Friday, February 13, 2015

5 Jobs that Inexplicably Require a License in the US

Rachel Cunliffe writes:

At the moment, all conversations about licencing and regulating occupations seem to revolve around Uber.  While governments across the world fret about safety concerns and the ‘unfairness’ towards conventional taxis, consumers are taking full advantage of the lower prices and increased competition Uber has injected into the market. Much as taxi drivers protest (and they have certainly protested, blocking the streets of Paris and other European cities) the influence of Uber might be benefitting them too – in New York City, the cost of a taxi medallion (necessary for all taxi drivers) has gone down 23% since 2013.
While the world debates everything Uber, from its business model to its ethics, licencing issues in other occupations are starting to emerge. Last month, the Brookings Institution published a paper by Morris Kleiner from the Hamilton Project: Reforming Occupational Licensing Policies. The results of Kleiner’s investigation into occupational licencing in the US can be neatly summarised by the headline of the accompanying Brookings article: Nearly 30 Percent of Workers in the U.S. Need a License to Perform Their Job.
Kleiner’s findings, concerning both the growth and the costs of licencing, are stark. In the 1950s, less than 5% of workers in the US required a licence. By 2008, that was up to nearly 29%. A poll conducted in 2013 found that almost 90% of licenced workers were required to pass an exam, while mandatory continued training and internships were also common...
Below are five of the most extreme and bizarre examples from the report, highlighting the both inconsistencies in state licencing, and the punitive measures which raise costs for consumers and discourage worker mobility.
You might think that the only requirement to drive a school bus would be a driving licence. You would be wrong. Every state, including DC requires a licence for school bus drivers, and all require at least 6 exams, including a physical exam, first aid training, and additional practical tests. The job is licenced in more states than that of a preschool teacher, the person actually teaching the children once they are driven to school.
On the subject of school, what about teaching assistants? This can be a great way for young people to see if they would suit a career in teaching, or for those considering switching professions. Being a teaching assistant requires energy, determination, quick learning, and an inexhaustible supply of patience. (I should know, I’ve been one.) However, while the role is undeniably worthwhile and rewarding, it is one where classroom experience counts far more than paper qualifications, and the experience is the kind you pick up on the job. Throw an enthusiastic assistant into a classroom, let her observe lessons from a qualified teacher, prepare resources and assist with small-group or one-to-one learning, and watch how fast her skills develop. What teaching assistants shouldn’t need is a licence, as they do in 29 states. 23 states require an exam, to assess a role that is primarily supportive, and 6 states require an incredible 2-years of training. At a time when schools are suffering from a shortage of teachers, this is a sure way to discourage potential candidates from offering their support and learning more about the profession.
The first two jobs at least involve working with children, so extra regulations are to be expected. But what about a job in an explicitly adult-only environment? In the UK and Europe, many teenagers get their first job working behind a bar, and it’s generally considered a flexible way to earn money while studying or pursuing another career. Not so in the US. Along with the federal drinking age set at 21 (3 years higher than most other countries), 13 states demand a licence for bartending. 10 require training, 4 have an exam, and 8 charge a fee, for the privilege of being able to pull a pint or pour a glass of wine. This reduces the availability of casual, part-time work, and also must affect the cost of a drink at establishments in bartender licencing state, even though it is unlikely that consumers care whether the person serving their drink has passed an exam.
The argument could be made (especially by the anti-drinking brigade) that alcohol is a hazardous substance, and therefore some level of training might be required (dubious, but defensible). Nearly three times as many states (36) require a licence to be a make-up artist. Yes, a person who applies make-up to actors or to customers in a shop needs to pay for a licence – and these licences are some of the more expensive, averaging $116, with some higher than $200. 35 of these states require training, and 34 insist on at least one exam, sometimes up to three, presumably since make-up artists fall into the category of cosmetologists and aestheticians, whose jobs veer closer to health-related services. As Jared Meyer points out, “some people may prefer to have a government-licensed make-up artist, but many others would rather pay less for this service”. Given that the risk of medical complications from a session with a make-up artists is far lower than from other beauty treatments (such as laser hair removal or skin care), it does not make sense that they are grouped together for licencing purposes.
From the cumbersome but defensible to the downright bizarre: 5 states require licences from “shampooers”. Not hairdressers, the people who actually cut hair and could conceivably inflict some medium-term damage with a disastrous haircut, but the low-paid and low-skilled assistants who wash a customer’s hair before the hairdresser touches it.  Shampooers face this ridiculous hurdle in New Hampshire, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and finally Tennessee, where 70 days of training and 2 exams are required. “Does a ‘Shampooer’ Really Need 70 Days of Training?” asks Danny Vinik in a New Republic article from May 2014 about Eric Cantor’s proposed licencing reforms. No, they don’t, especially since (as the article points out) the average number of days of training to become an emergency medical technician is only 33. Vinik also notes how some federally-funded programmes help unemployed job-hunters jump through licencing hoops which serve no benefit and should not exist. If a college student or recently laid-off worker can’t even get a temporary job washing hair without paying for a licence, options are severely limited.


