State Policy Network
Should states recognize out-of-state job licenses? American voters weigh in.

A remarkable number of Americans continue to relocate across state lines. But for many, it can be challenging to take their chosen occupation with them.

Across the United States, 102 low to moderate income occupations require a license to practice. These professions range from exterminators to landscapers. Licenses are costly to acquire in both time and money, and standards can be quite different and arbitrary across states.

Alaska, for example, requires prospective barbers to bank 365 days of training, pass two separate examinations, and pay $290 in fees. Minnesota requires nearly two years of training, passage of four separate examinations, and $125 in fees.

States that set expensive, time-consuming regulations also have the power to ease those barriers so that Americans can practice their chosen profession wherever they choose to live. States can embrace reciprocity–which is the practice of allowing an individual’s license from another state to be sufficient for working in an occupation in a new state. Recognizing out-of-state licenses is one practical way states can continue to attract new residents and grow local economies and livelihoods.

What do voters think about states recognizing out-of-state occupational licenses?

When it comes to whether states should strive to recognize other states’ licensing, a solid majority of voters agree at 78%.

There is a small margin of difference between voters of different party affiliation, with slightly more Democrats believing that states should work towards reciprocity in licensing. The story is a bit different when it comes to generational differences: Over three-quarters of voters in the Millennial, Generation X, and Baby Boomer cohorts believe in flexible licensing, whereas only two-thirds of Generation Z do.

Additionally, support for occupational licensing varies according to job type; support is greatest for pre-school teachers and lowest for hair braiders.

Key messaging takeaways for Network policy organizations

Support for relaxing occupational licensing may soften among younger voters and as more specifics are introduced. Make sure to highlight specific reasons why a license is not needed.

This polling is provided by SPN’s State Voices project, a monthly public opinion study dedicated to understanding Americans’ attitudes toward government and public policy. See more State Voices public opinion data and resources here.

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