All Americans deserve the opportunity to earn an honest living. Yet occupational licenses, which are essentially permission slips from the government, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise. Without these licenses, workers can face stiff fines or even risk jail time. The requirements for licensure, though, can be an enormous burden and often force entrepreneurs to waste their valuable time and money to become licensed. Additionally, these burdens too often have no connection at all to public health or safety. Instead, they are imposed simply to protect established businesses from economic competition.
- IJ’s landmark study License to Work measured for the first time the burdens that occupational licensing imposed on more than 100 low- and moderate-income occupations. This study has been featured in nearly 700 news articles throughout media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Post and BBC World News, as well as in a Pulitzer Finalist editorial series by The Des Moines Register, in congressional testimony, and in numerous scholarly and policy studies.
- Our Strategic Research on occupational licensing was prominently cited in a white paper by President Obama’s White House Council of Economic Advisers, Department of the Treasury and the Department of Labor.
- Since our founding, IJ has fought to roll back oppressive occupational-licensing rules in more than two dozen distinct occupations, ranging all the way from tax preparers to florists to traditional African hair braiders.
Occupational Licensing By State
Occupational licensing laws vary greatly from state to state. Find out more about each state’s individual requirements and restrictions for certain occupations, as well as the laws and regulations that apply to the state. Moreover, you will also be able to learn about the work that IJ is doing in each state to promote economic liberty by reforming occupational licensing policies.
Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky |Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | Washington, D.C. | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming
For a growing number of Americans, gainful employment no longer requires convincing only a potential employer or customer of their value. It requires also convincing the government. This barrier to an honest living makes entrepreneurship more difficult in general. Furthermore, it can be an effective bar on entering many low-income occupations for people with less access to financial capital or formal education. These laws are wrong—economically, morally and constitutionally. Consumers and employers, not legislators and bureaucrats, should decide who succeeds in which jobs. To expand economic opportunity and vindicate the basic constitutional right to economic liberty, IJ is dedicated to rolling back these unnecessary and harmful restrictions.
Occupational Licensing Cases
Entrepreneur Fined $1,000 for Using Public Information to Draw Lines on Maps Files Federal Lawsuit Against California
Do you need a government license to trace a map from publicly available data? It might sound ridiculous, but in California the answer is “yes.” An entrepreneur joined with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a federal lawsuit challenging these regulations because they violate his First Amendment rights.
Latest Occupational Licensing News
Occupational Licensing Research
License to Work 3
This third edition of IJ’s landmark License to Work report finds that for lower-income Americans, licensing continues to be widespread, burdensome and—frequently—irrational. It also provides a blueprint for meaningful licensing reform.
Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing
Raising Barriers, Not Quality
This study tests claims that occupational licenses make consumers better off by screening out workers likely to provide inferior service. Comparing Yelp ratings for service providers in neighboring states with different licensing regimes, this study…