Can a Felon Become a Doctor?

Once you get out of your jail or prison sentence, it is a good idea to get back into the work force. It will not be easy with a felony record, but it is not impossible.

One line of work that many people, with or without criminal records, pursue is medical. There are many different opportunities in the medical field.

Being a doctor is rewarding, pays well, and offers many employee benefits. These usually include great health insurance, retirement funds, etc.

Both your specific crime and the state you apply in will factor into becoming a doctor. The information below relates to how you can become a doctor. It also details how your felony record can affect you and ways to handle this.

Types of Medical Careers

There are many different types of medical careers. The focus here is on doctors. But, there are still many different types of doctors.

First, you will need to decide what type of doctor you want to be. Anyone who goes to medical school will choose a concentration. The following is a list of the many common types and what they work with:

  • General practitioner (family doctor)- general medical care for all patients
  • Podiatrist- feet, ankles, lower legs
  • Pediatrician- children
  • Endocrinologist- glands, hormones
  • Neurologist- brains
  • Rheumatologist- joints, muscles, bones
  • Allergist- allergies
  • Immunologist- immune system
  • Psychiatrist- mental health
  • Nephrologist- kidneys
  • Obstetrician/Gynecologist- female reproductive organs, pregnancy, childbirth
  • Pulmonologist- lungs, airway
  • Surgeon- surgeries
  • Emergency physician- emergency medical care
  • Ophthalmologist- eyes
  • Oncologist- cancer
  • Urologist- urinary system
  • Otolaryngologist- ear, nose, throat (ENT’s)
  • Anesthesiologist- anesthesia
  • Dermatologist- skin
  • Radiologist- medical imaging
  • Gastroenterologist- gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver
  • Cardiologist- heart, blood vessels
  • Orthopedist- musculoskeletal issues

Depending on your exact specialty, you may work in a variety of environments. These include primary care office, hospital, rehab center, emergency room, etc.

Qualifications for Becoming a Doctor

The exact qualifications depends on the type of doctor you want to be. Most doctors only need Doctor of Medicine (MD) degrees. But, you may need to have Doctorate degrees for others. For example, to be a psychiatrist, you must have a Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD).

MD degrees usually take 8 years of college to complete. You have to get a Master’s degree before you can get a PsyD. The Master’s usually takes 5-6 years. A PsyD will be another 4-6 years on top of this.

To earn acceptance into medical school, you need to have a Bachelor’s degree. This must also include coursework in a variety of sciences. These could include studies such as biology or chemistry.

The PsyD requires a Psychology or, sometimes, Neuroscience degrees. You may also specialize in different areas of Psychology or Neuroscience. Sociology courses in undergrad are also helpful.

Felonies and Medical School

The application process differs by school. Many schools will ask about criminal history in the application.

It is important to tell the truth on the application. Most schools will run a background check on applicants. Them finding out about your criminal history will be much worse than you telling them.

Background checks on criminal history will show any felony or misdemeanors charges. They may also show if you are on a sex offender or child abuse registry.

Having a felony record may not disqualify you from getting accepted to the school.

If you have other experiences that show you have changed and are trying to turn your life around, let them know. Put on the application any relevant work, training, therapy or other classes, etc.

The type of crime will also be important here. For example, people with violent or sexual criminal histories may not get accepted. But, felonies for financial or property crimes may not be as important.

Medical school applications always ask for a personal statement as well. This is a short essay, usually 500 to 1000 words, describing yourself. It includes education, employment, and why you want to go to medical school.

This might be a good chance to explain your criminal history. Let them know if your past has influenced you to seek this career. Also describe here any rehabilitation you received associated with the criminal record.

Schools will be much more willing to give you a chance if you are honest and show that you have changed. They want to know that you will be a good student and can contribute to the medical field.

Felonies and Medical Licenses

Once you get through medical school, you need to get a license to practice medicine. Each state is different in this process. It can be difficult for convicted felons to get medical licenses.

After graduation, you will need to complete an internship or residency program. This can be in any medical field. It does not need to be the same as the one in which you want to work.

Upon completion of this, you will need to contact your state’s medical board. To get a medical license, you need to apply through the board. There will be an examination.

Felony records may or may not disqualify you from receiving a license. You should check with your state’s board before applying to medical school.

Felonies and Employment

As long as you have your medical license, the state allows you to work in medicine. There are some positions for which you do not need a medical license. Check your state requirements before applying.

But, as with any field, medical offices are businesses. This means that they have the right to deny someone on the basis of their criminal history.

A felony conviction may or may not prevent you from getting licensed. But, even with a license, you might find it difficult to get a job.

Again, your job outlook likely depends on the nature of the crime. Violent or sexual offenses will likely disqualify you. The medical office may also deny you if your crime was against a minor.

Being on a sex offender or child abuse registry is also a major red flag. Medical offices need to keep their patients safe. Being on these registries may show that you would put the patients at risk.

Medical offices will also run background checks and drug screenings. So, you need to be honest on your application. Let them know if you have a record. But, also let them know any other experience you have that helped you overcome your past.

Record Clearing

You might fight it difficult to get into school or get a job. Because of this, you might wonder if there is anything you can do about your record. The answer is yes.

Every state provides options for getting a record cleared. Note that this is not available for all crimes, though.

Your first option is to get your record sealed. This means that it is no longer available to the public.

You could also look into getting your record expunged. This is like getting your record sealed, but entails a bit more. With getting a record expunged, the crime is actually taken off your public record.

So, for legal purposes, the crime still occurred. But, in the public eye, the crime never happened in the first place. Both of these options allow you to say that you do not have a criminal record.

Pardons are another option. These are when the state government recognizes that you committed the crime. But, they also recognized that you have changed and are no longer a risk to society. These are “legal forgiveness” for your past actions.

One other thing you can do is to get a certificate. Each state has different certificates available, and they serve different purposes. Some of these include;

  • Certificate of Rehabilitation
  • Certificate of Good Conduct
  • Certificate of Actual Innocence

Certificate of Rehabilitation

This shows that you have taken steps to change as a person. This could include community service, therapy, education, and employment, among other things.

Certificate of Good Conduct

This is like the Certificate of Rehabilitation. It shows that you have remained a productive member of society since your conviction.

Certificate of Actual Innocence

This shows that you should not have received charges. It negates the record as it shows that you were innocent of the crime.

For each of these options, you need to go through your local court. They will be able to tell you if you are eligible. They can also give you the paperwork to complete the request.

In general, you must have kept a clean record for a certain amount of time since your conviction. This is usually several years. Keep in mind that not all offenses are eligible.

This may also be a way to get yourself removed from sex offender or child abuse registries. Again, this depends on the specific crime and state regulations.


A medical career is a great option for anyone, but it can be hard to get into. Felony records can get in the way, but are not an automatic disqualification.

With the above information, you are now equipped to get a job in the medical field. You now know how to deal with your felony record. You also now know how to pursue a medical career.


Rakatasnky, H. (2011). Criminal Convictions and Medical Licensure. Retrieved from

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