Licensing in Puerto Rico

This edition of License to Work is the first to capture licensing requirements for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, thanks to data collected by researchers at the University of Puerto Rico. To keep our rankings comparable between the second and third editions, we have not included Puerto Rico in them. However, here we summarize Puerto Rico’s licensing requirements and show how its licensing burdens for License to Work’s sample of occupations compare to those of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Puerto Rico requires a license to work in 49 of the 102 occupations in our sample, five fewer than the average state. It is the only U.S. jurisdiction not to license water well drillers, pest control applicators or vegetation pesticide applicators. It is one of only two that does not license public preschool teachers and one of five that does not license head coaches for public high school sports. The 49 License to Work occupations the Commonwealth does license are far from the only occupations it regulates, however. Like the 50 states and the District, Puerto Rico licenses many occupations that are not part of our sample. Not counting “sporting occupation licenses” (such as boxing, wrestling and horseracing), Puerto Rico licenses a total of at least 129 occupations according to the University of Puerto Rico researchers. 1

On average, the 49 licenses require 144 days of education and experience, about one exam, and $228 in fees. While the Commonwealth’s average exam and fee requirements are close to the other jurisdictions’ averages, its average education and experience requirements are substantially lower than the 350 days required by the 50 states and D.C., as shown in Figure 12. Indeed, these average requirements are some of the lowest across the jurisdictions we study. 

Figure 12: How Puerto Rico Compares

Percent Licensed of 102 Occupations


Average Days Lost to education and experience


Average Fees

Average across all states
Puerto Rico

To put them in perspective, if we included Puerto Rico in our rankings, its licenses would be on the lower end of the burden ranking, as the 46th most burdensome in the nation, between Louisiana’s and Alabama’s. Taking both the number of occupations it licenses and its average burdens into account, Puerto Rico would rank between Michigan and Pennsylvania as 31st on combined rank, as shown in Table 10. Table 11 ranks the 49 occupations Puerto Rico licenses according to how burdensomely the Commonwealth licenses them.

Table 10: Puerto Rico’s Burden and Combined Rankings 

Puerto Rico and Select States Ranked by Average Burdens for Licensed Occupations, 2022

RankStateNumber of 102 Lower-Income Occupations LicensedAverage FeesAverage Estimated Calendar Days LostAverage ExamsAverage Min.
46Puerto Rico49$2281441317
49North Dakota65$1511131113

Puerto Rico and Select States Ranked by Number of Licenses and Average Burdens, 2022

RankStateNumber of 102 Lower-Income Occupations LicensedAverage FeesAverage Estimated Calendar Days LostAverage ExamsAverage Min.
28New Jersey54$279 4221310
29Massachusetts50$331 5111311
30Michigan48$281 3081312
31Puerto Rico49$2281441317
32Pennsylvania50$116 120118
33Maine46$226 323115
34Delaware42$230 4951210

Table 11: Licensing in Puerto Rico

Burden RankOccupationStates LicensedFeesEstimated Calendar Days LostEducationExperienceExamsMin. GradeMin. Age
1Pharmacy Technician44$3059052 years1000 clock hours11218
2Travel Guide37$105803315 clock hours2 years21218
3Dental Assistant8$407302 yearsNone11218
4Optician22$2957302 yearsNone1021
5Veterinary Technician36$1857302 yearsNone1021
6Interior Designer3$31058884 credit hoursNone21218
7Massage Therapist45$4292331000 clock hoursNone11218
8Barber51$3202739 monthsNone2018
9Cosmetologist51$3102331000 clock hoursNone2816
9Makeup Artist37$3102331000 clock hoursNone2816
9Manicurist51$3102331000 clock hoursNone2816
9Shampooer33$3102331000 clock hoursNone2816
9Skin Care Specialist51$3102331000 clock hoursNone2816
14HVAC Contractor (Residential)35$300187800 clock hoursNone11218
14HVAC Contractor (Commercial)37$300187800 clock hoursNone11218
16Emergency Medical Technician51$42593400 clock hoursNone21218
17Athletic Trainer49$650129105 clock hours450 clock hours1018
18Electrical Helper3$165117500 clock hoursNone11218
19Gaming Dealer29$8535150 clock hoursNone1018
20Gaming Supervisor31$16535150 clock hoursNone0018
20Slot Supervisor29$16535150 clock hoursNone0018
22Security Guard, Unarmed34$10728None4 weeks0021
23Gaming Cage Worker30$8535150 clock hoursNone0018
25Carpenter/Cabinet Maker Contractor (Residential)30$2400NoneNone0018
25Cement Finishing Contractor (Residential)30$2400NoneNone0018
25Door Repair Contractor (Residential)29$2400NoneNone0018
25Drywall Installation Contractor (Residential)30$2400NoneNone0018
25Floor Sander Contractor (Residential)27$2400NoneNone0018
25Glazier Contractor (Residential)30$2400NoneNone0018
25Insulation Contractor (Residential)30$2400NoneNone0018
25Iron/Steel Contractor (Residential)30$2400NoneNone0018
25Landscape Contractor (Residential)48$2400NoneNone0018
25Mason Contractor (Residential)31$2400NoneNone0018
25Painting Contractor (Residential)27$2400NoneNone0018
25Paving Contractor (Residential)28$2400NoneNone0018
25Sheet Metal Contractor, HVAC (Residential)36$2400NoneNone0018
25Sheet Metal Contractor, Other (Residential)31$2400NoneNone0018
25Terrazzo Contractor (Residential)28$2400NoneNone0018
40Truck Driver, Tractor-Trailer51$1200NoneNone0021
41Bus Driver, City/Transit51$1100NoneNone0021
41School Bus Driver51$1100NoneNone0021
43Travel Agency5$2000NoneNone0018
44Child Care Home, Family44$250NoneNone0021
45Taxi Driver/Chauffeur13$1000NoneNone0018
46Truck Driver, Other51$850NoneNone0018
47Fisher, Commercial43$250NoneNone0018
48Bill Collection Agency29$4500NoneNone000
49Pipelayer Contractor27$2400NoneNone000

