Ranking the Occupations

Breadth of Licensure

As shown in Table 1, 10 of the 102 occupations studied in this report are licensed by all 50 states and the District of Columbia: barber, city/transit bus driver, cosmetologist, emergency medical technician (EMT), pest control applicator, school bus driver, tractor-trailer driver, other truck driver, vegetation pesticide applicator, and water well earth driller. Another 13 occupations are licensed by 40 to 50 states. (Throughout the report, we count the District of Columbia as a state.) Thus, the vast majority of the occupations studied here are licensed by fewer than 40 states. Six are licensed by only one state each: conveyor operator, florist, forest worker, home entertainment installer, psychiatric aide and social and human service assistant. On average, the occupations on this list are licensed by about 27 states.

Burdens of Licensure

Table 2 provides the average requirements for all 102 occupations in the states that license them. Because education and experience requirements take different forms, we created a standard measure (“estimated calendar days lost”) to allow for averaging and comparisons. As its name suggests, this measure estimates how long it takes to complete required education and experience. Because the requirements in Table 2 are averages, minimum grade level and age may be confusing. No state has a minimum age of three, for example—more typical is 16, 18 or 21 (or no minimum at all). A low average indicates that while a few states impose age minimums, more do not; the zeros for those states bring down the average. An average age of roughly 18, by contrast, indicates that states fairly consistently impose an age minimum of 18 across licensed occupations.

Table 2 also ranks occupations from most to least burdensome. To create this ranking, we combined the various average requirements into a single “burden score,” weighting the measures to reflect the relative difficulty of meeting different types of requirements. For example, we consider education and experience requirements to be more burdensome than fees. (See Appendix A for details.) Our rankings of occupations do not reflect any judgment about whether the burdens placed on occupational aspirants are appropriate; rather, they compare average burdens across occupations to determine which occupations are easier or more difficult to enter.

Interior designer tops the list as the most difficult occupation to enter in the states that license it, just as it did in the first edition of this report. The occupation is licensed by only three states and D.C., but the requirements are onerous. Aspiring interior designers must pass a national exam, pay an average of $1,265 in fees and devote an average of almost 2,200 days—six years—to a combination of education and apprenticeship before they can begin work. The next five occupations require, on average, almost four years of education and experience in addition to fees ranging from nearly $400 to $1,383, one to two exams, and minimum grade and age requirements.

Thirty-six occupations require one to three years of education and experience, while another 28 require three months to one year. For 52 occupations, an average of at least one exam is required. On average, the occupational licenses studied here require passing one exam, paying more than $260 in fees, and completing more than 360 days, or almost a year, of education and experience.

Breadth and Burden Combined

Table 3 provides a national perspective that combines measures of the breadth and burden of licensure for lower-income workers. To create this combined measure, we multiplied the burden scores used in Table 2 by the number of states that license each occupation, as listed in Table 1. The occupations that top this ranking are licensed both widely and onerously.

The example of interior designer illustrates the difference between the rankings in Tables 2 and 3: While it has the most burdensome entry requirements (Table 2), it ranks as the 87th most widely and onerously licensed occupation (Table 3) because it is licensed by only three states and D.C. By contrast, EMT has the 74th most burdensome entry requirements, but because it is licensed by all states, it ranks as the 15th most widely and onerously licensed occupation. Factoring in the number of licensed states has a significant effect on the ranking of occupations.

The Occupation Profiles provide definitions for each occupation drawn from the U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored O*NET OnLine (www.onetonline.org), except where noted. The Occupation Profiles also provide summary results for each occupation.

