North Carolina ranked as 8th most burdensome for occupational licensing

Published March 23, 2023

By Brian Balfour

The practice of occupational licensing places often unnecessary burdens and barriers to entry for certain professions. Such requirements threaten our right to earn a living.

A new study released this week finds that North Carolina ranks as having the 8th highest licensing burden in the nation, and the highest of nine states in the South Atlantic region.

Produced by the Archbridge Institute, a national think tank dedicated to removing barriers that stand in the way of people’s potential, the study evaluates hundreds of occupations that require licensing in order to practice, and measures the number of such requirements among all 50 states and DC.

The 2023 State Occupational Licensing Index ranks states on two main criteria: the number of barriers to occupations and the number of licenses required. According to the study, a barrier exists wherever “the tasks associated with an occupational title are restricted by an occupational license to perform those tasks. The occupation itself may not have a specific license, but it is a crime to perform the associated tasks without meeting entry requirements.” For instance, in some states the profession of “acupuncturist” may not require a specific acupuncturist license, but workers are required to have a physicians’ license to practice acupuncture.

As a result, the number of licenses required can be lower than the number of barriers to occupations.

On both counts, North Carolina fares very poorly. The study counts 194 barriers for NC, compared to the national average of 179 and regional 178 average. And according to the report, NC has 162 occupational licenses, more than the 150 national average and 149 regional average.

The most unique occupational license required in North Carolina is plumbing technician, an occupation licensed in only two states.

The Locke Foundation has long argued that a “Right to Earn a Living Act” is needed to reduce these barriers to making a living. This latest study suggests that North Carolina is more in need of such a bill than most other states.