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?