Finding a career in the medical industry can be difficult – and it’s made even harder when you have a criminal record. Whether intentionally or by accident, most of us break the law in some way. It could be something as minor as speeding or jaywalking – or more serious, which you already know from bitter experience is called a felony.
Felonies are more severe crimes. They include fraud, possession of controlled substances, driving under the influence, burglary, resisting arrest, and involuntary manslaughter. Some crimes are also categorized as misdemeanors, which often lead to less than a year in prison.
Once a felon has served their designated sentence, they must attempt to pursue a ‘normal’ life. Many will feel remorse for their previous actions and want to get a regular job and pays the bills. But, can you get a job if you have a felony? And in particular, can you get a job in the medical field with a felony?
In this guide, we’re going to look at good medical career options for people convicted of felonies. We’ll then explore some of the jobs that aren’t an option, as well as the different types of conviction and how they will affect your chances of landing a well-paid job with prospects.
Can I Get a Medical Job with a Felony?
The simple answer to this question is yes – you can definitely get a job if you’ve been convicted of a felony. Once you’ve served your time, you’ll be able to apply for a variety of positions in different industries. There’s no doubt that getting a job with a criminal record is much harder. You’ll need to prove to your potential employer that you’re trustworthy.
There may also be jobs that you’ll be ruled out of entirely due to your past convictions. Felons are not permitted to apply to work in financial services or childcare roles of any kind, for example. It would be a waste of time to apply for these sort of positions.
For help securing a job after serving a jail sentence, there are local and national advocacy groups and not-for-profits that you can contact for support. Ex-offender support groups can help you find and apply for roles which don’t require a flawless record. The National Transitional Jobs Network also provides training, placements, and support for those who may find it hard to secure employment.
What Are the Different Types of Medical Jobs for Felons?
The medical field is one of the strictest fields in which you can apply for a job. Depending on the role, you’ll be working closely with patients and vulnerable people, or handling sensitive data and medical information. But, there are roles out there which don’t require direct public contact, which means it can be a promising career option for people who have a felony on their record.
- Fact: The tide is also turning in some states concerning medical jobs that accept felons. In 2017, the state of Illinois began to allow people with certain felony convictions to petition for professional healthcare licenses. It’s a similar story in Pennsylvania. In 2015, the Supreme Court overturned a law which prevented people with felonies from working in care facilities or home care roles.
In some states, there are still barriers for felons wanting to work in healthcare. A Colorado bill requires all healthcare professionals (from doctors to dentists) to submit to a background check, complete with fingerprint analysis before they can acquire their license. A law in Indiana has also seen background checks expanded for home healthcare employees.
There are medical jobs out there for felons. It all depends on the state you reside in, and the severity of the felony in question. Let’s take a look at some of the medical career options that are open to you if you’re a convicted felon.
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1] Medical Billing and Coding Careers with a Criminal Record
Medical billers and coders are crucial in the U.S. They form an essential bridge between healthcare providers, insurance companies, and the patients. Medical coders must get to grips with a set of established codes to describe a patient’s medical history. These codes act as a sort of shorthand, which can be speedily scanned by hospitals, clinics, and insurance companies.
Here are some of the things that you would do:
- Analyzing the medical records of patients
- Determining the right code for each record
- Billing insurance providers using these universal codes
- Managing lots of detailed information
- Ensuring that patient confidentiality is kept at all times
Some medical billers and coders work at hospitals and clinics, but most are separate from the healthcare providers. They work off-site, away from patients, so that they can remain independent. Some communication with physicians and other medical professionals may be required, but medical billers mostly work remotely.
Becoming a medical coder and biller with a criminal record can be tough – but it’s possible. The likelihood of someone landing a job in this field depends on the offense that they’ve committed. Someone convicted of resisting arrest or driving under the influence will likely have an easier time securing a job as a medical biller than someone convicted for murder or fraud.
2] Medical Administration Assistant Jobs for Felons
Another option for convicted felons is to consider a career in medical administration. This position involves clerical work, which frees up much-needed time for doctors and physicians.
Their responsibilities include:
- Organizing patient files
- Maintaining a doctor’s office or waiting area
- Filing medical records
- Answering phones
- Scheduling patient appointments
- Keeping the doctor up-to-date on their schedule
- Submitting insurance forms
There are three certifying boards to become a medical administration assistant: the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the National Healthcare Association (NHA).
- Note: Having a felony conviction come off your record will NOT affect your ability to become certified by any of these boards. However, your ability to secure a job in this position will depend on the state you live in and the employer you’re applying with. Some employers will insist on a full background check. Others may want to go back just five years – past offenses may not be considered.
The average earnings of a medical administrative assistant are around $30,590.
3] Can a Felon become a CNA?
Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant is also a popular career path for people with a felony. A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) works under the direct supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).
The job responsibilities for a CNA include:
- Bathing and dressing patients
- Helping patients eat
- Checking and recording vital signs
- Repositioning patients who are immobile
- Cleaning and restocking patient beds and rooms
CNAs are a critical liaison between the patient and the RN or LPN assigned to their case. CNAs spend more time with the patients, though they are disqualified from carrying out specific procedures on legal grounds.
To become a CNA, you need to become certified by the Department of Health or the State Board of Nursing in your state. Prior felony convictions can have an impact on your ability to become certified. However, most states in the U.S. do examine each case individually.
