Florida Occupational Licensing

What is Occupational Licensing?

Occupational licensing is a permit issued by the government that allows someone to work in a particular field. In Florida, nearly one in five workers must now get an occupational license before they can legally do their job. But many of these licenses are too strict, and they don’t even improve service quality or protect the public from actual harm.

Licenses Create Barriers to Working in Florida

Occupational licenses often impose high barriers to entry, making it harder for people to find work or to start new businesses. According to the Institute for Justice’s report, License to Work, the average license in Florida for low- and moderate-income jobs takes 658 days of education and experience. In fact, Florida has the fifth most burdensome licensing requirements in the country. And those required classes can be very expensive

For instance, cosmetology is one of the state’s most popular licenses. In Florida, it takes at least 1,200 hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in Florida costs $14,016, while the average student takes out $7,256 in federal student loans. But despite such a hefty investment, many cosmetologists barely earn enough to get by: Half of Florida’s cosmetologists earned less than $24,640 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 costs the state’s economy $11.59 billion and leads to 129,000 fewer jobs each year.

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

To better foster economic liberty, the Institute for Justice has filed lawsuits challenging strict occupational licensing laws in Florida. On behalf of three interior designers, Eva Locke, Pat Levenson and Barbara Gardner, IJ sued the state over its license for interior designers. That license required six years of education and experience. At the time, Florida was one of just three states with a license for interior designers. IJ’s lawsuit ultimately prompted state lawmakers to repeal that license.

More recently, IJ filed a First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, a certified and experienced health coach who moved to Florida with her airman husband. Heather was fined hundreds of dollars by the state for offering one-on-one advice about healthy diets. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear her case in 2022.

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

Florida licensing boards can deny licenses if someone has been convicted of a felony or first-degree misdemeanor that’s “directly related” to the license sought, according to IJ’s Barred from Working report. However, Florida doesn’t ban boards from using arrest records or vague standards like “good moral character” to disqualify applicants. In addition, boards are not required to consider evidence of rehabilitation or other mitigating factors. Overall, Florida received a D+ for its protections.

Recent Licensing Reforms in Florida

Working with the Institute for Justice, Florida lawmakers approved a landmark reform in 2020, the Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act. This act either eased or eliminated licensing requirements for more than 30 different occupations—more than any other single reform ever.

Under its many reforms, the Act:

  • Repealed licenses for interior designers, makeup artists, hair braiders, nail technicians, hair wrappers, body wrappers, boxing announcers, and boxing timekeepers;
  • Reduced licensing requirements for alarm system installers, barbers, certain construction subcontractors, diet coaches, geologists, and landscape architects;
  • Created universal recognition for barbers and cosmetologists licensed in other states; and
  • Banned the state from suspending licenses over unpaid student loans.

Following that reform, in 2021, Florida banned cities and counties from banning home-based businesses. The state also passed a law that preempts cities and counties from enforcing their own local licenses.

How You Can Help

If you are a Florida 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 Florida workers have the economic liberty they deserve.

Florida Occupational Licensing Cases

Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Florida ?

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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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…

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

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