  1. The first four have dubious defensibility, despite how wrong they are, but the fifth is just straight up bullshit.


  2. People need to understand that what drives government is not safety, security, altruism, greed, fear, ignorance or confusion. It is sadism. Stopping happiness, success, imagination, joy, and creativity is what drives it. Once this is understood, nothing government does is a surprise and everything it does is expected.

    1. yup.................For A.L.S. Patients, a Hopeful Drug That Is Out of Reach

      While the diagnosis has been heartbreaking, I have recently found a new reason to hope.

      A new A.L.S. medication called GM6 has shown in a 12-person trial to dramatically slow down the progression on the disease. The drug maker, Genervon, a Pasadena biopharmaceutical company, announced in January a single-patient study of a 46-year-old man with A.L.S. for 10 years. After 12 weeks of taking the drug, the man showed small improvements in speech and swallowing, and certain proteins used to signal disease progression actually moved back toward the normal range.

      GM6 has also been studied in 67 other patients as a treatment for stroke and Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, given the length of time it takes to win approval for a new drug, it will be about 12 years, $4 billion and many more deaths before GM6 makes it into my medicine cabinet. I will be in a wheelchair, using a feeding tube, or dead by then.

      The Food and Drug Administration has the power to stop that from happening for thousands of A.L.S. patients, including me, if it grants “accelerated approval” to drugs that are deemed safe and can help terminally ill people. This program was first implemented for H.I.V./AIDS medication in 1992 — an issue depicted in the Oscar-winning film “Dallas Buyers Club.” Accelerated approval is often used for cancer drugs, and it is estimated that about one-third of all drugs are approved after one study.

      Genervon now is seeking accelerated approval of its A.L.S. drug, possibly as early as this week. More than 120,000 people have signed an online petition that urges the F.D.A. to wave its magic wand and make this drug available to the 30,000 people fighting this wretched disease.
      It is not going to be an easy battle.

      sign the petition and help some people.....

      Keep the Pressure Up!

    2. Does this have anything at all- to do with the original article?

  3. one of the great things the old country did was dispense with licensing in a lot of occupations such as banking and insurance.

  4. Nice...licenses needed for these low skill jobs, so government can control entry for some, at the expense of others. How about we get back at these politicians, and require a LICENSE TO BE A POLITICIAN!
    Passing the license, amongst other requirements will be a 100 question test on the constitution (interpretive). A section on concepts in freedom and philosophy thereof. A section on economics, and maybe political corruption.

    Sadly, this may not serve to give us much better politicians, but oh, how we can savior the retribution for silly license requirements.

  5. This makes me think of IP and patents.....bizarre.

  6. A friend of mine is working up a lawsuit to sue all the current Alaskan politicians for not have a business license while they are campaigning.
    Alaska law says:
    Per AS 43.70.020(a) a business license is required for the privilege of engaging in a business in the State of Alaska.

    Per AS 43.70.110(1) “Business” means a for-profit or non-profit entity engaging or offering to engage in a trade, a service, a profession, or an activity with the goal of receiving a financial benefit in exchange for the provision of services, or goods, or other property."
    Seems like they would qualify. What's good for we serfs should be good for them too I would think.