Table 2: Burdens of Licensure

Occupations Ranked by Average Burden

Rank Occupation States Licensed Average Fees Average Estimated Calendar Days Lost Average Exams Average Min. Grade Average Min. Age
1 Interior Designer 4 $1,265 2,190 1 3 5
2 Preschool Teacher, Public School 50 $492 2,050 2 0 5
3 Athletic Trainer 49 $472 1,460 1 0 4
4 Midwife, Direct Entry 28 $1,383 1,152 1 10 8
5 Sheet Metal Contractor, HVAC (Commercial) 37 $394 1,215 2 1 10
6 HVAC Contractor (Commercial) 37 $400 1,197 2 1 10
7 Interpreter, Sign Language 22 $661 1,088 2 3 16
8 HVAC Contractor (Residential) 35 $397 1,055 2 0 10
9 Sheet Metal Contractor, HVAC (Residential) 36 $384 1,026 2 1 9
10 Fire Alarm Installer 39 $557 915 2 1 11
11 Optician 22 $449 714 2 11 17
12 Security Alarm Installer 37 $487 836 2 1 11
13 Earth Driller, Water Well 51 $356 837 2 1 10
14 Psychiatric Aide 1 $0 730 0 12 18
15 Dietetic Technician 2 $176 835 1 0 0
16 Veterinary Technician 36 $380 730 2 1 7
17 Social and Human Service Assistant 1 $50 730 1 0 0
18 Home Entertainment Installer 1 $185 575 1 12 0
19 Tree Trimmer 7 $325 574 2 0 13
20 Glazier Contractor (Commercial) 26 $366 581 1 0 7
21 Sheet Metal Contractor, Other (Commercial) 26 $360 567 1 0 8
22 Pipelayer Contractor 27 $377 546 1 0 8
23 Iron/Steel Contractor (Commercial) 26 $368 525 1 0 7
24 Mason Contractor (Commercial) 26 $372 525 1 0 7
25 Drywall Installation Contractor (Commercial) 25 $365 517 1 0 7
26 Carpenter/Cabinet Maker Contractor (Commercial) 25 $381 517 1 0 6
27 Cement Finishing Contractor (Commercial) 24 $365 508 1 0 7
28 Paving Contractor (Commercial) 24 $365 508 1 0 7
29 Door Repair Contractor (Commercial) 24 $372 508 1 0 7
30 Cosmetologist 51 $177 386 2 8 13
31 Painting Contractor (Commercial) 22 $382 488 1 0 7
32 Floor Sander Contractor (Commercial) 22 $359 485 1 0 7
33 Terrazzo Contractor (Commercial) 23 $364 482 1 0 6
34 Barber 51 $154 368 2 7 14
35 Insulation Contractor (Commercial) 25 $366 458 1 0 6
36 Psychiatric Technician 5 $119 346 1 12 7
37 School Bus Driver 51 $112 300 6 0 19
38 Iron/Steel Contractor (Residential) 30 $318 392 1 0 7
39 Mason Contractor (Residential) 31 $319 380 1 0 8
40 Carpenter/Cabinet Maker Contractor (Residential) 30 $319 368 1 0 7
41 Glazier Contractor (Residential) 30 $322 368 1 0 7
42 Drywall Installation Contractor (Residential) 30 $313 368 1 0 7
43 Sheet Metal Contractor, Other (Residential) 31 $302 356 1 0 8
44 Log Scaler 2 $25 365 2 0 9
45 Shampooer 37 $130 248 2 8 13
46 Coach, Head (High School Sports) 48 $79 367 0 2 4
47 Door Repair Contractor (Residential) 29 $320 343 1 0 7
48 Mobile Home Installer 39 $344 309 1 0 8
49 Paving Contractor (Residential) 28 $295 329 1 0 6
50 Pest Control Applicator 51 $260 274 2 0 11
51 Cement Finishing Contractor (Residential) 30 $300 307 1 0 7
52 Terrazzo Contractor (Residential) 28 $301 290 1 0 6
53 Floor Sander Contractor (Residential) 27 $308 287 1 0 6
54 Insulation Contractor (Residential) 30 $302 283 1 0 7
55 Painting Contractor (Residential) 28 $312 277 1 0 6
56 Skin Care Specialist 50 $175 145 2 8 13
57 Crane Operator 18 $225 222 2 0 17
58 Makeup Artist 41 $169 134 2 8 14
59 Massage Therapist 44 $372 142 1 5 15
60 Manicurist 50 $172 91 2 8 13
61 Bus Driver, City/Transit 51 $106 100 5 0 19
62 Landscape Contractor (Commercial) 47 $235 228 1 0 3
63 Vegetation Pesticide Applicator 51 $259 134 3 0 10
64 Truck Driver, Tractor-Trailer 51 $107 79 5 0 18
65 Bill Collection Agency 31 $551 159 0 1 5
66 Landscape Contractor (Residential) 48 $203 198 0 0 4
67 Truck Driver, Other 51 $106 79 4 0 18
68 Auctioneer 30 $278 94 1 3 14
69 Taxi Driver/Chauffeur 16 $47 148 0 0 16
70 Child Care Home, Family 44 $79 48 0 7 18
71 Dental Assistant 9 $138 92 1 4 8
72 Title Examiner 7 $355 104 1 0 8
73 Pharmacy Technician 44 $136 46 1 7 9
74 Emergency Medical Technician 51 $108 34 2 3 18
75 Teacher Assistant, Non-Instructional 5 $16 1 0 12 8
76 Animal Trainer 9 $209 122 1 0 3
77 Travel Guide 37 $323 78 0 0 8
78 Funeral Attendant 3 $124 2 0 8 6
79 Locksmith 14 $167 54 1 1 9
80 Security Guard, Unarmed 34 $89 10 1 1 15
81 Conveyor Operator 1 $117 0 1 0 18
82 Slot Supervisor 28 $467 0 0 0 14
83 Gaming Supervisor 30 $462 0 0 0 13
84 Bartender 13 $7 1 1 0 20
85 Gaming Cage Worker 29 $174 0 0 0 13
86 Electrical Helper 2 $55 0 0 0 17
87 Gaming Dealer 28 $174 0 0 0 12
88 Wildlife Control Operator 23 $68 0 1 0 9
89 Still Machine Setter, Dairy Equipment 3 $67 0 1 0 6
90 Forest Worker 1 $300 0 1 0 0
91 Weigher 25 $62 0 0 0 9
92 Florist 1 $189 0 1 0 0
93 Animal Control Officer 7 $26 12 1 0 3
94 Travel Agency 7 $211 0 0 0 3
95 Farm Labor Contractor 10 $173 0 0 0 2
96 Milk Sampler 42 $22 0 1 0 1
97 Fisher, Commercial 43 $142 0 0 0 2
98 Animal Breeder 28 $148 0 0 0 1
99 Upholsterer 10 $102 0 0 0 0
100 Taxidermist 28 $78 0 0 0 0
101 Nursery Worker 2 $55 0 0 0 0
102 Packer 6 $33 0 0 0 0

