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Can a Felon Get an Occupational License?

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There are resources available for felons who may be eager to show they make good employees. Some felons may have an interest in a particular profession and in getting an occupational license.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can get an occupational license.

  • What Is an Occupational License?
  • What Is Required to Get an Occupational License?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What Is an Occupational License?

A license is issued by a state agency to practice a profession and is required in order to call oneself a licensed professional. A license shows that someone has specific knowledge or skill necessary to do a job. Typically, these types of credentials are obtained after completing certain education.

Licenses are legally required by the government to work in an occupation. A license:

  • Is awarded by a government licensing agency
  • Gives some legal authority to work in an occupation
  • Requires meeting certain criteria such as having a degree or passing a state-administered exam

A number of professions require a license before being legally allowed to practice in the U.S., including:

  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Law
  • Dentistry
  • Teaching
  • Accounting
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Pharmacy
  • Psychology
  • Engineering
  • Architecture

However, these are not the only professions that require a license.

What Is Required to Get an Occupational License?

Someone who wants to enter an occupation that requires a license typically needs at least a bachelor’s degree in that area of study. Programs usually include certain related course work.

A degree from a program accredited by a state board is needed to earn a license. Most professional programs take four to five years to complete. Each licensed profession has an organization that monitors and represents the profession.

A license is not required for an entry-level position in many professions. An occupational license is required for a person in a given profession who provides services directly to the public. The license offers assurance to the public that the work done by a professional is monitored and will meet certain standards.

While the requirements vary from one state to another, state licensure typically requires:

  • A degree from an accredited program and passing a proficiency exam
  • At least four years work under a licensed practitioner and passing a professional exam

An Opportunity for Felons?

State guidelines through the Department of Licensing and Regulation in an individual state outline the process for determining whether a criminal conviction makes an applicant unsuitable for a license or whether a conviction will revoke or suspend a license. General factors are considered in all cases along with the reasons why particular crimes are related to each type of license.

If an attorney decides that an occupational license should not be denied on the basis of a criminal conviction, then the application will be sent to the Licensing Division with a conclusion. If an attorney decides a license should be denied due to a criminal conviction, copies of the relevant criminal convictions and any other information will be obtained. A letter of license denial will be sent to the applicant.

An applicant is responsible for obtaining and providing recommendations from the prosecution, law enforcement, and correctional authorities. There is an obligation to furnish proof that the applicant has:

  • Maintained a record of steady employment
  • Supported his or her dependents
  • Maintained a record of good conduct
  • Paid all outstanding court costs, supervision fees, fines, and restitution for any criminal conviction

The following factors will be considered in determining whether a criminal conviction should be grounds to deny a license:

  • Nature and seriousness of the crime
  • Relationship of the crime to the purposes for requiring a license
  • Extent to which a license might offer an opportunity to engage in further criminal activity
  • Relationship of a crime to the ability, capacity, or fitness to perform the duties

Further information will be considered regarding the applicant’s fitness to perform the duties in that profession:

  • Extent and nature of the applicant’s past criminal activity
  • Age of the person when the crime was committed
  • Amount of time that has elapsed since the last criminal activity
  • Work activity of the applicant before and after the criminal conviction
  • Evidence of the person’s rehabilitation while incarcerated or after release
  • Other evidence of the person’s fitness, including letters of recommendation from prosecutors, law enforcement, correctional officers, and any other person with knowledge of the applicant

It is essential to be honest in filling out an application for occupational licensing. If a felony isn’t disclosed but found on a background check, this is fraud which is a punishable crime, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in obtaining an occupational license, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already working with negative perceptions of being:

  • Dishonest
  • Untrustworthy
  • Unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in getting an occupational license. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Based on specific evidence, there are a number of professions in which a felon can obtain an occupational license, including but not limited to:

Recommended Action

It could be worth the effort to go through the steps in obtaining an occupational license. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged and also documenting any programs, education, or training completed could have a critical impact.

Having support from family, friends, counselors, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get an occupational license with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

7 thoughts on “Can a Felon Get an Occupational License?”

  1. It is a sad fact that when someone commits a crime the sentencing doesn’t end with the misdemeanor or a felony. They are also sentenced with lifelong poverty, societal judgement, profiling by law enforcement and more. I am trying so hard to get gainful employment to simply sustain life and I am finding it very difficult to find if I want a life that requires more than a $12/hour paycheck.

  2. I’m in the middle of studying for a bachelor’s degree I had read that there was no licensing required, unless I decided on a doctorate degree. Well in my young adult life I did get a serious felony and now serious debt with school. Well there is always some where to turn to. Can you post jobs with psychology bachelor’s degrees….? I don’t want to give up there has to be a way.

  3. I think a person should be able to obtain a license for any profession of their choice, regardless if they are a felon. A person’s past does not define them. Everyone deserves second chances. Of course, not for murderers, charges including children and the more serious ones. Other than that, a person deserves a chance just like anyone else.

  4. I am sean c. From lapine oregon USA. My past is full of multiple felony cases. I am no longer that animal that had no regard for anyone not even himself. I’m sober. Have been. Will be. But I feel the gov. has essentially crippled my hopes of being productive in life. Can you help?

  5. I do believe that in most instances these government agencies are very unforgiving and make felons suffer who genuinely want to improve their lot and that of their family. The justice system has failed in its charge to execute fairness for all!

  6. Actually, these licenses are not issued by government agencies. They are issued by occupational “associations” and “boards” within government statutes PLUS whatever additional restrictions/requirements THEY want to impose. If you have ANYTHING in your background that MIGHT be considered to be a violation of “moral terpitude” they will use this to prevent anyone from obtaining a license… whether it has ANYTHING to do with the occupation or not. It’s just a way to keep the elitist assholes on top and prevent others from improving/regainihg their life (aka- to maintain the slave labor population).


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