A 2017 study by the Institute for Justice (IJ) examined occupational licensure laws for 102 lower-income occupations and found that Michigan requires a license for 49 of them. Obtaining a license poses many substantial hurdles. In assessing the burdens the state imposes—including fees, exams, age requirements, grade requirements, and training and experience requirements—the report ranked Michigan’s licensing regime as more broad and onerous than those of 21 other states. On average, the Great Lakes State requires 255 days of experience and training, $242 in fees, and approximately two exams for each of those 49 occupations. Gaming supervisors, makeup artists, painting contractors, and many others face steep fines for operating in Michigan without a license. Patterns in occupational licensing requirements contradict the idea that licensure is primarily used to protect public safety. Occupations that are less likely to involve risk to the public are often more highly controlled than riskier occupations. For example, Michigan’s emergency medical technicians (EMTs) must complete 45 days of training and pass two exams before being licensed to work on an ambulance team. By contrast, Michigan’s sheet metal HVAC contractors must complete 1,095 days of education and experience—24 times the amount of training required of EMTs. Barbers, too, are subject to a full year more of training than EMTs—420 days in total. There are other inconsistencies in Michigan’s licensing regime. As a 2017 report from the Mackinac Center notes, tile and marble installation requires a license, but carpeting does not. Similarly, carpentry requires a license, but drywall installation does not.
Patrick McLaughlin, Matthew D. Mitchell, Anne Philpot, and Tamara Winter