Don't Let A Criminal Record Keep You From A Washington Nursing Degree

Below is information on becoming a nurse in Washington if you have a criminal record. To see if you are eligible to clear your criminal record, take our FREE Eligibility Check.

Nursing Career

If you have a criminal record, you probably know that it can be a challenge to get a job— especially in the medical fields. It is not as simple as just getting someone to hire you. There are two additional hurdles, education and licensing. Both of these hurdles will likely require you to pass a background check. The most difficult background check is almost always the licensing authority, which for nurses in Washington is the Washington Nursing Commission.

Who Decides If I Can Get My Nursing Degree?

Whether a person with a criminal record can get a license with a criminal record is unfortunately not a clear-cut yes or no. Several factors will be taken into account when the Washington Nursing Commission determines whether to give a license to an applicant with a criminal record.

Obtain Your Criminal Record First

It is always a good idea to figure out exactly what you have on your record first. You can do this by contacting the court where you were convicted or through the Washington State Patrol. For more information on obtaining your record through the Washington State Patrol, see

Vacating Your Conviction

Once you have determined what is on your record, it would be wise to look into vacating your conviction under RCW sections 9.96.060 and 9.94A.640. In Washington, you can often vacate your most recent conviction if you have met certain waiting periods, which can range anywhere from 2 to 10 years depending on the level and type of offense. You can take a free eligibility test to see if you can vacate your conviction by going to Washington does not allow you to vacate convictions for DUI, sex offenses, violent offenses, as defined under RCW section 9.94A.30, or crimes against a person, as defined by RCW section 43.43.830. Violent offenses include assault in the second degree, robbery in the second degree and drive-by shootings. Crimes against a person include second or third degree assault, first degree burglary and child abuse or neglect.

If you are able to vacate your record, you can honestly say that you were not convicted of the vacated offense and it should no longer appear on background checks. Unfortunately, it can take up to a year for different background check companies to update their records and stop reporting your conviction; however, it is possible to expedite this process (see Having the conviction off of your record will clearly benefit you when applying for your nursing license and looking for a job.

If You Can't Vacate Your Conviction

If you are unable to vacate your conviction, you will have to put it on your nursing application and it will come up on the criminal background check that is run by the Nursing Commission. Having a conviction will not necessarily prevent you from receiving your license, though it is considered when making that determination. Make sure you are honest about your criminal record on your application, as failing to report a conviction can be detrimental to your application.

Factors That Effect The Nursing Commissions Decision

When the Nursing Commission evaluates your criminal record, they will consider certain facts about your conviction. One such factor is how long ago the conviction occurred. For instance, a conviction that occurred 10 years ago will be likely be viewed more favorably than a conviction that occurred last year. They will also look at the level of the conviction, i.e., whether it was a felony or misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are less serious and are more likely to result in the Department granting your license. They will also look at the nature of offense. Some types of crimes are more concerning than others.

Also visit our free expungement and record clearing information page to learn more about clearing your record.