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A Note to State Legislators: Five Facts You Need to Know (Yet Haven’t Heard) About Professional Licensing

Considering licensing reform? Here are five facts you should know as you work to develop responsible licensing policy that supports jobs, creates opportunity, and protects consumers.

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1) Licensing exists to protect the public. Rigorous standards and a minimum level of qualification are critical for highly complex, technical professions that affect public health, safety, and welfare. Professions like certified public accountants (CPAs), engineers, architects, landscape architects, and surveyors. Voters—your constituents—recognize professional licensing is the best way to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare. In fact, 75 percent of voters say it is important to ensure qualifications for professionals in certain industries. There’s more: 7 in 10 voters believe licensing should be required unless it can be proven eliminating licensing will not impact public health and safety.


2) Licensing drives higher wages—6.5% higher wages on average. Valuing Professional Licensing, a new, in-depth report from ARPL in partnership with the internationally recognized research firm Oxford Economics has found that professional licensing is associated with higher wages across all professions and occupations. Women and minorities in particular benefit as a license narrows the gender-driven wage gap by about one third and the race-driven wage gap by about half. Licensing helps level the playing field by setting a clear, evenly applied level of qualification and removing subjectivity. It is an important tool that helps build pay equity.


3) Licensing is about more than entry into a profession. Licensing is more than a one-time piece of paper. The license is the beginning of an ongoing commitment to continued education and ethical and professional standards. Standards that are upheld and enforced by regulatory boards that act in the interest of the public. Research shows nearly 70 percent of voters view licensing boards favorably and understand their role as critical regulatory entities that protect the public from harm. Good licensing reform must recognize and support the vital role of regulatory boards in establishing, verifying, and enforcing necessary expertise and conduct.


4) Responsible licensing works, and there are already systems in place.Lawmakers often aim to make it easier for people to move with their careers—sometimes called interstate practice or mobility. Interstate practice systems already exist and have been working for decades. Proven licensing models, such as those in place for CPAs, engineers, architects, landscape architects, and surveyors, should be used as models for other professions and occupations. Be sure to read ARPL’s recently released interstate practice report, Licensed to Move, which contains examples of policy successes in other states.

5) Licensing affects different professions and occupations differently. Responsible, effective reform should acknowledge these differences and the unique needs across the multitude of professions and occupations. There is simply no single one-size-fits-all approach that will work equally as well for pet groomers as it will for engineers. Weakening licensing for everyone to solve the unique challenges of a specific occupation or profession can have unintended consequences. Responsible licensing is nuanced, narrowly tailored to a specific need or problem, and, importantly, achievable.

Where should you start? Work with professional associations and licensing boards in your state to become familiar with existing model laws. More materials and information about responsible licensing is available at

Licensing done right works. Let’s fix the problem, not create new ones.

The Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL) promotes a responsible, balanced approach to professional licensing. ARPL aims to educate policymakers and the public on the importance of high standards, rigorous education, and extensive experience within highly complex, technical professions that are relied upon to protect public safety and enhance public trust. ARPL is composed of national associations that represent highly complex, technical professions and their state licensing boards. Members of ARPL are licensed in all 50+ U.S. states and territories. Associations within ARPL have established uniform education, examination, and experience standards and a proven national mobility path for professionals.

Members of ARPL include the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB), National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

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