Occupational Licensing in Georgia

What is Occupational Licensing?

Occupational licensing is a permit issued by the government that allows someone to work in a particular field. In Georgia, 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 Georgia

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 for low- and moderate-income jobs in Georgia takes 472 days of education and experience. In fact, Georgia’s licenses are the 12th most burdensome in the nation. And those required classes can be very expensive.

For instance, cosmetology is one of the state’s most popular licenses. In Georgia, it takes at least hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $17,569, while the average student takes out $7,852 in federal student loans. But despite such a hefty investment, many cosmetologists barely earn enough to get by: Half of cosmetologists make less than $22,970 a year.

To better foster economic liberty, the Institute for Justice has filed several lawsuits against strict occupational licensing laws in Georgia. On behalf of Susan Roberts, IJ successfully challenged a state law that banned interior designers from calling themselves “interior designers” without a government-issued license. IJ also filed a lawsuit over Georgia’s teeth-whitening monopoly, which only allowed licensed dentists to offer over-the-counter teeth-whitening services. Although the state’s dental commission largely backed down, federal courts upheld the monopoly.

Licensing Lawsuits by the Institute for Justice in Georgia

To better foster economic liberty, IJ has filed multiple lawsuits against strict occupational licensing laws. IJ represented Christina Collins, who had her small business selling over-the-counter teeth-whitening products shut down by the state dental board because she wasn’t a licensed dentist. Unfortunately, a federal court upheld Georgia’s teeth-whitening monopoly.

IJ won a major First Amendment lawsuit that struck down Savannah’s mandatory license for tour guides. The lawsuit prompted the city to repeal its license, ensuring tour guides can speak freely without getting permission from the government. On behalf of Mary Jackson and the grassroots nonprofit Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, IJ is challenging a state licensing law that could stop them and more than 800 other lactation consultants from working. IJ argued their case before the Georgia Supreme Court; the lawsuit is still ongoing.

Sunrise Review in Georgia

Under sunrise review, whenever a new job regulation is proposed, state regulators must determine whether the regulation is needed, its potential costs and burdens, and if there are any less restrictive alternatives. Between 1985 and 2017, Georgia regulators conducted 38 sunrise reviews across 28 different occupations. Many proposed regulations were unfounded: Only 16% of Georgia’s sunrise reviews recommended creating new licenses. All told, the Institute for Justice found that Georgia’s sunrise reports are “consistently rigorous.”

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

In Georgia, licensing boards can only disqualify applicants who have been convicted of a crime “directly related” to the license and must consider whether an applicant has been rehabilitated. Overall, Georgia received a B- for its laws, according to IJ’s Barred from Working report.

How You Can Help

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

Georgia Occupational Licensing Cases

Georgia Occupational Licensing In The News

Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Georgia ?

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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 | Occupational Licensing

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