Occupational Licensing in Minnesota

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 Minnesota, more than 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 Minnesota

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 Minnesota takes 266 days of education and experience. And those required classes can be very expensive.  

For instance, cosmetology is one of the state’s most popular licenses. In Minnesota, it takes at least 1,550 hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $17,398, while the average student takes out $7,693 in federal student loans. But despite such a hefty investment, many cosmetologists barely earn enough to get by: Half of cosmetologists make less than $29,600 a year. 

Licensing Lawsuits by the Institute for Justice in Minnesota 

To better foster economic liberty in Minnesota, the Institute for Justice has filed multiple lawsuits against the state’s strict occupational licensing laws. On behalf of Lillian Anderson, IJ successfully sued Minnesota for forcing African-style natural hair braiders to get a license in cosmetology, even though the state doesn’t require cosmetology schools to teach those braiding techniques. Spurred by IJ’s lawsuit, Minnesota created a specialty 30-hour braiding license before ultimately repealing that license. Now braiders are free to work without getting any license from the state.  

IJ also filed a lawsuit on behalf of horse teeth floaters, who wanted to perform basic equine dentistry without getting a license in veterinary medicine. That credential takes at least four years to complete but only offered 30 minutes of dental training. Unfortunately, a state court upheld Minnesota’s requirement. 

In addition, IJ successfully petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to eliminate a cap on taking on-demand online “continuing legal education” courses, which are needed to maintain an attorney’s license.  

Sunrise Review in Minnesota 

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. Unfortunately, Minnesota regulators have only conducted eight reviews across seven different occupations and haven’t issued a new sunrise review since 2009. All told, the Institute for Justice found that Minnesota’s sunrise reviews “miss the mark” and largely lack “independent research and meaningful analysis.”  

Licensing Reforms in Minnesota 

Working with the Institute for Justice, Minnesota lawmakers have eliminated multiple licensing barriers. Minnesota exempted natural hair braiders and eyebrow threaders from licensure, and dramatically reduced licensing barriers for blow dry bars, hair stylists, makeup artists, and shampooers. Instead of having to finish hundreds of hours of training, Minnesotans now only have to finish a four-hour class on health, safety, and infection control. The state also created a predetermination process that lets ex-offenders petition a licensing board at any time to see if their criminal record would disqualify them, including before they start any training.  

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

In Minnesota, licensing boards can only disqualify applicants who have been convicted of crimes that “directly relate” to the license at hand. The state bans boards from considering arrests as well as annulled and expunged records. Boards must consider whether an applicant has been rehabilitated though applicants bear the burden of proof to show that they have been sufficiently rehabilitated. However, the state’s protections do not apply to teaching licenses or school districts. Overall, Minnesota received an A- in IJ’s Barred from Working report.  

How You Can Help

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

MInnesota Occupational Licensing Cases

Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Minnesota ?

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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