While Puerto Rico’s average burdens compare favorably with those of other jurisdictions, many of its licenses do not. Most notably, among Puerto Rico’s 49 licenses, the most burdensome is that for pharmacy technician, and its requirements exceed those of all other jurisdictions. Aspirants must earn an associate degree and complete a 1,000-hour supervised internship, for a total of 905 days lost to education and experience. These burdens look especially steep considering that 15 of the 44 states that license the occupation do not require any education or experience. 

Unlike most other jurisdictions, Puerto Rico also requires aspiring dental assistants and dispensing opticians to earn an associate degree, contributing to their ranks as the 3rd and 4th most burdensome licenses among the 49 examined here. Dental assistants are licensed by only eight states, and Puerto Rico’s is the only license to require an associate degree. By contrast, four states require no education or experience at all, including Washington, which recently eliminated all required training. As for dispensing opticians, most states do not license them, and of those that do, two do not require any education or experience. 

Puerto Rico’s sixth most burdensome occupation is interior designer, licensed by only three other jurisdictions. Aspiring interior designers must earn 24 credits in general subjects and another 60 in specialized study, amounting to 588 days lost to education and experience. Though less burdensome than other interior design licenses—Louisiana, Nevada and the District of Columbia each require six years of education or experience—Puerto Rico’s requirements still appear needlessly onerous given that 48 states do not license interior designers, including Florida, which recently eliminated its license.

Other licensing burdens that stand out as uncommonly steep include those for electrical helpers and travel guides. Only three states license electrical helpers and none require education or experience, but Puerto Rico mandates 500 hours of accredited vocational education, amounting to 117 days lost, the result of legislation enacted in 2016. 2  Of the 37 states that license travel guides, the majority do not require any education or experience, yet Puerto Rico requires 803 days, including specialized coursework and two years of experience, giving it the second most burdensome licensing requirements in the Commonwealth.

Some of Puerto Rico’s requirements also far outstrip national minimums. For example, the Commonwealth requires 1,000 hours of education, amounting to 233 days lost, for manicurists, while Alaska recently reduced its requirement to just 12 hours. Similarly, aspiring skin care specialists must also undergo 1,000 hours of education in Puerto Rico, while Florida requires only 220 hours. Puerto Rico’s training requirements for entry-level emergency medical technicians, 400 hours of accredited coursework, amounting to about three months, are triple the requirements of most states.

Other requirements appear too burdensome in light of the risks they pose to the public. Most notably, Puerto Rico requires almost eight months (233 days) of training for cosmetologists compared to three months for EMTs (which itself is far higher than average). And because makeup artists and shampooers must be fully licensed cosmetologists, workers in these occupations, too, need more than twice as much training as EMTs.

Finally, not only does Puerto Rico license occupations other jurisdictions do not—sometimes quite onerously—but it also imposes several licenses recently eliminated elsewhere, such as makeup artists, shampooers, residential painting contractors, taxi drivers, travel agencies and weighers, as well as interior designers.  

Despite Puerto Rico’s low average burdens overall, comparisons to other jurisdictions show there is likely room for reform. To rein in licensing burdens, Puerto Rico can follow the steps outlined in How to Reform Licensing. In so doing, it will make the Commonwealth a freer, fairer place to live, work and do business.