Illinois’ excessive job licensing keeps Chicagoans in poverty

Illinois’ excessive job licensing keeps Chicagoans in poverty

Occupational licensing is more burdensome in Illinois than in neighboring states for many professions. Those barriers are unreasonably keeping poor Illinoisans and Chicagoans from finding work.

Want to work in a casino, fill the need for pharmacy techs, be a locksmith or a makeup artist? In Illinois you’ll face higher fees, more time preparing and more tests before getting government’s permission to work than in neighboring states.

When government gets in the way of working, it hurts people’s ability to escape poverty.


Full-time employment is the clearest path out of poverty for Chicagoans, according to research by the Illinois Policy Institute. But for many professions, Illinois imposes a higher burden than its neighbors.

Illinois ranks worse than other Midwestern states when it comes to the burden of occupational licenses, according to research from the Institute for Justice. It also imposes higher burdens on many potential careers than neighboring states and sometimes than the rest of the nation.

That is true for the gaming industry, pharmacy technicians, locksmiths, makeup artists and certain other professions. There are harms from excessive regulation of occupations.

Professions more burdened in Illinois than in neighboring states

Illinois has the nation’s fourth-most burdensome licensing requirements to become a pharmacy technician, and the most burdensome licensing requirements of all its neighbors. Pharmacy technicians in Illinois lose an estimated 23 more calendar days than the next-most burdensome neighboring state in training and experience requirements. Six states don’t even require a license for pharmacy technicians: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This even as the state and country experience a pharmacist shortage, where pharmacy technicians must be relied upon to meet people’s basic health care needs.

A makeup artist in Illinois will face the sixth-most burdensome licensing requirements in the country, and the second-most when compared to neighboring states. A license in Illinois costs $191, requires a 12th-grade education and must spend an estimated 175 days in training and experience to meet requirements. A makeup artist in Kentucky must pay $50 and does not even lose a full day to education or experience mandates. When looking at the rest of the country, 14 states do not even license makeup artists. Anyone can earn a living on their own talent and skills, most-often acquired at home.

To install a security alarm in Illinois, you must pay a $317 fee, take an exam, and lose an estimated 1,095 days maintaining your license. Most neighboring states do not even require a license to install security alarms. Even while crime is climbing in Chicago, the costs of burdensome licensing is just one more impediment to improving security to your home or business.

Similarly, to install a fire alarm in Illinois, you must be 21, pay a $288 fee, pass an exam and spend an estimated 1,095 calendar days to meet education and experience requirements. Again, in most neighboring states there is no license required to install a fire alarm. When it comes to locksmiths, Illinois is the only state to even require locksmiths to obtain a license, requiring candidates to pass an exam, pay a $550 fee and to lose three days in education and experience requirements to join the profession in Illinois.

Illinois is the second-most burdensome state for becoming a sign language interpreter. You must pay $470, take two exams, have a 12th-grade education and stand to lose an estimated 730 days in education and experience requirements. Meanwhile in Iowa, a sign language interpreter would only have to take one exam and has no education or experience requirements. With only 270 interpreters in Illinois, according to Deaf Services Unlimited, these barriers will contribute to the difficulty in meeting the needs of the deaf community.

Chicago has promoted its new casino as bringing jobs and revenue to the city, but Illinois charges a $278 fee just to become a gaming cage worker or a dealer. That along with an age requirement of 21 to obtain a license make the burden on Illinois worse than any neighboring state, and the second-highest burden in the U.S. To become a gaming supervisor has an even more costly barrier: a $1,078 licensing fee. That puts Illinois at the most burdensome of all its neighboring states. Among other problems, these restrictions make it harder for this new industry to grow and create jobs.


One of the surest ways for Chicagoans to avoid poverty is to find full-time, year-round employment. Illinois’ many job licensing requirements compared to other states impose barriers to work. That increases barriers to Illinoisans’ and Chicagoans’ efforts to pull themselves out of poverty.

Illinois should reduce or eliminate these requirements, especially for occupations on which Illinois imposes higher burdens than other states or that other state don’t bother licensing. Making it easier for Illinoisans and Chicagoans to go to work ultimately makes it easier to prosper.

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