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Can a Felon Become a Doctor?

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You may have wanted to pursue a medical career prior to your conviction. Becoming a doctor is challenging enough even under the best circumstances. Now that you have a felony conviction, can you still become a doctor?

Here we will look at this question.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • Preparing for a Medical Career
  • Medical School Admission
  • Background Check?
  • Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?
  • Licensure
  • A Plan for Success


Preparing for a Medical Career

Right from the outset, it’s a long road to become a doctor even for those with no criminal record. It starts with the education to earn a college degree and maintaining a high GPA, usually above 3.0 or even 3.5. While there is no set major required for medical school, it’s always best to seek a degree in a science-related field.

Just getting into college can be a challenge for someone with a felony conviction. Recent trends show that more than 60% of colleges currently consider criminal histories in decisions. For many schools, their background check consists of a single question regarding convictions for a felony or misdemeanor. 

Following that, you must take the MCAT and obtain a high score. All of these are challenging enough for anyone to achieve.

Medical School Admission

Then comes admission to medical school. This is a tough question for most medical schools, dealing with criminal histories in their admission process. There are different criteria which various medical schools use.

Some medical schools ask only about felonies while others inquire about any legal problems, including traffic violations. Each school determines their criteria for admission, especially regarding legal issues.

Some schools look at having a felony conviction while others also include being charged with a felony even if it is later either dropped or reduced to a misdemeanor

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Of course, medical schools are concerned about whether you are fit to practice medicine. There is also the question of whether you can meet the licensing qualifications following graduation. 

In addition to the formal application, academic standards, and passing the MCAT, medical schools also consider the written personal statement and the accompanying interview to be essential.

As many as 65% of medical schools consider the following qualities critical for doctors to possess: motivation, maturity, compassion, leadership, and integrity. Applicants with at least one of these traits tend to have a much better chance for admission.  

Along with the medical school application is the importance of the personal statement, letters of recommendation, and completing practice interviews.

Background Check?

Most medical schools run a background check. Typically, this shows felonies and other serious crimes along with arrests, misdemeanors, and other convictions. These are important factors in deciding whether a felon student is worth the risk.

Even if charges are dropped, having a felony charge may still appear on the background check, especially if fingerprints were taken. Many medical schools use a national fingerprint database when doing a background check.  

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) uses a national background check service for member schools.

Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?

Of course, the type of felony does make a difference. Medical schools are reluctant to admit students who may later not be able to obtain a license or the necessary credentials to practice medicine.

Crimes of moral turpitude like dishonesty, cheating, or fraud and offenses that could put patients at risk, such as drug offenses, sexual, or violent crimes, may cause the application committee to reject an applicant.

For a drug-related offense, which might seem minor, there is a concern about the higher rate of drug abuse among doctors, who have easy access to drugs.

Following medical school, a new doctor must be granted a Drug Enforcement Administration certificate of registration to prescribe controlled substances.  

Felons with drug offenses involving illegal drugs actually have a better chance for medical school admission than those involving prescription medications.

Other crimes typically not accepted by medical schools are related to the professional care patients might receive as well as the public perception for any felony for future doctors.


A felony conviction may make it difficult to obtain a license to practice in some states. Each state sets specific requirements for obtaining a medical license. In most states, certain types of felony convictions makes you ineligible for a license. 

A Plan for Success

Felons who want to become a doctor can go through the legal process of having their record expunged. This demonstrates that the legal system has evaluated your situation and that your criminal record has been wiped clean.

Many medical schools examine applications on a case-by-case basis. If you can show that there were mitigating factors that led to your felony conviction, you may be granted an exception.

For example, if yours was a one-time crime instead of a series of convictions, you stand a better chance of getting a favorable review.

You should also be able to show the application committee that you have been rehabilitated. If you have completed a rehabilitation program, you can present documentation of that.  

It could also be beneficial to do volunteer work. Document everything you’ve done regarding self-improvement since your release.

There are additional steps you can take to improve your chances of being admitted to medical school as a felon. For instance, you should be prepared to discuss things related to your conviction.

These include such things as how the felony offense occurred, its consequences on your life, and what you have done to overcome that. While these may be difficult to answer, these will go a long way to answer concerns about your character.

Answering the questions honestly may affect getting into medical school, but failure to answer in an accurate and honest way is always much worse and sometimes career-ending itself.

It is essential that as you seek to live an honest lifestyle, that you follow the law and be honest in all information you provide.

Not doing so will jeopardize your freedom and could result in going back to jail.

Don’t take that chance. You are not defined by your past mistakes but by how you respond to them. Make a good choice.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a doctor with a felony? What was that like, and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become a Doctor?”

  1. This sort of question is why I laugh when they say there’s a very high demand for things like nurses. Obviously not if these boards are more concerned with who you were, rather than who you are. I have a record. i’m not even particularly embarrassed about it. It’s never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do, but it has made me make some course changes. There’s nothing you can do about the past. You can work on the present and future, but if all these boards keep looking backwards they’re saying it’s too risky to “take a chance”. How about all the people that never got caught AND never changed? They have the benefit of flying under the radar. You read about these cases like nurses killing people for years before they finally get caught. But me, and my years of being a rebel and getting arrested for mostly minor offenses and not having any issues in over a decade: too risky because, “what if?”. I have the capacity, but because of these standards, not the permission. And that’s fine. But I think it’s narrow-minded.

  2. I was interested in having a career in the medical field, most preferably a Psychiatrist. However, in 2007, I was charged and convicted of felony in the fifth degree (the lowest felony) for deception to obtain illegal drugs. Unfortunately, for me I was rooming with a criminal, unbeknownst to me she got a hold of my medical card and when my insurance was cancelled she decided to call in prescriptions pretending to be a nurse, using my name. I could not prove this was done without my permission so I plead guilty. I was never a offender before nor after this horrible event. My question is, would this exclude me? Any information would be most appreciated, and I must say because I am determined and strong-willed , I am going to try anyway. Thanks for reading

  3. I am interested in learning which states will accept a medical school graduate for a residency given the fact 11 years ago there were multiple convictions for alleged sex crimes however the victim was the 17 year old girlfriend all charges were filed by her father


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