Policy Documents

Six Reforms to Occupational Licensing Laws to Increase Jobs and Lower Costs

Byron Schlomach –
July 10, 2012

Do you have a love of fabric, furniture, and a talent for decorating? In a few states, unless you have a license, it’s tough luck if you want to start a decorating business. Most states actually have laws that limit the use of the title “interior designer.”

Every state licenses medical doctors, lawyers, nurses, and chiropractors—professions that most people would say should be licensed. Every state also licenses architects, surveyors, and cosmetologists—professions that some people might be less likely to agree should be licensed.

The vast majority of states license other professions such as accountants, athletic trainers, insurance agents, massage therapists, and private detectives. Then there are states that license animal caretakers, craft artists, and even librarians.

More and more, licensing represents a growing barrier to entering all sorts of occupations. Economic research shows that licensing makes services more expensive and makes it more difficult—often unnecessarily so—for people to enter a new profession.

Reforming licensing could open career opportunities and reduce the costs of services without sacrificing consumer safety. This paper recommends six reforms.