State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Division of Personnel and Labor Relations

Classification: Licensing Changes

This page focuses on assisting you with situations that you might encounter and questions or concerns that you might have about professional licensing and certification as it pertains to the work of your department, division, unit, and staff. Within the following you will find information and guidance on the role of Classification in personnel administration and dealing with various issues related to professional licensing and certification. Some of your own questions or concerns may lead you elsewhere within our site. However, we may also be able to address them here. We encourage you to investigate all of the prospective questions and concerns, even if at first glance they don't initially appear to cover yours.

How do professional licenses and certifications impact my department, division, unit, and staff?

Physicians and nurses, professional engineers, lawyers, public accountants, and law enforcement officers are all professions synonymous with professional licensing or certification. Professional licenses are issued to individuals by authorities (i.e., governments) as legal permissions to practice specified highly skilled and/or dangerous activities. Professional or trade certifications are designations earned by individuals from professional societies, educational institutions, or informational technology vendors, which provide assurances that grantees are qualified to perform certain stipulated jobs or tasks. Both are designed to act as safeguards to the public interest by restricting work to those most qualified through education and/or experience.

There may be circumstances of overlap between non-licensed and licensed professional work. As an example, the State of Alaska employs non-licensed Engineering Assistants and licensed Engineers/Architects, both of whom perform engineering work. However, the licensed Engineers/Architects, by placing their professional stamp of approval upon any plans or work, are wholly and legally responsible for them. As such, the licensed Engineers/Architects are assigned to higher pay ranges for this increased scope of decision making, commitment, and consequence of error.

In the realm of public employment, licensing and certification adds layers of confidence and credibility to those served by the department's mission and may add levels of legal protection for the department and its employees. The impact of changes to a given professional license or certification to a department and its workforce will depend upon its specific nature, work dynamics initiating the change, and their subsequent effects on the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) of the staff performing that given body of work. It will have to be assessed for whether it is a required or desired qualification.

What is the difference between required and desired qualifications?

The impact of changes to a given professional license or certification to a department and its workforce will depend upon its specific nature, the work dynamics initiating the change and their subsequent effects on the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) of the staff performing that given body of work. It will also have to be assessed for whether it is a required or desired qualification.

Required qualifications are those that an employee must have in order to perform the duties of a particular occupation. Professional licenses and certifications that are truly required are defined by statute and/or regulation.

Desired qualifications are preferred behavioral characteristics, strengths, skills, knowledge, and relevant experience, etc, which demonstrate that an applicant or employee has the ideal qualifications for an office, position, or task.

If we're seeing that a certain professional certification is becoming a more desired qualification for new applicants in our occupational field why should it matter that it isn't legally required?

Regardless of its nature, any time that there is a perceptual shift in the potential knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for a given body of work, it is the department's responsibility to carefully assess the scope of changes in work that are instigating the change in KSAs.

Most often in this scenario, though, the certification enhances the overall desirability of candidates and performance of staff. However, if it is not a required qualification that is necessary through either changes in the KSAs requisite to do the work or statutory or regulatory requirement, this scenario may most typically be addressed through a combination of properly directed recruitment efforts and revised screening criteria. Contact should be made with your appropriate Recruitment staff to discuss strategies for developing effective recruitment bulletins that convey these desired characteristics.

Here's the situation: the professional societies to which many of my staff belong have become unanimous in "strongly encouraging" all members to obtain certain certifications as enhancements to their ongoing education and as a demonstration to our clientele of relevant work experience and qualifications to serve. How should we treat this?

In this scenario, the occurrence of specific certification of public and/or private sector employees, who perform a certain body of work, has significantly increased. In assessing such changes, it needs to be determined if the shift is occurring as a result of changes in desired qualifications or is indicative of a necessary change in requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities due to changes in the overall body of work. If there are changes in industry standards and practices, you should also research if there are any pending statutory or regulatory changes related to licensing or certification of those performing the work.

In most cases, this push for certification creates a desired qualification and does not sufficiently equate to a required qualification. However, the nature of the change will shift if the recommendations of professional societies appear to precede changes in statute or regulation.

The nature of the change determines the remedial course of action, ranging from a combination of properly directed recruitment efforts and screening criteria, to requesting consultation with Classification Studies. Prior to consulting with Classification Studies, agencies should carefully prepare all pertinent information and examples relevant to any changes in work, certification, legislation/regulations, recruitment, and any resultant turnover.

The education and work experience required to earn a given certification by a specific professional association, which many of my staff belong to, is very similar to that required in the MQs for our work. Can we substitute that certification for either a portion or all of our current MQs?

Under this scenario, the professional certification typically requires that the holder has earned a bachelor's degree (or higher) in a given field of study and has completed a specified number of years of relevant work experience.

