Imagine a US state where locksmiths, pastoral counselors, home security companies, and acupuncturists do not have to be licensed by the government to do business. They could pursue certification with a private organization if they wanted to, but they could decide not to as well. Would chaos ensue?
Recently, the state legislature in my home state of North Carolina approved draft legislation that would undo licensing requirements for 15 professions, including locksmithing, pastoral counseling, and acupuncture. At present, practicing in these professions requires licensure by the state, but this bill would dissolve that requirement for these professions. . . .
And what if the state decides not to serve as licenser? Will private organizations step in? The answer is an almost certain yes. Take athletic trainers, one of the professions the North Carolina bill would remove licensure requirements for. Becoming an “athletic trainer” in North Carolina requires a state license, but becoming a “personal trainer” does not. It turns out, however, that most employers seem to want only certified personal trainers. So where do personal trainers get certified? Often, employers will only hire trainers with college degrees in a field like exercise science. But there are also — you guessed it — private certifying bodies for personal trainers, such as the National Personal Training Institute and the International Fitness Association. Why do employers tend to hire trainers who are certified? Presumably, it’s not because of any government demands, but because they find those trainers to be better for business.
Locksmithing is another profession for which the North Carolina bill would dissolve licensure requirements. To help us predict the outcome for the state’s consumers, we can look to Great Britain, where the government imposes no licensing requirement on locksmiths. British locksmiths can, however, pursue certification with the nonprofit Master Locksmith Association and other similar organizations, which allow locksmiths to advertise as certified. And, true to form, a good many locksmiths voluntarily acquire this certification.
Occupational licensing holds people back, and limits competition.