A study has found that Georgia’s professional licensing requirements may be keeping lower-income people from pursuing certain careers. In many cases Georgia’s rules are much stiffer than other states.
If you want to be a heating and air conditioning contractor in Georgia, you’ll need four years of experience before earning a license.
Landscape contractors have to take two exams to receive their licenses. Georgia is one of only two states requiring tests, and one of only ten that license landscapers, the study found.
Dick Carpenter with the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va., authored the study. He says industry professionals petition the state to create the licenses.
“And they do so because they’re interested in erecting a fence around their occupations to keep competitors out," he said. "So it’s not as though there are mobs of concerned consumers storming the legislature demanding protection from rogue shampooers for example.”
Carpenter says low-income workers are less likely to go through a high number of hurdles to get certified. In some cases, licensing exams are only given in one location and applicants from around the state have to spend time and money to travel to the testing site.
He says more people enter these professions in states with fewer licensing rules.
The study also found Georgia’s trade certification rules are often arbitrary and inconsistent.
Skin care specialists in Georgia, for example, receive 233 days of training, while nationwide the average is just 149 days.
But some say the licenses and exams may serve a purpose. Emory University economics professor Tom Smith says they help consumers buy goods and services.
“An initial fee or an initial licensing process is a way to separate the good from the bad," he said in an interview. "And for consumer protections, we always prefer more information.”
Smith also said industries help determine how much training a novice needs.
Georgia's office of the Secretary of State oversees licensing for a host of professions, including nurses, barbers, security guards and hearing aid dealers. The current Secretary, Brian Kemp, drafted a bill earlier this year to streamline the licensing process, but it didn't pass the legislature.