Can a Felon Become a Doctor?

In the medical profession, being a doctor is considered a great feat. It is a tough career to get into and succeed.

Those that qualify often have to achieve high academic scores. They also need to have ample funds as the training is costly.

With as much as 10 years of training required, it is also a lengthy commitment. For felons who have served time, going back to school for this long is hard. But can a felon become a doctor in the first place?

can a felon become a doctor

Being a doctor often comes with excellent pay and plenty of respect. There are also many specializations to choose from.

You can also opt to run your own clinic, or work for a variety of institutions. These can include hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabs.

While quite an esteemed career, it does come with tough requirements.

Requirements to Become a Doctor

can felon become doctor

Before you can join a medical school. You will need to earn a pre-med undergraduate degree. While most schools do not specify what kind of degree, science-based options are best. Those with a focus on chemistry and biology are highly recommended.

It is good to check the requirements for the particular medical schools you plan to apply to. They might indicate requirements that can better guide your choice of an undergraduate degree.

You will also need to pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The better your GPA from your degree and MCAT scores, the better medical school you qualify for.

But is it just grades that medical schools are interested in?

Medical School and Felonies

can a felon become doctor

When applying to medical schools, you will likely encounter a question about felonies.

Some schools are quite strict on criminal matters. They may want to know even about arrests that did not end up in a prosecution. Or even traffic violations.

Background checks are carried out on medical school applicants as part of their conditional acceptance. Because of this, there is no need for lying.

If you do not answer honestly, it may count against your integrity. Integrity is amongst the qualities considered necessary for physicians.

It is best to use this chance to explain the circumstances. You may be able to better frame the scenario that led to your arrest.

Many schools will also have applicants provide additional documents. This can include letters of recommendation and personal essays. You can also use these to help mitigate the impact of your felony record.

Have upstanding members of the society give you a reference. Someone that can speak to the positive changes you have made is ideal. You can also detail the impact of the felony and how you have turned things around in the essay.

Keep in mind that certain offenses may be seen as worse than others. Those convicted of violent offenses may not get into medical school. This is because the medical profession deals a lot with vulnerable people.

The school would also have to consider your chances of securing a medical license with a conviction.

Drug-related offenses can also be hard to accept. This is because doctors have easy access to prescription drugs. They are also prone to be abusers.

Licensing Challenges

can the felon become doctor

After medical school, you will need to apply for a medical license to practice. Just as with other professions like law and nursing, it is difficult for felons to acquire licenses.

Every state has its own licensing board. They often have high ethical standards that make it incredibly tough for a felon to earn a license. Many will even specify the exact felonies that are ineligible.

It is wise to check with the state licensing board where you intend to work. They are best qualified to advise if your felony may affect your eligibility. Do this before applying to medical school.

It is also a good idea to send in your resume before making an application. This can offer a chance for the board to review your credentials. They can also spot potential problem areas.

Note that there are often peak periods when applications are many. This may mean having to wait longer for a response to your application.

When applying for a license, you will likely be put through an exam. You will also be required to make full disclosures. Any concealment or false statements may lead to denial or future restriction of a license.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Certificate

can the felon become doctors

Another trial that felons would have to overcome is earning a DEA certificate. This is what allows them to prescribe and issue out controlled substances.

When working as a resident, you are covered under the registration of the hospital you are working in. When you complete training, you are expected to apply and obtain your own DEA number.

Those convicted of drug charges may find it impossible to attain this certificate.

A physician can write prescriptions for non-controlled medications without a DEA number. It can however be problematic not to have one. Insurers and pharmacies use these numbers to help track prescriptions.

Some states may also require that physicians have a DEA number to practice. An inability to offer controlled prescriptions to your patients can also compromise the quality of care you offer.


Becoming a doctor as a felon would be extremely difficult. Even if you convince the medical school, you may face barriers with the state licensing board. The same with when registering for a DEA certificate.

Given the high cost and lengthy training that is demanded of doctors, it may not be worth it. You may end up wasting time and resources on a career you may never be allowed to practice in.

If you are however determined to make a go of this, choose a state with the least restrictions. Consider your felony and make consultations. Identify states and medical schools that are most likely to give you a fair shake.

Should you find you do not meet the academic conditions to becoming a doctor, do not worry. There are other medical-related careers you can consider. Many with a lower threshold to meet.

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