Licensing Doesn’t Fit for Personal Trainers in DC

Following recent calls to curb the unnecessary regulation of occupations across America, the Council of the District of Columbia yesterday moved to block proposed licensing rules for personal trainers in Washington, DC. The now-stalled regulations were written by the Board of Physical Therapy, an obscure licensing agency housed under the DC Department of Health.

The agency’s involvement stems from a measure passed by the DC city council last year requiring all personal trainers to “register with the Mayor on forms prescribed by the Mayor … and pay the registration fee established by the Mayor.” The board, whose membership comprises mostly physical therapists, had been criticized for earlier draft regulations that would have required a four-year college degree in order to register as a personal trainer.

While supporters of regulating the health industry claimed that regulations were necessary to protect against injury, opponents worried that the rules would increase costs for clients and diminish profits for health clubs. With the number of personal trainers in DC approaching 6,000, the economic impact for the health industry could have been even larger than originally anticipated. “We have so many titles in the industry that wrangling in one set standard is going to be pretty difficult without losing a lot of jobs,” said trainer Phillip Godfrey in a recent interview.

The city council’s move to block the regulating of personal trainers comes after the White House released a report on the economic effects of occupational licensing, calling for further investigation into how the practice affects workers seeking to enter licensed professions. The increased attention on this topic follows studies showing that the number of workers licensed at the state level has increased five-fold since the 1950s and that, currently, one-third of U.S. jobs requires a license.

Occupational licensing has become an increasingly common practice, but research shows that it adversely impacts both workers and consumers through price increases and lower employment. The Charles Koch Institute remains committed to working toward a freer society and the increased well-being it provides for the overwhelming majority of people. To that end, we invite new and continuing research into the implications occupational licensing holds for the economy and how such practices affect individuals across the nation.

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