Occupational Licensing Blocks Americans' Right to Earn an Honest Living

Occupational Licensing Facts

1 in 4 American workers need a license to work.

On average, it takes nearly a year of education and experience, 1 exam and $260 in fees to work in 102 lower-income occupations.

Nationally, licensing costs the economy nearly 2 million jobs and $184 billion in lost economic value each year

What's the problem with occupational licensing?

Every American deserves the opportunity to earn an honest living. Yet occupational licenses, which are permission slips from the government allowing someone to work, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise. Without these licenses, workers can face stiff fines or even risk jail time. The arbitrary and excessive requirements for licensure, though, can be an enormous burden and often force entrepreneurs to waste their valuable time and money to pursue a license rather than actually working. These burdens too often have no connection at all to public health or safety. Instead, they are imposed simply to protect established businesses from economic competition.

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State Rankings for 102 Lower-Income Occupations:
Number of Occupations Licensed and Average Licensing Burden

More Burdensome Less Burdensome
Based on data released in November 2017


At What Cost

Morris M. Kleiner, Ph.D. and Evgeny S. Vorotnikov, Ph.D.
November 2018

License to Work

A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing

Dick M. Carpenter II, Ph.D., Lisa Knepper, Angela C. Erickson, and John K. Ross
November 2017

Inverted Pyramid

10 Less Restrictive Alternatives to Occupational Licensing

John K. Ross
November 2017

Boards Behaving Badly

Robert Everett Johnson
March 2015


Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit

Bottlenecker (n): a person who advocates for the creation or perpetuation of government regulation, particularly an occupational license, to restrict entry into his or her occupation, thereby accruing an economic advantage without providing a benefit to consumers.

IJ Asks Why: Occupational Licensing