Occupational licensing is a government permission slip that is required to work in specific jobs. All states require licensing of certain occupations. Governments claim that these licenses are in place to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of consumers. However, many occupations, especially in the lower to middle-income range jobs, do no such thing. In fact, they impose heavy education and training requirements, as well as significant costs to the licensee and the consumer.

In the most recent report on occupational licensing issued by the Institute for Justice, Louisiana remains the most licensed state in the United States, requiring a license for 77 of the 102 lower and middle-income licenses studied. In the five years since the 2017 licensure report was released, Louisiana’s rank on the most burdensome list moved up one spot to 45th; however, the overall rank of 6th worst in the nation remains the same.

Louisianians lose an average of 175 days in preparation, education, and training to obtain an occupational license and spend an average of $333 on the license itself. Since 2017, there has been little change to licensing requirements in Louisiana, none were removed, but at least no new licenses were created. Most of the changes made during the last five years were to decrease fees and increase education requirements for 18 occupations, primarily in the construction trades.

According to the report, just 12% of the 102 occupations studied are licensed in all states, which means the remaining 88% of occupations are practiced safely without a license in at least one state. Also of note, the burdens of obtaining a license do not necessarily align with the risks of that occupation. For example, all of the barbering and cosmetology occupations studied require more training than the average entry-level emergency medical technician (EMT).

We have noted in a recent article that Louisiana is the only state in the nation to license a florist but is also only one of a handful of states that license interior designers, landscapers, and tree trimmers. In 2022, Louisiana’s lawmakers passed three bills that removed various barriers for people seeking licensure. These new laws restrict current and future licensing to those that address legitimate health, safety, welfare, or fiduciary objectives. The laws also assist those with a criminal history in getting back to work and require transparency from the various licensing boards. These, and future improvements to licensing, will help Louisiana move down the ranks on subsequent Institute for Justice reports on licensing and ease the burdens of accessing work for people in our state.

Occupational mobility continues to be a burden on individuals desiring to work in a licensed industry in our state. Those that are licensed in other states and move to Louisiana face additional training, education, and experience requirements to obtain a license here. The Pelican Institute continues to push for “universal recognition” of licenses, registrations, and previous work experience in other states that can entice people to relocate to Louisiana and also facilitate Louisiana natives who previously moved out of state to come home where they can continue their profession without having to start over.

Some improvements to this have been made. The Louisiana Veterinary Medicine Board recently announced that they will be removing the internship requirements for veterinarians that are licensed in other states and wish to practice here.

While there’s been progress, Louisiana must end the practice of licensing occupations where there is no health, safety, welfare, or fiduciary concern. There must also be an additional reduction to barriers to work by paring back education, training, and experience where requirements are overly burdensome, as well as lifting bans on who can obtain a license, where practicable. Lifting these barriers to work will give a more significant opportunity for our citizens to flourish and prosper right here, helping our state to move up on a good list for a change.