• Occupational licensing is the state’s most restrictive form of occupational regulation, and it imposes many costly burdens on would-be workers
  • Those burdens include taking hundreds of hours of coursework, passing required exams, logging job experience, paying license fees, etc.
  • A bill that passed the House unanimously would significantly reduce the years of experience required for practitioners of cosmetic arts to qualify for licenses to teach those practices

Requiring a license before allowing someone to begin work is a state’s most restrictive form of occupational regulation. Getting a license costs time and money in satisfying required coursework, taking required qualifying exams, logging job experience, paying license and renewal fees, etc.

Reforming licensing and lowering the burdens of licensing on would-be workers are ideas supported across the political spectrum. For example, two of the best reports about reforming occupational licensing come from the Obama/Biden administration and the libertarian Institute for Justice. The John Locke Foundation recommends a slate of reforms in order to “Free workers from unnecessary licensing requirements and reserve occupational licensing for only the most high-risk jobs.”

In our policy position on occupational licensing, our fourth recommendation to North Carolina policymakers is to:

Work with licensing boards to make acquiring licenses less costly and burdensome. Options include lowering fees, reducing education/experience requirements, reducing examination requirements when possible, and expanding recognition of other states’ licenses.

One of those ways is “reducing education/experience requirements.” So it is encouraging to see unanimous support in the House for a bill to lower the years of experience that are required in order to obtain licenses to teach cosmetology, esthetics, manicuring, or natural hair care.

Lowering the year of experience required to qualify for a license to teach cosmetic arts

In North Carolina, to qualify for a license to teach those practices, you must be a graduate of high school (or have a high school equivalency certificate) and be a licensed practitioner in good standing. You’ll need to pass an exam for teaching cosmetology, esthetics, or manicuring (no exam is required to teach natural hair care).

Also, you must either have several years of experience working as a licensed practitioner, or you must satisfy several hundred hours’ worth of coursework for teaching those cosmetic arts. Those burdens vary according to the practice. Here is the breakdown:

  • Cosmetology: five years of experience or 800 course hours
  • Esthetics: three years of experience or 650 course hours
  • Manicuring: two years of experience or 320 course hours
  • Natural hair care: two years of experience or 320 course hours

Sponsored by Reps. Kandie D. Smith (D) and Amber M. Baker (D), House Bill 718 as filed would specifically reduce the burden of experience needed as a practitioner in order to qualify for a teaching license. It would make the experience required a uniform one year for all of those cosmetic arts. Not five for cosmetology, three for esthetics, or two for manicuring and natural hair care.

The other change the bill would make is to require a teaching exam of prospective instructors in natural hair care. That would add to their burden of licensure, and ideally it would be stripped from the bill. On balance, however, the legislation would lower licensing burdens and standardize the teaching license expectations across the above mentioned practices.

North Carolina still needs bold actions to address its extensive occupational licensing. Nevertheless, any way of reducing the burden on workers seeking to obtain a license to earn a living here is a positive step forward. North Carolina policymakers should take note of the bipartisan agreement in lowering these licensing burdens and move forward on freeing other occupations as well.