Great question because many people don’t know. In general, both certifications and licenses require you to take an exam and pass. However, licenses go through a more rigorous process to be recognized nationally. The scope of practice of someone who is ‘licensed’, like a Registered Dietitian, chiropractor, nurse, or physician, is protected. In other words, someone cannot call themselves a dietitian unless they’re licensed.
Additionally, someone who is licensed must meet a certain educational requirement in order to even sit for the license exam. Most exams require at least a four-year degree from an accredited university.
Are licensed professionals more qualified than certified ones?
Not necessarily. Licensed professionals must meet education requirements, but those requirements have little direct bearing on the score of the exam. Someone could have aced all of their courses yet failed the exam. Vice versa, someone could have just cruised through the coursework, not learning anything, and still pass the exam.
Then there are certified professionals who gobble up education and seek out learning opportunities left and right, making them extremely educated and qualified.
There are also professionals out there who are neither certified nor licensed, yet do amazing work for their clients. They probably have a breadth of experience, and through those experiences, learned how to best work with people.