Tutorial: Professional Licenses
State government agencies require licenses for people in dozens of different kinds of professions, everything from private investigators and nurses to accountants and contractors.
Many companies also are required to be licensed, such as nursing homes and child care facilities.
Other professionals are licensed by professional organizations, such as attorneys who members of a state bar or doctors who are members of a state medical association.
Still other professions, such as airline pilots, must have a federal license or register with a federal agency.
To see the different professions that are licensed in different states and by the federal government go to the website for:
There you can search by state or by the federal government and then by occupation to see what state or federal agencies regulate a particular profession. The site also has the addresses and phone numbers of the licensing agencies.
The licensing and professional regulatory agencies keep name indexes that list the people or companies that they license or regulate, usually including the licensees' addresses. More detailed information sometimes is available, such as investigations of complaints or inspection reports.
You have to check with each individual agency to determine what records they keep and how the records can be accessed.
A large number of state and federal agencies that regulate professions are putting their name indexes and at least some of their records online.
Professional Licenses Online
Many state licensing and regulatory agencies and some federal agencies put their indexes online, which you can search to see if a particular person or company has a license or is a regulated business and to get basic information on them.
You'll need to check the websites for states or the federal government to see what licensing and regulatory agencies exist and what licensing databases have been put online.
One website that keeps track of licensing agencies in different states and on a federal level is:
At that page, select a specific state or "federal agencies" and then a particular occupation. Follow the links to get the website address for the licensing agency for that occupation.
Another site that lists state licensing agencies for different occupations is:
Or for direct links to the state licensing agencies' websites use:
California Professional Licenses
California has several different agencies that license professions or types of businesses.
California Department of Consumer Affairs
Most licensing of professionals in California is done by the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
To see what databases are available online, go to the:
The databases then can be searched by name to determine if someone has a professional license
Other California Licensing Agencies
For other licensed professionals, try:
At that page, select California and then pick a particular occupation. Then follow the links to the address for the website for the licensing agency for that occupation.
Reporters can locate online records on doctors through the American Medical Association and through state medical associations.
American Medical Association
The American Medical Association has a website for looking up information on doctors who are AMA members (not all doctors are members of the AMA). Go to:
State Medical Boards
Many state medical boards put directories of licensed physicians and in some cases notices about disciplinary actions on their websites.
The Federation of State Medical Boards has a list of state medical board websites:
California Medical Board
The California Medical Board licenses doctors in California. Its website has a search engine for locating doctors by name. Go to:
Reporters can locate online records on lawyers through the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and through state bar associations.
Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory
This legal directory, which is referenced at the American Bar Association's website, is a good site for getting information on attorneys and law firms in the United States and other countries. Go to the:
The California Bar Association has a website at which you can search for an attorney by name. Go to the:
And type a name into the ATTORNEY SEARCH box in the upper left.
Besides contact information for an attorney, the site will also note any disciplinary actions against a lawyer.
Teachers are credentialed by states.
In California the Commission on Teacher Credentialiing has a searchable online database you can use to check if a teacher is credentialed and if the commission has taken official action against a teacher. Go to the CTC's:
Pilots and Aircraft Owners
Pilots are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and you can search a national database to find information on an individual pilot. The FAA also has a database on registered owners of aircraft.
The FAA has an online database you can search by name of owner or by the registration number (N-number) of an aircraft. Go to the:
The Landings website has databases for locating information on federally licensed pilots, owners of aircraft, maintenance reports on particular aircraft filed with the FAA (which are called Service Difficulty Reports), accident reports filed by the National Transportation Safety Board, and airports. The data is drawn from the FAA and NTSB databases. Go to:
At the main page click on the link at the top for Databases. At the new page, on the left select:
- Certifications - Pilots - for licensed pilots, searchable by name.
- Registrations - US - for registered owners of aircraft, searchable by a name or by the registration number (N-number) of an aircraft.
- Reports - SDRs - for service difficulty reports on mechanical problems of aircraft, searchable by registration or N number.
- Reports - NTSB - for accident reports on aircraft by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Many professional associations have online directories of their members that list phone numbers, e-mail addresses or mailing addresses.
So if you are researching someone who you think may be a member of a particular profession, try going to the website for the association for that profession to see if there is a directory listing for the person.
If you know the name of the professsional association, use a search engine like Google to locate the association's website.
Or just try searching for the name of the profession and adding the word association or organization to your string of search words.
About this Tutorial
This tutorial was originally written by Paul Grabowicz for students in his Computer Assisted Reporting class, and later modified for public use.
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