Understanding occupational licensing reciprocity and how you can get started
One study estimates that 1 in 4 occupations require a license in the United States today. Given the impressive number of occupations requiring a license, there is growing momentum at the state and national level to develop common frameworks for how states recognize licenses from other states. This concept, known as reciprocity, denotes the mutual recognition, endorsement, and acceptance by states of licenses granted by other jurisdictions
What are occupational licenses?
Occupational licenses are government-issued documentation that grant individuals and businesses the ability to legally practice certain professions. Examples of occupations that require licenses include cosmetologists, veterinarians, nurse practitioners, and many more! Occupational licensing frameworks were created to ensure the health and safety of citizens, and are mostly issued at the state level.
Licensing requirements vary depending on the state and occupation, and may include education, exams, fees, applications, and renewal periods. In most states, individual licensing boards and commissions are created to write and enforce the regulations for specific occupations.
Driver’s licenses are a common example of reciprocity today, allowing a driver licensed by Arkansas, for example, to lawfully operate a motor vehicle in California. Similarly, the Nurse Licensure Compact allows nurses to practice in states that participate in the compact without undergoing additional licensing requirements.
With more governments interested in reciprocal licensing for certain professions, it is increasingly important to have a consistent source of truth for state licensing requirements across the United States. While organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures have developed reports and databases to track licensing requirements, they are neither comprehensive nor guaranteed to be the most up to date.
Below is a brief guide for how your government can approach licensing reciprocity:
Step 1: Define scope and identify your state’s requirements
- What occupation are you interested in licensing?
- Identify your state’s body of regulations that pertain to it.
- This includes the text of the regulation, guidance documents, applications, fees, key deadlines, and points of contact
- Esper will automatically surface regulations of interest in your jurisdiction.
Step 2: Identify the states you are interested in researching
- What jurisdictions are top of mind when considering reciprocity?
- Neighboring states are a great place to start in order to encourage more consistency in your region.
Step 3: Research the equivalent regulations for that occupation in your preferred states
- How can you quickly identify the relevant state regulations for your occupation of interest?
- Finding similar regulations in different states can be challenging for policymakers in the status quo. For example, while nurse practitioner regulations may fall under the Board of Nursing in Arkansas, they might be regulated by the Department of Health Services in Illinois.
- Esper helps you quickly find equivalent regulations with our proprietary policy search and workflow tools.
- Instead of navigating 50 different websites to find how states regulate nurse practitioners, you can simply use Esper to quickly identify, save, and study licensing requirements in a single platform.
Step 4: Compare your regulations to the state requirements you identified
- How do your state’s requirements differ from the state(s) you selected?
- It’s helpful to examine the language of the regulation as well as any associated requirements, like applications, examinations, and fee schedules.
- Esper makes this easy by allowing you to quickly compare documents and visualize differences in content and language.
Step 5: Make a decision for how you want to update your regulations
- How do you want to proceed with your state’s requirements?
- After comparing your regulations to other states, use Esper’s project management features to collaboratively develop a plan of action on a central platform.
- With Esper, you can draft new regulations and collaborate with colleagues in a single, secure platform.
- Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona signed Universal Occupational Licensing bill in 2019, which will generally recognize licenses from out of state that have been active for at least one year.
- In 2018 the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $7 million in grants to aid states in the review and streamlining of occupational licensing requirements.