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Occupational Licensing Policy

The Council of State Governments (CSG) works with state government officials to strengthen the
portability of occupational licenses and remove duplicative and overly-burdensome requirements.

Over the last 60 years, the number of jobs requiring an occupational license, or government approval to practice a profession, has grown from about one in 20 to nearly one in four. When implemented properly, occupational licensing can help protect the health and safety of consumers by requiring practitioners to undergo a designated amount of training and education in their field.

However, differences and disparities in occupational licensing laws across states can create barriers for those looking to enter the labor market and make it harder for workers to relocate across state lines. Certain populations—including military spouses and families, immigrants with work authorization, people with criminal records, and unemployed and dislocated workers—are affected especially hard by the requirements and variances of occupational licensing.

Occupational Licensing: Assessing State Policy and Practice Project

To identify problems in occupational licensure and help states find solutions, The Council of State Governments (CSG), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices created in 2017 the Occupational Licensing Policy Learning Consortium, a partnership of 16 states. This work is made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) Employment and Training Administration. The Consortium has strengthened understanding of occupational licensure issues among participating states by providing a forum for the state leaders and stakeholder professions to learn about occupational licensing best practices, become familiar with and discuss the existing licensing policies in their state and identify current policies that create unnecessary barriers to labor market entry, especially for disproportionately affected populations. States also were tasked with creating an action plan that focuses on removing barriers to labor market entry and improves portability and reciprocity for select occupations.

CSG, NCSL, and NGA have facilitated Consortium partner assessment of evidence-based research, best practices, possible alternatives to licensure, multi-state comparable data and, state-specific data; and provided opportunities to network with national experts. Each state in the Consortium has received technical assistance from CSG, NCSL and NGA to develop their action plans. Consortium states also created a core team of officials to participate in project activities, as well as a broader group of stakeholders to serve as a continuing network in occupational licensure policy. Each state selected specific occupations and target populations to focus on through this work, as well as examining other aspects of licensure regulation addressed in their action plans.

The first phase of the project culminated in 2020 with a Report issued by the partner organizations that outlines the work of participating states and best practices in occupational licensure policy. Lessons learned by Consortium states outlined in the Report assist all state policy-makers in decisions surrounding occupational licensure.

This site contains the Report, along with more information about state assistance Consortium states received, and a collection of project resources created by CSG and its partners on specific occupational licensing issues.