Occupational Licensing: Barriers to Work Series


This series of four publications is part of the Occupational Licensing: Assessing State Policy and Research Project. These documents focus on the unique challenges and barriers specific to four population groups when they wish to enter a licensed occupation and practice a licensed occupation across state lines. Each report outlines specific state policy options to address the unique challenges faced by the individual population.

Overview of Occupational Licensing

Occupational licensure is a form of government regulation that requires a worker to hold a credential to practice or operate in a certain occupation. To receive an occupational license, applicants are often required to meet specific criteria in the form of education or training, fees and testing. State licensing boards are generally granted the authority to establish these requirements and are the final arbiter of market entry for a licensed occupation. These boards are usually comprised of a combination of industry professionals and state officials.

Licensed workers now comprise nearly 25 percent of all employed Americans. States vary not only in the share of workers with a license, but also in the requirements to obtain a license in the state. While licensing laws were created with the intent of protecting public health and safety, research suggests that some licensing policies can have negative consequences for job growth, employment and consumer prices.

Licensing regulations can create unique barriers and challenges for certain populations who are entering the labor market or moving across states lines. This Barriers to Work series focuses on the specific barriers that may exist for four different population groups:

About This Project

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration awarded the National Conference of State Legislatures, in partnership with The Council of State Governments and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, funding on a three-year project to:

  • Ensure that existing and new licensing requirements are not overly broad or burdensome and don’t create unnecessary barriers to labor market entry
  • Improve the portability for selected occupational licenses across state lines.

The national partners are producing research, including these reports, convening state policymakers and experts in the field of occupational licensing, and delivering technical assistance to states. Through a competitive application process, 11 states were selected to participate in the consortium. Those 11 states are: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Wisconsin.

Additional Resources

This workforce product was funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The product was created by the recipient and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership.  This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it.