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NEW! Thousands of Arizona Workers Benefit from Universal License Recognition

February 22, 2023

Today, the Goldwater Institute celebrates a new milestone for universal recognition of occupational licenses in Arizona. In the few short years since Governor Doug Ducey signed a sweeping occupational licensing reform into law, over 6,500 professionals have applied for and been granted a license to work in Arizona, in fields ranging from medicine to cosmetology to engineering. Designed by the Goldwater Institute and the Institute for Justice, the revolutionary law creates a streamlined pathway to licensure for America’s skilled workers by allowing them to apply their out-of-state training toward a similar license to work.

In 2019, Arizona became the first state in the nation to enact this essential reform, making life and licensing easier for skilled professionals moving into the Grand Canyon State. Arizona’s landmark reform set the stage for a national movement, with dozens of states undertaking efforts to advance laws to cut the regulatory red tape ensnaring workers and keeping them out of work. Numerous states have enacted versions of universal recognition to benefit military families and other professionals.

Workers in a wide range of professions have benefitted from the new reform. Over 400 physicians and 170 physician assistants have been safely licensed by the Arizona Medical Board. The state’s Registrar of Contractors has approved over 2,200 licenses for numerous occupations in the trades. Thousands of additional workers have benefitted from universal recognition, including hundreds of behavioral health examiners and numerous engineers, cosmetologists, and real estate agents and brokers, among many others.

Licenses Granted Under Arizona’s Universal Recognition of Occupational Licenses Reform
Licensing Entity Total Applications Total Approvals Total Denied Total Pending or Other
Arizona Registrar of Contractors 2485 2277 4 204
Arizona State Board of Cosmetology 997 980 3 14
Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners 806 772 0 34
Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners 450 395 0 55
Arizona Medical Board;
Arizona Regulatory Board of Physician Assistants
695 591 23 81
Arizona Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners 196 71 0 125
Arizona Department of Real Estate 994 994 0 0
Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners 114 104 0 10
Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy 40 40 0 0
Arizona Board of Athletic Training 71 30 0 41
Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board 76 72 0 4
Arizona State Board of Technical Registration 126 120 0 6
Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy 69 51 0 18
State of Arizona Acupuncture Board of Examiners 43 35 0 8
Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners 7 7 0 0
Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers 17 11 0 6
Arizona Board of Accountancy 1 1 0 0
Arizona State Board of Podiatry Examiners 7 6 0 1
Arizona State Board of Dispensing Opticians 0 0 0 0
Arizona State Board of Nursing 0 0 0 0
Arizona State Board of Optometry 0 0 0 0
Arizona Board of Pharmacy 0 0 0 0
Totals 7194 6557 30 607

These thousands of success stories represent more than the successful implementation of a transformative idea: they represent the families, careers, and communities that benefit when government steps out of the way of Americans who are skilled, ready, and willing to work.

Why is universal recognition more important than ever? In nearly every state, occupational licensing boards spend countless hours evaluating the qualifications of out-of-state applicants who already hold a valid license in another state. If differences are found, these same boards frequently require incoming workers to complete additional training or testing before issuing a license to a new resident. This means that professionals of all kinds are required to put their careers on hold, spending more time and more money on training and testing, just to prove that they can do a job that they have already been doing safely and productively in another state.

In some states, the barriers are so great that some Americans don’t even bother getting a new license. They just stop working. Others just stay put because they can’t risk moving to a new state that might not recognize their license. This is unfair and unreasonable, and can be disastrous for workers and their families. Rather than hold workers accountable for state-level regulatory failures, universal recognition allows licensed professionals to apply for and be quickly granted a license to work based on the training or testing already completed. So long as an applicant has held a valid out-of-state license in good standing for at least one year and has not committed any disqualifying offenses, he or she is eligible to receive a similar license under recognition.

Universal recognition isn’t just a commonsense reform—it also makes good economic sense. A recent study estimated the economic impact of universal recognition in Arizona would increase the state’s GDP by $1.5 billion over 10 years, and bring in nearly 16,000 additional workers. Today, the Goldwater Institute released a special analysis of the broader economic implications of Arizona’s reform, including the impact on its labor market and population growth.

The Goldwater Institute is grateful for all the champions of universal recognition, with a special thanks to our colleagues at the Institute for Justice and the many incredible state policy groups and state legislators who have worked so diligently to advance this essential reform.

Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute. 



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