Occupational Licensing in Arizona

What is Occupational Licensing?

An occupational or professional license is a permit issued by the government that lets someone work in a particular field. In Arizona, almost one out of every five workers must now get an occupational license before they can legally do their jobs. But many licenses don’t even improve service quality or protect the public from actual harm.

Licenses Create Barriers to Working in Arizona

Occupational licenses often impose high barriers to entry. That makes it much harder for people to find work or to start a new business. According to the Institute for Justice’s report, License to Work , the average license in Arizona for low- and moderate-income jobs takes 689 days of education and experience. In fact, the state has the fourth most burdensome licensing requirements in the nation. And those required classes can be very expensive.  

For instance, cosmetology is one of the state’s most popular licenses. In Arizona, it takes at least 1,500 hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $17,019, while the average student takes out $8,590 in federal student loans. But despite such a hefty investment, many cosmetologists barely earn enough to get by: Half of Arizona cosmetologists make less than $26,340 a year. 

All told, the state’s licensing requirements come with heavy costs. A separate study by IJ, At What Cost?, estimated that occupational licensing in Arizona costs the state’s economy $2.83 billion and leads to 29,000 fewer jobs each year.  

The Institute for Justice’s Fight Against Strict Licensing Laws in Arizona

To better foster economic liberty, the Institute for Justice has filed multiple lawsuits against strict occupational licensing laws in Arizona. IJ successfully ended regulations that forced hair braiders and eyebrow threaders to become licensed cosmetologists and estheticians, even though those licenses didn’t actually teach how to braid hair or thread eyebrows. On behalf of Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli and Stacey Kollman, IJ defeated an Arizona law that banned providing massage therapy to animals without a license in veterinary medicine.  

In March 2014, three animal massage therapists and the Institute for Justice filed a major constitutional lawsuit in Arizona asking if the government can take away someone’s job for no good reason.

Recent Licensing Reforms in Arizona 

Back in 2016, Arizona repealed licenses for multiple occupations, including citrus packers, assayers, non-commercial driving instructors, and yoga-teacher instructors. Then in 2019, Arizona enacted a landmark law that universally recognizes out-of-state licenses. Thanks to the reform, licensed workers who move to Arizona will be free to work when they arrive and will no longer have to waste their time and money trying to obtain another permission slip from the government.  

In addition, Arizona has repeatedly eased licensing barriers for people with criminal records and has also created a sunrise and sunset review process to analyze proposed and preexisting regulations for non-health occupations.  

Can You Get a License to Work with a Criminal Record in Arizona?

Aside from licenses involving education or private security, people with a criminal record can get a license to work in Arizona. Licensing boards can only disqualify applicants if they have been convicted of a crime that “specifically and directly relates” to the occupation, unless they were convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude.”  

Boards must also consider whether an applicant has been rehabilitated, the time elapsed since the crime occurred, and offer a petition process to see if a crime could potentially disqualify them. In addition, boards may not use arrest or post-conviction relief records as well as most convictions older than 7 years to deny licenses. For those reasons, Arizona received a B in IJ’s Barred from Working report. 

How You Can Help

If you are an Arizona resident and you want to help fight against these unfair and unnecessary licensing laws, there are a few ways you can get involved. You can donate to the Institute for Justice, sign up for our email updates, and share our message with your network. Together, we can make sure that all Arizona workers have the economic liberty they deserve.

Arizona Occupation Licensing Cases

Arizona Occupational Licensing In the News

Learn more about our Economic Liberty work.

Economic liberty—the right to earn a living in the occupation of your choice without unnecessary government interference—is at the heart of the American Dream. Unfortunately, all too many entrepreneurs find that this dream is under constant attack by unreasonable licensing, permitting and other requirements that stand in the way of honest competition.

Learn More

Occupational Licensing Research

Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing

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.

Cosmetology | Economic Liberty

Beauty School Debt and Drop-Outs

Cosmetology is one of the most widely and onerously regulated occupations for lower-income workers, yet little research has explored the experiences of aspiring beauty workers. This first-of-its-kind study takes advantage of federal educational…

Barred From Working

Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing

Barred From Working

Earning an honest living is one of the best ways to prevent re-offending. But strict occupational licensing requirements make it harder for ex-offenders to find work, thwarting their chances of successful reentry.

Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing

At What Cost?

Not only do state occupational licensing laws force people to spend a lot of time and money earning a license instead of earning a living, they also impose real economic costs. This study takes advantage…

Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Arizona ?

Are you not able to exercise your job or open a business because of burdensome occupational licensing requirements in your state?

Are you forced to waste valuable time and money to become licensed?

We might be able to help.

If you want IJ to review your case, please share your situation through the following form.

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Reforming Occupational Licensing Nationwide

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. 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. Learn more about IJ’s occupational-licensing work in all 50 states:

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