Certifications and training are a key part of occupational regulations. Amid the pandemic, many occupational licensing authorities have allowed applicants to take required education courses online instead of exclusively in-person. While online courses are a good step in the right direction, additional technologies could also carry potential.

Many occupational licensing structures require individuals to take certain courses to get certified and then take additional continuing education courses. In the not-so-distant past, applicants would have to take required education and certification courses at the physical places and time determined by government authorities. In addition to the licensing fees and other burdens, such courses often required individuals to set aside time away from their usual course of business for travel. Sometimes they had to drive many hours to attend a class or take a test.

This can change in the context of online courses and certification. While some licensing, certification, and continuing education generally still occur in an in-person context, there has been an expansion in online courses, particularly after the pandemic. Facing the pandemic reality that many individuals would not be able to meet continuing education and/or licensing requirements without online accommodations, several regulatory boards were all but forced to allow for online integration.  

These advances suggest that additional technologies could also carry the potential for occupational licensing reform. For instance, virtual reality (VR) headsets are already being used in a variety of extremely technical contexts, with a great degree of success. The military has used VR to prepare soldiers for the battlefield. The medical sector has used VR training for emergency scenario simulation. Industrial and manufacturing sectors have incorporated VR into technical training, and first responders have utilized it for emergency preparedness.

These technologies, such as online learning and VR have expanding adoption, and there has been real-world success -including in some high-intensity fields. It would make sense for government regulatory agencies to incorporate such technologies as an option in their approval processes. Of course, not all applicants would prefer to use such technologies for their licensing or continuing education requirements, and legacy options should remain available. Yet, having new technologies also approved as an acceptable option for occupational certification and education could encourage occupational participation from tech-savvy citizens -especially the younger generation. Mississippi and other states would do well to consider incorporating emerging technologies into its regulatory licensing systems. New technologies are continually proving their value for training and certification. Occupational licensing is already a big enough burden. The government should make every effort to incorporate effective technologies so that its citizens have greater flexibility in their occupational certification and education.