Rhode Island is one of the worst states in the nation for occupational licensing, ranking as the 10th most broadly and onerously licensed. The state licenses more lower-income occupations than most states—72 of the 102 studied here. Rhode Island’s licensing laws rank as the 27th most burdensome, requiring an average of $223 in fees, 326 days of education and experience, and around one exam.
Rhode Island licenses some occupations that are rarely licensed elsewhere. It is the only state to license conveyor operators. And few other states license non-instructional teacher assistants (four), tree trimmers (six), bartenders (12) or sign language interpreters (21). Among those, sign language interpreters face particularly steep burdens. Rhode Island’s license requires $700 in fees, four years and 40 hours of education (an estimated 1,469 days), and two exams. Given that so few states see fit to license sign language interpreters at all, such heavy requirements are questionable.
Rhode Island also imposes education and experience burdens on some occupations that seem excessive compared to those for other occupations that may present greater risks to the public. For example, barbers and cosmetologists must complete nearly one year (roughly 350 days or 1,500 hours) of education before becoming licensed. These burdens are considerably heavier than those for EMTs. These emergency first responders need less than a month (an estimated 26 days or 110 hours) of education, even though they arguably bear more responsibility for public safety. Rhode Island could improve its rankings by reducing or repealing its heavy occupational licensing burdens for barbers, cosmetologists and other occupations, or—if government regulation is necessary—by replacing them with less restrictive regulatory alternatives such as inspections or voluntary certification.