"Dear Ohio..." a letter to Ohio on occupational licensing

Feb 25, 2016

Dear Ohio,

You are breaking my heart. You’re telling me to go away, to leave my home state to work and prosper.

Shame on you, Ohio.

I am your daughter, a native Buckeye, and a licensed professional massage therapist who’s been working in Minnesota. My husband and I came home to you to raise our child.

Coming home to Ohio was the biggest mistake of my life.

For reasons that are beyond ludicrous, you will not give me a license to work as a massage therapist. I am educated, experienced, well-trained, and have a spotless record.

I didn’t believe it when people said to stay away because Ohio had a fatal weakness: a self-destructive love of red tape, bureaucracy, and pointless regulations.

Turns out, they were right. I now know why so many talented young people leave you and never come back. Your cruel indifference to my desire to work has brought me to tears and near financial ruin.

I became a massage therapist in 2013 and licensed esthetician for skin care in 2007, both in Minnesota. I earned both licenses while working full-time in a well- paying corporate job. For a decade, I’ve worked tirelessly to execute a career change to leave the corporate world to help people directly in a career offering flexible hours for childcare.

My husband and I, together since college, had our first child—a miracle—that we’d prayed for but thought might never happen. When our miracle arrived late in life, we decided to raise our boy near family in my hometown of Columbus.

Big mistake.

My dream was—and still is—to create a massage therapy oncology practice. I want to help cancer patients, especially women, look and feel their best while undergoing the horrors of chemotherapy. This is a fast-growing market in my industry. With my business experience and occupational training, I was confident that I could build a successful practice.

Ohio, why won’t you let me do this? Do you really love your rigid, excessive red tape more than me and other individuals who want to work?

You have required fee after fee and test after test. I paid and paid and passed and passed. Still, you deny me a license and the right to work in my profession.

You reject me for reasons so petty and silly that I have a hard time convincing people that your bureaucratic cruelty is true.

In Minnesota, I completed 780 hours of training at a community college for my massage therapy degree and license.

Ohio, you require only 750 hours of training for a license. We’re good, right, Ohio?

Even better, the same national company that employed me in Minneapolis wants me to work in its Columbus salon. Win-win.

Yet you reject me—and not for reasons of competence or public safety.

For example, you say Minnesota’s school year was ten days too short.

In Minnesota, my academic year was spread over ten months, from August 26 to May 16. Your regulations, Ohio, want nine months of schooling. Citing bureaucratic discretion, you choose to use days rather than months or rounding (or common sense!) to count the length of my training. To you, I am ten days short of training and actively working as a massage therapist is no training to you.

Even more absurd, my degree had 24 hours of massage therapy ethics training. You want 25 hours. License denied!

The fact that I made the Dean’s List, completed more training hours than required, and worked two years as an actual therapist means nothing in your red tape measurement of whether I’m qualified to give a massage.


The State of Ohio Medical Board, which for no good reason controls massage therapist licenses, says I must go back to school for nine months to get a duplicate degree (at a cost of more than $10,000!) to be granted permission to work in Ohio.

I will not do that. I am a massage therapist. If I get another degree, it’s going to be an M.B.A.

I’ve checked with North Carolina, Indiana, and other states. I can get licensed elsewhere. Unlike you, Ohio, those states want me! Their licensing staffs are friendly and seem dedicated to getting me in the workforce.

Ohio, I love you. I don’t want to leave. But you have to stop treating me this way.



Jennifer McClellan