Just one big mistake while you’re in your late teens and early twenties is enough — these days — to keep you from pursuing some careers. Most young adults have no idea how serious the situation really is.

There are a number of things that make it difficult for young people to get their start in a career, but one of the most recent to emerge is the issue of professional licensing requirements. Professional licenses are required to work in some occupations. Most people know, by now, that doctors and attorneys have to have them. However, they may not realize that everyone from nail technicians and barbers to landscapers and real estate agents also must have them.

According to a White House report, one out of every four workers in the United States must have a professional license to be employed. This affects workers both with and without college degrees. Having a professional license generally means access to a better income and a more stable job.

A criminal act and other issues early in your life can ruin your chances of receiving a license when you apply. While some occupational licenses are easier to get than others, many licensing authorities will reject applicants for factors that are unrelated to their skills and conduct as a professional. In part, that’s because the function of any licensing authority is partially to protect the public from danger and partially to protect the public’s perception of those in the profession.

Some things that can decrease your chances of being granted a professional license include any type of drug conviction, a public intoxication conviction, shoplifting, stalking, academic dishonesty, fraud or misrepresentation on an application for school and any kind of sexual misconduct.

If you’re a young person who has yet to receive a professional license in your field, don’t assume that any criminal or ethical charge will “blow over” by the time you apply for your license if you plead guilty to a criminal charge today.

If you’re charged with a crime, find out what a conviction will do to your future career before you plead guilty. An attorney with experience helping applicants succeed in getting their professional licenses can assess your situation and guide you.