Occupational Licensing in Oregon

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 Oregon, almost one out of 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 Oregon

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 Oregon takes 530 days of education and experience. In fact, Oregon has the seventh 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 Oregon, it takes at least 1,150 hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $19,362. But despite that hefty investment, many cosmetologists barely earn enough to get by: Half of Oregon cosmetologists make less than $25,940 a year. 

Licensing Lawsuits by the Institute for Justice in Oregon 

On behalf of Mats Järlström, IJ successfully sued the state engineering board, which fined Mats $500 for criticizing red-light cameras. The board claimed a monopoly on using the term “engineer,” and banned anyone from calling themselves an engineer—no matter how much experience they had—unless they were licensed in Oregon. Thankfully, a federal court ruled almost entirely in Mats’ favor and rejected the board’s monopolization for infringing on the First Amendment.  

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

Oregon has some of the weakest protections for ex-offenders who want to work in a licensed field, receiving a D- in IJ’s Barred from Working report. Licensing boards can disqualify applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime “substantially related” to the license. However, boards are not required to consider mitigating factors, like whether an applicant has been rehabilitated or the amount of time elapsed since the crime occurred. Boards are also free to deny licenses based on arrests that didn’t result in a conviction and if they believe an applicant lacks “good moral character,” an incredibly vague and loose standard. 

How You Can Help

If you are an Oregon 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 Oregon workers have the economic liberty they deserve.

Featured Cases

Oregon Occupational Licensing in the News

Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Oregon?

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

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Occupational Licensing Research

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