelor’s degree, while most schools make it a Master’s degree. In each of the preceeding cases, the PA applicant is still eligible to sit for the licensing exam. Making it a more rigorous educational requirements doesn’t make for better PA’s, but it does make for fewer PA’s, meaning that PA’s make more money.
So yes, licensing is nearly always a grift. In fact, I can’t think of a single time when it isn’t.