Can you get professional license with a felony?

 Q:  I committed a b-felony arson in 2004 when I was having psychological issues from undiagnosed bipolar. I am clear and in college again, but I didn’t continue pursuing my psychology I started before the incident because I assumed I could not be licensed with a felony. I am currently in Computer Information Technology at Purdue and am not sure I wasn’t better off in psychology. What are the options for a felon being licensed in a state like Indiana? Haven’t found any straight answers online. What do you recommend? CIT is a more in-demand degree, so I figured I’d have a better shot in a field in need like computers. I liked psychology, but I want to get a degree I will have the best chance of getting a job with. I’m not sure where I want to focus my efforts.

A:   First of all, congratulations for moving on with your life and continuing to pursue your education!  That’s no small accomplishment and you should take pride in the fact that you’ve addressed your own issues and remained focused on the future.

As to your question: if psychology is what you love,  don’t give up your dream.  Getting licensed as a psychologist, even with a felony, is not impossible.  Dr. Paul Fauteck, an ex-offender turned forensic psychologist, who has answered questions on this blog, is living proof of that.   I also checked with the Indiana State Psychology Board and although drug offenses might be a bar to getting licensed,  there are no specific provisions in the statute that would automatically disqualify someone with your record.   Further, officials also consider how much time has passed since a conviction and what you have done since then. To get more information, I’d recommend  sending them a note detailing your specific circumstances at the email address provided.     

Note that  licensing requirements for psychologists and other professions vary by state.  In Texas, for example, a felony would bar you from practicing as a psychologist.  In California, a felony might get in the way as well, unless you have obtained a certificate of rehabilitation.  So you might want to check out the National Directory of Psychologists for information about licensing requirements in other states.

That said,  whether you stick with Computer Information Technology or go back to psychology is entirely up to you.  They’re both good options.  Certainly, CIT is a hot field and if that’s what you prefer, it may be easier initially to find a job.  But there are plenty of positions out there for psychologists, as well.   I guess what I’m trying to say is that — no matter how bad the economy is — finding a job quickly shouldn’t be your main criteria. I’m  no career counselor, but as someone who went into accounting because it was practical, I can attest to how miserable it can be to work in a field you don’t enjoy for the sake of money or security. 

So my advice would be to follow your heart on this one.  Good luck and please let us know what you decide.

And readers, have any of you struggled with these kinds of choices, or licensing issues?  How did you handle them?  What’s been your experience?

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1 Comment

Filed under education ex-offenders, job search ex-offenders, professional licensing ex-offenders, second chances

One response to “Can you get professional license with a felony?

  1. T

    Well I am kind of in the same boat. I, however, got my felony conviction from Ohio sealed, and now I am going to apply for licensure in NY, either in Counseling or Nursing, depending. I was told being open and honest is best, and of course, understanding how your conviction relates to your intended job. My conviction was for petty larceny, and barely, a Class 5 Felony in Ohio, and would have been classified as a Misdemeanor in NY. If I want to be a counselor or nurse, having committed an unarmed theft against a department store isn’t as awful as say, hurting a child, and doesn’t relate directly to the job(s) I am interested in; it simply calls into question my moral turpitude. Having it sealed sort of says that the judge acknowledges I am someone that you should see as having sound morals. I also have since been in therapy, and with the seal, hopefully together, I can make a good case for myself, which is what I suggest you do, if you go back into counseling. I too was undiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, but also Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (the bigger of the two for me), and I am not going to disclose that directly, but I am going to have my therapist discuss how my theft involved unresolved childhood traumas (which is true) and cannot be associated with a lack of morality, but a lack of emotional stability. It will nearly 7-10 years by the time I’m licensed and can work, if I end up being able to, and I have heard getting your ducks in a row (as I have, and also with the kind of work and volunteering I have done, in the fields I am interested in and also to show that I well rounded), and showing that you are an upstanding citizen for awhile (alongside going to school) goes a long way. Arson is endangerment, which then I might think you would want to get it sealed (if you can, or expunged, or pardoned, if you can), or work very closely with a therapist to advocate for you, and also get jobs, volunteer, and becoming active religiously (good for a lot of reasons if that’s your thing), and show that a) you are a worthy and helpful member of society, b) you take responsibility for your actions as best you can, c) and you would be a fine person to give counsel to another because of how you’ve dealt with your own struggles. Felons can also be mentors but you have to be willing to deal with the parts of you that are truly anti-social (we all have it but felons have to do it openly), to show why you are an amazing attribute to our society. See it as an opportunity to get to know yourself and build yourself. If all else fails, sometimes joining the army can really help. Talk with counselors and legal aids at your school or those who can offer you advice for little to no money (don’t pay attorneys the big bucks, its not worth it), and figure out a game plan. Best of luck!

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