Professional License with Conviction

Getting an Occupational License with Convictions on Your Background

Too often people with criminal records are told that high paying jobs, or professional careers, aren’t options for them because of their background.  Sometimes we even hear schools telling prospective students that they shouldn’t pursue certain fields because of prior convictions.  

The good news is that a lot of what people are being told is wrong! This is especially true as related to jobs that require occupational licensing in Illinois.  In 2017, local organizers passed statewide legislation (Public Act 100-286) that expanded the rights and opportunities of individuals with records seeking occupational licenses in Illinois.  

There are now rules that make it easier for people with convictions to get occupational, or professional, licenses.  The rules cover all professionals regulated by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation and Division of Real Estate, plus 10 other licenses regulated by different state agencies. Some examples of common occupational licenses included are: Licensed Professional Nurse and Registered Nurse, Real Estate Broker and Appraiser, Insurance Producer, Funeral Director & Embalmer, Massage Therapist, Cosmetologist, Barber, PERC (Private Security Officer),  Counselor, Social Worker, and Adult Use Cannabis Agent.  

Per these guidelines, covered licensing agencies can no longer ask about or consider convictions that have been expunged or sealed, most juvenile adjudications, or records of arrest that were dismissed (unless the underlying conduct relates to the license an applicant seeks).  Illinois licensing agencies now also have a clear set of guidelines for considering applicants’ prior convictions. These guidelines give people increased opportunities to earn occupational licenses despite having prior convictions. Some of the considerations include: 

  • Lack of direct relation between the criminal offense and duties of the licensed position; 
  • Whether 5 years have passed since felony conviction or 3 years since release from confinement (whichever is longer); 
  • Applicant’s age at time of offense;
  • Successful completion of sentence or progress report from probation or parole officer if still serving sentence; and 
  • Evidence of fitness and professional character.

If you are thinking of applying for a professional license, but are worried because you have prior convictions, don’t let your past stop you any longer!  If you have applied for a professional license in Illinois and received an intent to deny letter because of your criminal background, do not despair – you may still be able to get your license! 

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