This may serve as an appropriate substitute. The minimum qualifications (MQs) for the affected job class(es) will need to be amended to reflect this change in substitution. Agencies wishing to reexamine the MQs of job classes should request a consultation with Classification Studies to determine if the MQs should be amended through a Maintenance Request, which changes the MQs and MQ Questions but not any other part of the class concept(s).

To request a review to amend MQs, the first person to ask is your supervisor to ensure that you have departmental approval to pursue this option. You should also contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

Your Division Director (or appropriate delegate) should submit an email to:

  1. The Classification Section; and, carbon copies to,
  2. Your department's Administrative Services Director (if submitted by a delegate, please also cc your Division Director); and,
  3. The appropriate HR staff serving your department.

This email should include:

  1. A description of the change or concern.
  2. The job class(es) impacted by the change or concern.
  3. Any solutions proposed by your department.
  4. Any additional agencies who utilize the impacted job class(es).
  5. Your department's designated contact for this request.

Amendments to MQs typically take from one to ten business days to complete and, like other actions completed by Classification, are interactive and collaborative processes.

In addition, such substitutions (when seeming appropriate) should be considered for work that is either under or pending the classification study process. It is recommended that such be discussed with the lead analyst assigned to conduct the study.

The federal government just passed legislation that means every professional in my section needs a certification they don't have, what do I do now?

In this scenario, a change in federal and/or State mandate has determined that a specific licensure/certification is required of all employees performing a certain body or level of work. It should be noted that this scenario holds true whether a change in statute or regulation adds or removes a requisite licensure/certification for a given body of work.

First, in assessing the impacts of this change, you might determine if:

  • Your current staff will require additional experience and/or education in order to meet the requirements of the new license or certification;
  • Earning and possession of this licensure or certification changes the established knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) of the positions in the job class or series;
  • Earning and possession of this licensure or certification alters the defining characteristics of the current job class or series;
  • Earning and possession of this licensure or certification indicate the need to define a class for a previously unrecognized body of work; and/or,
  • The changes create a mandatory new level of hierarchical authority that does not fit within any of the existing class structures.

If your assessment leads to "No" answers to these questions, the changes are probably only moderate and will most-likely require a minimum qualifications (MQ) change as previously described. If your assessment leads to "Yes" answers, further consultation with Classification Studies is necessary and a request for consultation should be made per the same procedures for requesting a MQ change. If requesting a more advanced consultation, you should also include pertinent information regarding prior recruitment efforts (e.g., scope and duration, number of applicants, disposition of applicants, and hires made), ongoing training efforts, turnover, and non-retention, etc.

You may also reference the Work Changes page for further assistance on this topic.

At the very minimum, the most probable impact will be that the MQs for the affected job class(es) will need to be amended to reflect this change in required license or certification. This is a key step to assure that appropriately licensed or certified personnel are recruited in the future. Such amendments are conducted by Classification Studies, which is tasked with creating, maintaining, and revising job class specifications. This type of change impacts the MQs and MQ Questions but not any other part of the class concept(s).

To request a review to amend MQs, the first person to ask is your supervisor to ensure that you have departmental approval to pursue this option. You should also contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

Your Division Director (or appropriate delegate) should submit an email to:

  1. The Classification Section; and, carbon copies to,
  2. Your department's Administrative Services Director (if submitted by a delegate, please also cc your Division Director); and,
  3. The appropriate HR staff serving your department.

This email should include:

  1. A description of the change or concern.
  2. The job class(es) impacted by the change or concern.
  3. Any solutions proposed by your department.
  4. Any additional agencies who utilize the impacted job class(es).
  5. Your department's designated contact for this request.

Amendments to MQs typically take from one to ten business days to complete and, like other actions completed by Classification, are interactive and collaborative processes.

In addition, you should consider contacting your appropriate Recruitment staff to discuss strategies for developing effective recruitment bulletins that appropriately reflect these changes in qualifications. You may also reference the Recruitment Concerns page for further assistance on this topic.

New licensure requirements require my staff to take on additional responsibilities for their work and to maintain new expensive licensure. What can I do to get my staff more money for this additional expense and responsibility?

A change in financial need, in and of itself, is not a factor for consideration of changes to classification and compensation. If there are other changes to the work you may also reference the Work Changes page for further assistance on this topic.

Individual departments may have established policies regarding the reimbursement of employees for earning and maintaining professional licenses or certifications and such questions should be directed through your appropriate chain of command.

I wasn't able to find my particular questions and concerns here. What other options do I have?

We encourage you to continue reviewing our other pages. However, if you are either certain that your questions and concerns are not covered elsewhere, or have looked and still not found an answer, please do not hesitate to email us directly at the Classification Section.