State Regulatory Structures

Iris Hentze 7/23/2020

ncsl report

In the United States, about 25% of all workers must receive an occupational license to work in their chosen fields. Licensing is largely a function of state government, with states setting the requirements workers must meet to secure permission to work. Each state approaches occupational licensing in its own, unique way and with its own, unique regulatory structure.

NCSL, the Council for State Governments (CSG) and the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) partnered with the Council on Licensure Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) on a comprehensive resource covering regulatory structures in use in the United States. NCSL, CSG and the NGA Center have been studying occupational licensing policy and best practices in the states since 2017. Regulatory boards and/or agencies are the key bodies in state government responsible for setting licensing requirements, reviewing licensee applications, investigating complaints against licensees and carrying out disciplinary measures.

This report is informed by a survey conducted by CLEAR. Using prior research that found the regulatory models in place in states can generally be grouped in one of five types, respondents were able to indicate which model(s) best represented their current regulatory organization. Those models are:

  • Fully autonomous/independent (Model A).
  • Autonomous but with a central agency responsible for housekeeping/administrative functions (Model B).
  • Autonomous/independent decision-making authority but with a central agency responsible for housekeeping/administration, budget, personnel, investigations and discipling (Model C).
  • Central agency with decision-making authority on all substantive matters while boards are delegated responsibility for some functions (Model D).
  • Central agency, commission, or council with final decision-making authority and boards serving only in an advisory capacity (Model E).

Depending on who the respondents were, they answered on behalf of a single, autonomous board, a single board under a central agency, or a central agency answering on behalf of multiple boards.

Read on to learn more about:

  • Which of the five regulatory models are used the most among states.
  • Which model(s) each state identified that they adhere to.
  • Benefits and challenges of each model type.
  • Benefits and challenges of utilizing multiple models at once.

Additional Resources