Felonies relating to abuse or neglect will mean an immediate rejection from the nursing profession. Drug-related convictions may also be a red flag for employers. But, convictions relating to traffic violations or financial crime might not result in immediate disqualification.
Approval or denial of your employment request will be at the discretion of each employer. Every organization will have different rules about the types of convictions they are not prepared to overlook.
4] Are Phlebotomy Jobs Suitable for Felons?
Phlebotomy is an attractive field for people with and without criminal records. Many individuals see the appeal of playing such an essential role in the healthcare service. From blood donations to vital tests, blood collection is essential – but can felons become phlebotomists?
The answer is far from simple. To train to become a phlebotomist, you first need to undergo training. This can be carried out in an intensive course lasting a couple of months, or a longer route which may take up to 3 years. But completing the course and becoming a qualified phlebotomist is just the first hurdle.
After becoming qualified, you may wish (or need) to get certified. Not all states require certification – only California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington have a state-level requirement for phlebotomists. All other states, such as Chicago and Texas, don’t explicitly require phlebotomists to be certified.
The issue of certification may come down to the employer. Some require prospective phlebotomists to be certified by non-governmental agencies. These can include the American Medical Technologists (AMT) or the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). The NCCT requires applicants to indicate felony convictions on the initial application form. They may also perform background checks on all applicants.
These challenges can make it much tougher to become a phlebotomist. However, it’s not impossible. Perhaps you could consider volunteering at a blood bank to build valuable connections in the industry. Maybe a self-employed phlebotomist will allow you to shadow them for a few weeks to gain experience in phlebotomy.
The bottom line is: it’s tough to become a phlebotomist if you have a felony charge on your record. But it’s not impossible. If you get the right qualifications and find the right opportunity, you could move past your criminal conviction with a bright new career.
5] Can Felons Go to Medical School?
The admission process for medical school is already pretty strict. Should colleges and universities rule out potentially talented medical students because of indiscretions or accidents? Or should they rule out all convicted individuals, with no exceptions?
It’s a tricky line to walk. Many medical schools have their own criteria. Here are some of the factors which may affect your ability to get into medical school as a felon.
The Nature of the Crime
Some crimes are more serious than others. Specific criminal acts, while illegal, don’t reflect on a person’s ability to provide excellent medical care. However, some crimes (drug offenses, and violent or sexual crimes) flag up a possible risk to future patients.
Fraud can be a tricky one. Fraud may not involve any particular physical risk to patients, but it does show that the applicant has been dishonest in their past.
Many medical school admissions offices are disinclined to admit students they feel will struggle to gain certification. If you have any concerns, it’s best to speak directly to the admissions office about your history.
Most admissions processes for medical school involve a background check. Not only will this flag up felonies and serious crimes, but it will also flag up arrests, misdemeanors, and other convictions. This can play a part in the committee deciding whether a convicted student is worth the risk.
If a student has a long history of arrests for minor offenses as well as a conviction for a serious crime, they can all but kiss their chances of going to medical school goodbye. But, if the felony conviction is the only black mark on your record, it’s easier to present a positive case.
The time of the offense also plays a part. Imagine you’re someone who was convicted of assault or stealing a car many years ago, in your youth. It would be easier for you to demonstrate to a committee that you have become an upstanding citizen. However, someone who has just been released from prison may have a harder time winning over the committee.
It’s vital that you disclose your criminal record as soon as you’re asked. Withholding or attempting to cover up your record can make matters look a lot worse.
If you cover up your record and manage to get accepted to medical school, you run the risk of the school finding out at a later date. If this happens, they could rescind your acceptance or expel you from the school entirely. This would be another black mark on your record. When it comes to owning up to your criminal past, honesty is always the best policy.
Many schools examine these applications on a case-by-case basis. If you can show that mitigating factors were leading to your felony conviction, you may be granted a pass. For example, some people accept charges to take the heat off a loved one. Other extenuating circumstances can include bereavement, which can cause people to act irrationally.
You should also be able to show the applications committee that you have been rehabilitated. Perhaps you have completed a period in a full rehabilitation center, or maybe you’ve been engaging in volunteer work. Document everything you’ve done regarding self-improvement since your release.
Tips for Finding Medical Work As a Felon
There are plenty of additional things you can do to improve your chances of finding a medical job as a felon.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Can your charges be expunged? Specific charges can be removed from your record entirely when enough time has elapsed. You may also need to complete probation or community service, and there’s a fee to pay. Contact a court or a lawyer.
- Get references. If you have good, honest people who are willing to vouch for you, this can work wonders for your job application. Ask them to provide a written statement in support of your application.
- Be ready to prove yourself. You’ll have a lot to prove in the workplace. You’ll need to work twice as hard to show your superiors that you were worth the risk they took in hiring you.
Nobody said that finding a job in the medical industry with a criminal record would be easy. However, it’s certainly possible if you’re willing to work at it and learn from each experience. Many employers and schools will accept people with felony convictions under certain circumstances. It’s up to you to find the employer that is right for you and your skillset.
Whether you want to pursue a career in phlebotomy, as a CAN or a medical administrative assistant, there are lots of options out there for you. Make sure you’re 100% honest on all of your applications and ensure that you’ve got references to back you up.
Above all, work hard to become qualified at the highest level possible, and show employers that you have what it takes to be a great addition to their organization. You’ll need to stand out from the crowd to get hired for the most popular career paths.