The Game of Life: How Changing Licensing Requirements Impacts Tennesseans’ Career Choices


May 16, 2022 9:25AM

In recent decades, the number of professions requiring an occupational license, a government permission slip to do a job, has exploded to where roughly one in three Americans now must obtain a government license to work.  Numerous studies are beginning to show the cost of over-regulating many occupations, especially for lower-income Americans. However, the cost of a license is more than just requiring one or not, but what are the requirements and are they becoming more or less onerous over time? In this report, Beacon tracked the requirements of several licenses over several decades and whether those changes impacted the ability of Tennesseans to enter that profession. 

Key Takeaways

  • The requirements for “white-collar” licensed professions, ones that require a bachelor’s degree, have rarely changed and the number of Tennesseans in these professions has remained relatively constant for decades. 
  • Meanwhile, “blue-collar” professions, ones that do not require a bachelor’s degree, typically have seen more changes. As a result, several fields have seen a decline in the number of licensed workers, including barbers, natural hair stylists, private investigators, and auctioneers. 
  • When up for sunset review, regulatory boards should be required to provide practitioner trends to the Government Operations Committee to better provide lawmakers with data on the impact of regulations over time and the need for reform. 
  • Licensing changes clearly have a significant impact on the number of Tennesseans entering certain professions, licensing boards should be required to state the public health and safety rationale for their actions and bear the burden to prove that the rule or regulation is necessary to protect public health and safety.