Table 3: Breadth and Burdens of Licensure

Occupations Ranked by Number and Average Burden of Licensed States Combined

Rank Occupation States Licensed Average Fees Average Estimated Calendar Days Lost Average Exams Average Min. Grade Average Min. Age
1 Preschool Teacher, Public School 50 $492 2,050 2 0 5
2 Athletic Trainer 49 $472 1,460 1 0 4
3 Earth Driller, Water Well 51 $356 837 2 1 10
4 Cosmetologist 51 $177 386 2 8 13
5 Barber 51 $154 368 2 7 14
6 School Bus Driver 51 $112 300 6 0 19
7 Pest Control Applicator 51 $260 274 2 0 11
8 Bus Driver, City/Transit 51 $106 100 5 0 19
9 Skin Care Specialist 50 $175 145 2 8 13
10 Vegetation Pesticide Applicator 51 $259 134 3 0 10
11 Truck Driver, Tractor-Trailer 51 $107 79 5 0 18
12 Truck Driver, Other 51 $106 79 4 0 18
13 Manicurist 50 $172 91 2 8 13
14 Coach, Head (High School Sports) 48 $79 367 0 2 4
15 Emergency Medical Technician 51 $108 34 2 3 18
16 Sheet Metal Contractor, HVAC (Commercial) 37 $394 1,215 2 1 10
17 HVAC Contractor (Commercial) 37 $400 1,197 2 1 10
18 Fire Alarm Installer 39 $557 915 2 1 11
19 Landscape Contractor (Residential) 48 $203 198 0 0 4
20 Landscape Contractor (Commercial) 47 $235 228 1 0 3
21 Sheet Metal Contractor, HVAC (Residential) 36 $384 1,026 2 1 9
22 Massage Therapist 44 $372 142 1 5 15
23 Security Alarm Installer 37 $487 836 2 1 11
24 HVAC Contractor (Residential) 35 $397 1,055 2 0 10
25 Child Care Home, Family 44 $79 48 0 7 18
26 Pharmacy Technician 44 $136 46 1 7 9
27 Veterinary Technician 36 $380 730 2 1 7
28 Makeup Artist 41 $169 134 2 8 14
29 Mobile Home Installer 39 $344 309 1 0 8
30 Fisher, Commercial 43 $142 0 0 0 2
31 Milk Sampler 42 $22 0 1 0 1
32 Shampooer 37 $130 248 2 8 13
33 Midwife, Direct Entry 28 $1,383 1,152 1 10 8
34 Travel Guide 37 $323 78 0 0 8
35 Mason Contractor (Residential) 31 $319 380 1 0 8
36 Sheet Metal Contractor, Other (Residential) 31 $302 356 1 0 8
37 Security Guard, Unarmed 34 $89 10 1 1 15
38 Iron/Steel Contractor (Residential) 30 $318 392 1 0 7
39 Carpenter/Cabinet Maker Contractor (Residential) 30 $319 368 1 0 7
40 Glazier Contractor (Residential) 30 $322 368 1 0 7
41 Drywall Installation Contractor (Residential) 30 $313 368 1 0 7
42 Cement Finishing Contractor (Residential) 30 $300 307 1 0 7
43 Bill Collection Agency 31 $551 159 0 1 5
44 Insulation Contractor (Residential) 30 $302 283 1 0 7
45 Door Repair Contractor (Residential) 29 $320 343 1 0 7
46 Pipelayer Contractor 27 $377 546 1 0 8
47 Auctioneer 30 $278 94 1 3 14
