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December 1 2019

What Is Occupational Licensing?

The majority of Americans want to work. It is the foundation of the American Dream. Work provides purpose, value, fulfillment, and money so we can pursue our own vision of happiness and have a sense of worth. 

We find meaning in occupations that help others and our communities, and open the door to a better future for ourselves and our families. Many occupations also offer the chance to start our own businesses and employ others.

Unfortunately, some government regulations needlessly prevent us from entering into our desired professions. Occupational licenses are state-granted certifications that permit us to practice in a profession. 

From child care providers to florists, there are hundreds of jobs that require professional licenses. And the list keeps growing.

Individuals spend valuable time and money on education, training, exams, and fees to secure licensing. These requirements, which vary by state, can become so costly and burdensome that they block us from working, especially those without money or education. 

For workers in unique situations such as military spouses, moving frequently makes securing occupational licenses nearly impossible. 

Some licenses are entirely off-limits to those with criminal records regardless of whether their records are relevant to the job for which they are applying or how long ago the offense occurred.

If caught working unlicensed, we risk being forced to stop working, pay costly fines and potentially prosecution and even jail time.

Occupational licenses are justified as necessary to protect public health and safety and prevent fraud. However, states too often require licenses for vocations that do not need them or impose requirements that are out of synch with the skills needed for the actual job.

This is unfair and denies individuals opportunity.

Policymakers can reform occupational licensing to remove those barriers to work, but they need to hear our voices. By sharing our stories we can demonstrate to our elected officials why they should reform the occupational licenses in our states.

Share your story about how occupational licensing has hindered your ability to work.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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