Worth Another Look: The Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs

Today, Governor Wolf issued an Executive Order calling on the Commissioner of the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to work with each licensing board to assess occupational and professional licensure.

Just over 20% of Pennsylvania workers have an occupational license. While licensure serves the important purpose of protecting public health and safety from fraudulent or unethical practitioners, licensure requirements that are too burdensome can be a roadblock to Pennsylvanians who wish to enter licensed professions. In addition to educational requirements, most professional licenses require extensive criminal or financial background checks and carry an initial and eventual license renewal fee.

Small but mighty, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs is housed within the Pennsylvania Department of State, but functions very much like an administrative agency. While the Bureau receives administrative and legal support from the Department, it has its own budget, funded by professional license fees and fines for professional license infractions and is headed by a Commissioner who is subject to Senate confirmation. The Bureau oversees the licensure and continuing education for 29 different professions (each with its own oversight board), which includes just about any state-licensed professional you can imagine, with the exception of teachers and lawyers.

The Governor’s Executive Order calls on the Commissioner of BPOA to work with each licensing board to review and prepare a report on the “processes, fees, training, and continuing education requirements” for occupational and professional licensure. In any case where a requirement or fee for licensure in Pennsylvania exceeds the national or regional average, the requirement or fee must be justified as to how it serves the ultimate purpose of protecting the public safety. Similarly, where licensure is prohibited for any length of time based on criminal history, if the prohibition does not exist in a majority of surrounding states, the report must justify how the employment prohibition or ban serves the public interest here in the Commonwealth. As would be expected, the Bureau is also required to report particular data related to professional licensure, such as number of disciplinary actions, timeframe for license approval and relevant demographic information. The Commissioner has roughly six months to complete this report.

It would seem that as a result we may see improvements to the process by which professional and occupational licenses are issued. But any possible change won’t be immediate. While some of the requirements may be within the discretion of BPOA, some may require statutory changes, potentially to every professional licensing act. Click here to see which professions could be affected by the outcome of this report.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *