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Dissent Of The Day: Licensing

An engineering FrontBurnervian tells us why licensing is required in his field:

Licensure is not necessarily anti-competitive, especially when legal and public safety issues are involved.  Land surveyors, whom you’ve listed in your post, are licensed by states because their work often involves the creation of legal documents like plats and such.  Licensed engineers are required for projects where public health and safety is paramount.  This includes almost all infrastructure, public buildings, etc.  And, of course, the need for licensing of medical doctors and lawyers is obvious. 

As a licensed professional engineer (PE), I can tell you that getting a license is a difficult four to five year process.  An engineer-in-training (EIT) first has to pass a fundamentals of engineering exam, often taken during the senior year of college.  Then, he or she has to complete an “apprenticeship” of four to five years, acquiring design experience under the supervision of licensed professional engineers.  A detailed “experience record” must then be prepared (mine was around 20 pages long and a pain to write) and each task certified by the appropriate supervising PE.  The record is then submitted to the state professional engineers’ board for review.  Upon approval, the EIT is permitted to take an eight-hour PE exam covering all aspects of his or her branch of engineering.  It is a rigorous test, comparable to the bar or CPA exams.  Finally, after all this, one can be a licensed PE.

I do agree that Texas goes a bit overboard in requiring licenses in some fields, like interior designers, hairdressers, etc.  This is simply another way to generate revenue and avoid the implementation of a state income tax.  The annual renewal fee for my PE license is $250, $200 of which goes to the State General Fund.  That’s a tax if I’ve ever seen one!  But, I also understand and agree with the need for licensing in my profession.

I disagree that licensing is merely a tax-gathering practice. It probably costs more than it brings in. No, it is an attempt by certain trades to use the power of the state to tamp down competition. Which certain trades? Whichever can pull together enough muscle to get the Lege to agree with them. Of course, it is necessary for certain professions. Although when one remembers that Abraham Lincoln was never licensed to practice law, maybe not as necessary as we have come to believe. But I’ll grant the point on land surveyors.