Occupational Licensing in Rhode Island

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 Rhode Island, almost 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 Rhode Island

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 Rhode Island takes 297 days of education and experience. In fact, Rhode Island has the 11th worst licensing laws in the nation. And those required classes can be very expensive.  

For instance, cosmetology is one of the state’s most popular licenses. In Rhode Island, it takes at least 1,200 hours of classes to get a hairdresser’s license. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $18,320, while the average student takes out $7,442 in federal student loans. But despite such a hefty investment, many hairdressers barely earn enough to get by: Half of cosmetologists make less than $28,130 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 $675 million and leads to nearly 7,000 fewer jobs each year. 

Recent Licensing Reforms in Rhode Island 

Lawmakers in Rhode Island exempted natural hair braiders from licensure and dramatically reduced barriers for ex-offenders who want to work in a licensed field. 

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

Thanks to recent reforms, Rhode Island went from having some of the nation’s worst laws for ex-offenders to some of the best. Licensing boards in Rhode Island can only disqualify applicants if they have been convicted of a crime “substantially related” to the license. Boards must also consider whether an applicant has been rehabilitated and other mitigating factors, like the time elapsed since the crime occurred and any testimonials who support the applicant. Rhode Island further bans boards from using arrests as well as annulled and expunged records to deny licenses. Overall, the state received a B in IJ’s Barred from Working report.  

How You Can Help

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

Rhode Island Occupational Licensing in the News

Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Rhode Island?

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.

Step 1 of 2

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