Maryland 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 Maryland, 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 Maryland

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 Maryland takes 532 days of education and experience. In fact, Maryland has the ninth most burdensome licensing laws in the entire country. And those required classes can be very expensive.

For instance, cosmetology is one of the state’s most popular licenses. In Maryland, it takes at least 1,500 hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $18,226, while the average student takes out $6,398 in federal student loans. But despite such a hefty investment, many cosmetologists barely earn enough to get by: Half of cosmetologists make less than $28,110 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 $3.27 billion and leads to nearly 24,000 fewer jobs each year.

Licensing Lawsuits by the Institute for Justice in Maryland

IJ successfully challenged the Maryland Board of Veterinary Medicine and the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, which both banned Mercedes Clemens and other animal massage therapists from practicing their craft without a license. After IJ filed suit, the veterinary board backed down, and, one year later, a state court ruled it was “illegal” for the chiropractic board to crack down on Mercedes.

The Institute for Justice also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Charles S. Brown, who owned a cemetery and wanted to also own a funeral home. But a Maryland law generally banned anyone from owning a funeral home unless they were a licensed funeral director—a credential that can take up to two years to acquire. At first, a federal judge struck down the law for being “the most blatantly anti-competitive state funeral regulation in the nation.”  Unfortunately, that decision was overturned on appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.  

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

Unfortunately, Maryland has few protections for most people with criminal records. Anyone who has been convicted of any drug crime can be denied a license even if they’ve been rehabilitated. In addition, anyone who has been convicted of any violent crime that comes with a mandatory minimum is largely ineligible for licensure, even if they were convicted of a crime that’s completely irrelevant to the license they want. For applicants who haven’t been convicted of a drug or violent crime, they can only be disqualified if issuing the license would pose an “unreasonable risk” to the public. Overall, Maryland received a D+ in IJ’s Barred from Working report.

How You Can Help

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

Maryland Occupational Licensing In the News

Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Maryland ?

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?

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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