To protect the public’s health and safety and uphold professional standards, the State of Alabama licenses over one hundred and forty different occupations, ranging from your family doctor to the person who pilots ships through Mobile Bay. To acquire a license to practice one of these occupations in Alabama, individuals must meet specific requirements, including obtaining education prerequisites, fulfilling training hours, and often passing examinations. Regulating these standards are state agencies known as licensing boards, which provide oversight of specific occupations.
Licensing boards create rosters, a listing of individuals (or, in some cases, businesses) within a specific profession licensed to provide services or sell particular goods in Alabama. In the twentieth century, licensing boards traditionally produced rosters annually as printed volumes. The public can access these printed rosters through the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) research room. To determine what printed rosters are available, research the ADAH catalog by state agency searching for rosters, registers, or state publications.
As licensing boards converted to electronic databases for tracking licensee information, so did the method of preserving this information for researchers. Starting in 2019, the ADAH requested that licensing boards submit annual reports of licensure/certification rosters in a digital format. Starting this week, the public can now access and download for thirty licensing boards these newer exported licensee verification rosters and statistical data reports, often in excel format, through our Electronic Records Collections, organized by state agency name followed by record type.
Many of the rosters are from health-related occupations such as the Board of Medical Examiners, Medical Licensure Commission, Board of Dental Examiners, and the State Board of Podiatry. A smaller sample of non-health-related rosters includes those from the Real Estate Appraisers Board, Board of Social Work Examiners, and the Department of Finance.
For current information on which individuals or businesses hold a license, the public may visit the state licensing board website for that profession.
What is the Purpose of a Roster?
The state licensing boards maintain their rosters by adding new individuals when necessary and removing individuals who do not keep up with the required training or hours, do not re-register, or in some other way void their right to hold a license. Some rosters will include individuals who are inactive or on probation, while other rosters include only those who have fully met all requirements and are actively licensed.
Rosters allow employers, the State, and the public to check an individual’s licensing status before hiring them or purchasing goods or services. Verifying if an individual holds an active occupational license can provide peace of mind that they have been adequately trained to carry out the service for which they were hired. For employers, it certifies that a possible future employee has been deemed competent for the position, which is important because a company may be held responsible for their employee’s misdeeds or failure to provide adequate services. The information in a roster can vary from one licensing board to another, but some information is relatively standard for nearly all occupations:
- Licensee Name (First Name and Last Name)
- License Number
- License Type
- Issue Date
- Expiration Date
- City, State, or Country (Individuals need not be Alabama citizens to be licensed in the State)
The Research Value of Rosters
Rosters are incredibly important when in active use. Do they become useless once superseded? Not at all! The State Records Commission has assessed many state licensing board rosters as being permanent records to be transferred to the ADAH because of their historic research value. Preserving today’s state government permanent records builds the archives of the future.
The full annual reports of licensure/certification rosters remain closed to the public for seventy-two years, which protects personally identifiable information, but will provide future genealogists and biographers with clues in their search. Records may reveal occupation, city or county of residence, and, in select cases, information about the education of an individual.
In the meantime, researchers may use two derivative reports, a licensee verification report and a statistical data report. The verification report typically lists licensee name, license number, license type, status (e.g. active, inactive, expired), and business name. While the public should always visit the licensing board website for current information on licensees, these reports provide historical data tracking the profession.
The second report containing statistical data, scrambled to protect identity, varies in the amount of detail collected and provided by the licensing board. Information requested by ADAH for the statistical data report includes license type, status (e.g. active, inactive, expired), work city, work county, work state, race/ethnicity/, sex/gender, year of birth, and educational background.
Statistical data can provide important demographic information when researching broad changes in Alabama’s social history and can be useful for research on topics such as the aging of a profession, rural and urban access to professional services, or the demographic diversification of a profession over time. For example, a survey of rosters over several years may reveal valuable insights into the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on a profession.
Roster Changes over Time
During the nineteenth century, the number of individuals in Alabama seeking licenses expanded as the state’s population doubled. Roster growth matched similar rises in demand for increasingly specialized goods and services from a larger population. Boards that only monitored a few dozen individuals during the first half of the twentieth century now regulate thousands of licensees today.
As with many records, the most significant change has come with the growth of technology. Once kept on paper or in bound books, many rosters are now maintained in databases, which allows for information to be easily updated and searched. Just as a printed volume serves as a “snapshot” of a board’s roster of licensees at the time of printing, these exports are a “digital snapshot” at the time of transmittal to the ADAH. The rosters available in the ADAH Electronic Records Collection represent only a small amount of the rosters that have been transmitted to the ADAH over the years. The electronic collection only contains rosters created since 2019. Older physical rosters from many agencies are available to visitors to the ADAH reference room. Contact our talented reference archivists for more information.
Ready to start researching?
- Download newer, mostly excel rosters with the ADAH Electronic Records Collections.
- Search the ADAH catalog by state agency name seeking terms such as rosters, registers, or state publications to find older rosters. If available, visit the ADAH Research Room.
- Understand that the federal government regulates some professions, such as aviation.
- Browse a profession’s state agency licensing board website to obtain current information on licensees.
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