Occupational Licensing in Washington
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 Washington, more than 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 Washington
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 Washington takes 171 days of education and experience. Overall, the state has the eighth 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 Washington, it takes at least 1,600 hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $16,077, while the average student takes out $7,505 in federal student loans.
Licensing Lawsuits by the Institute for Justice in Washington
On behalf of Benta Diaw and Salamata Sylla, the Institute for Justice successfully sued the Washington Department of Licensing, which banned African-style natural hair braiders from working unless they became licensed cosmetologists. But after IJ filed suit, the Board backed down and enacted a legally binding rule that exempted braiders from licensure.
Sunrise Review in Washington
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 1988 and 2016, Washington regulators conducted 49 sunrise reviews across 45 different occupations. Many proposed regulations were unfounded: Only 14% of sunrise reviews recommended creating new licenses. All told, the Institute for Justice found that “Washington consistently produces rigorous sunrise reports.”
Can You Get a License to Work with a Criminal Record in Washington?
Thanks to recent reforms, Washington State has some of the nation’s best laws for ex-offenders who want to work in a non-medical licensed field. Licensing boards can only disqualify applicants who have been convicted of crimes that “directly relate” to the license wanted and must consider whether an applicant has been rehabilitated. However, the state’s protections do not apply to health licenses. On the whole, Washington received a B+ for its laws in IJ’s Barred from Working report.
How You Can Help
If you are an Washington 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 Washington workers have the economic liberty they deserve.
Washington Occupational Licensing Cases
Almost a decade after IJ successfully sued Washington state over its irrational hair braiding laws, officials once again tried to force natural hair braiders to become licensed cosmetologists.
Washington Occupational Licensing in the News
Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Washington?
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.
Occupational Licensing Research
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
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…
Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing
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
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