Occupational Licensing Blocks Americans' Right to Earn an Honest Living

Every American deserves the opportunity to earn an honest living. Yet occupational licenses, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise. Without these licenses, workers can face stiff fines or even risk jail time.

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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

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 2022
Why does Occupational Licensing exist?

Occupational Licensing Cases

California PI License

Jay Fink has a simple business. If you’re a Californian getting too much spam, he’ll look through your junk folder and pull out the emails […]

California Mapping

Do you need a government license to trace a map from publicly available data? It might sound ridiculous, but in California the answer is “yes.” An entrepreneur joined with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a federal lawsuit challenging these regulations because they violate his First Amendment rights.

Idaho Braiding

Three braiders in Idaho challenged state requirements to spend thousands of dollars and a year of their lives for an unnecessary license.

Virginia Fresh Start

Rudy Carey wants to help people overcome addiction through counseling, but Virginia has decided he cannot do so because he has a prior criminal conviction. The Constitution protects Rudy’s right to earn an honest living, which is why he has partnered with IJ to challenge Virginia’s law that bars him from doing so.

Gray v. Maine Dept. of Public Safety

Joshua Gray, a private investigator, wanted to expand his business into his home state of Maine. In violation of his First Amendment rights, the state denied his request for a license, because he has criticized police practices. In September of 2021, IJ asked the Supreme Court to hear Joshua’s case.

North Carolina Engineering Speech

Wayne Nutt is a retired engineer who still talks about engineering and wanted to testify as an expert witness in a case that involved engineering issues. The state of North Carolina argued Wayne’s testimony was illegal because he didn’t have a license. This violates his First Amendment rights, which is why Wayne is working with IJ to fight back.

License to Work

The data and information here come from IJ’s License to Work report, released in November 2022.

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