Jump to content

What's the difference between being Certified and being Licensed?


I’m posting this message in an attempt to answer a question for my younger brother (he’s 18, high school senior.) He’s currently enrolled in a CNA course offered through the local High School.

Anyway, he applied for an LPN program that starts this coming May, so he’ll be starting a few days after his High School graduation. He asked (in healthcare) what the difference was between being Certified in something and being Licensed in something was.

I’m not really sure how to answer this question. I am currently an LPN, working on my RN, and I’ve never really understood this, and it’s never been addressed in my studies. I’ve always heard nurses go and on and about "I’m not going to do this.. Or that.. I’m not going to take my chances and loose my license." One time an aide said something to that affect, and our RN supervisor said something to the effect of " You need not worry about that dear, you’re certified, not licensed."

So what’s the difference really?

Thanks in advance.


Has 15 years experience.

Licensing presumes that an activity is forbidden unless it is permitted for those with a license (practicing nursing/medicine without a license or driving a car without a license are illegal activities). Certification, however, distinguishes those who have completed courses or education, but does not restrict the activity to only those who posses the certification. For example, you do not (by law, not by rules of the facility) need to be certified as a CNA to take vital signs or perform other CNA functions. You DO however need to be licensed to perform a nursing assessment, prescribe and dispense medications, or other functions limited those with licenses (RNs, LPNs, MDs, PharmDs, etc). Clear as mud? ;)

RN 4 U

Specializes in none yet.

As an RN Certified Nursing indicates that a person is specialized in a particular field of nursing such as Certified ICU nurses, Pediatric Nurse, Geriatric, etc. Those persons are already licensed in the field of nursing but has taken additional courses in a speciality area of nursing. At some hospitals you get more money if you are certified in a particular field and are working in that area. In your brothers case, a CNA course means that he has taken the minimum required course work to be competent to perform nursing assitant duties. More education is required to receive a license though. Certified just means that the minimum coursework was taken and the person is now competent to perform minimal duties. :trout:

This topic is now closed to further replies.