48 Paving Contractor (Residential) 28 $295 329 1 0 6
49 Glazier Contractor (Commercial) 26 $366 581 1 0 7
50 Sheet Metal Contractor, Other (Commercial) 26 $360 567 1 0 8
51 Terrazzo Contractor (Residential) 28 $301 290 1 0 6
52 Painting Contractor (Residential) 28 $312 277 1 0 6
53 Iron/Steel Contractor (Commercial) 26 $368 525 1 0 7
54 Mason Contractor (Commercial) 26 $372 525 1 0 7
55 Interpreter, Sign Language 22 $661 1,088 2 3 16
56 Gaming Supervisor 30 $462 0 0 0 13
57 Floor Sander Contractor (Residential) 27 $308 287 1 0 6
58 Drywall Installation Contractor (Commercial) 25 $365 517 1 0 7
59 Carpenter/Cabinet Maker Contractor (Commercial) 25 $381 517 1 0 6
60 Gaming Cage Worker 29 $174 0 0 0 13
61 Insulation Contractor (Commercial) 25 $366 458 1 0 6
62 Slot Supervisor 28 $467 0 0 0 14
63 Optician 22 $449 714 2 11 17
64 Gaming Dealer 28 $174 0 0 0 12
65 Cement Finishing Contractor (Commercial) 24 $365 508 1 0 7
66 Paving Contractor (Commercial) 24 $365 508 1 0 7
67 Door Repair Contractor (Commercial) 24 $372 508 1 0 7
68 Animal Breeder 28 $148 0 0 0 1
69 Taxidermist 28 $78 0 0 0 0
70 Terrazzo Contractor (Commercial) 23 $364 482 1 0 6
71 Painting Contractor (Commercial) 22 $382 488 1 0 7
72 Floor Sander Contractor (Commercial) 22 $359 485 1 0 7
73 Weigher 25 $62 0 0 0 9
74 Wildlife Control Operator 23 $68 0 1 0 9
75 Crane Operator 18 $225 222 2 0 17
76 Taxi Driver/Chauffeur 16 $47 148 0 0 16
77 Locksmith 14 $167 54 1 1 9
78 Bartender 13 $7 1 1 0 20
79 Farm Labor Contractor 10 $173 0 0 0 2
80 Upholsterer 10 $102 0 0 0 0
81 Dental Assistant 9 $138 92 1 4 8
82 Animal Trainer 9 $209 122 1 0 3
83 Tree Trimmer 7 $325 574 2 0 13
84 Title Examiner 7 $355 104 1 0 8
85 Animal Control Officer 7 $26 12 1 0 3
86 Travel Agency 7 $211 0 0 0 3
87 Interior Designer 4 $1,265 2,190 1 3 5
88 Packer 6 $33 0 0 0 0
89 Psychiatric Technician 5 $119 346 1 12 7
90 Teacher Assistant, Non-Instructional 5 $16 1 0 12 8
91 Funeral Attendant 3 $124 2 0 8 6
92 Still Machine Setter, Dairy Equipment 3 $67 0 1 0 6
93 Dietetic Technician 2 $176 835 1 0 0
94 Log Scaler 2 $25 365 2 0 9
95 Electrical Helper 2 $55 0 0 0 17
96 Nursery Worker 2 $55 0 0 0 0
97 Psychiatric Aide 1 $0 730 0 12 18
98 Social and Human Service Assistant 1 $50 730 1 0 0
99 Home Entertainment Installer 1 $185 575 1 12 0
100 Conveyor Operator 1 $117 0 1 0 18
101 Forest Worker 1 $300 0 1 0 0
102 Florist 1 $189 0 1 0 0

Go Back: The Occupations

Keep Reading: Ranking the States


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