Certain careers and industries require employee background checks by law.

Employee background checks are useful to HR departments and business owners, because it helps them to be sure they know who they are hiring. Candidates often dread them, because they are invasive and may dredge up old mistakes that could hurt their future careers.

There are rules about when background checks can be conducted and the information employers are allowed to access, however, and in most cases candidates have the option to refuse these types of checks. However, there are some professions in the US where background checks are required by law, and if you’re hiring or applying in these fields, you should be prepared to go through the process.

1. Professions in Education

If you’re hiring or applying for a job in education such as a teacher, principal, college professor or even administrators or support staff, extensive background checks are required.

State and federal laws require these to ensure that violent criminals, people with histories as sex offenders and others with potentially dangerous histories are not hired in positions where they may be a danger to children or young people.

2. Careers in Healthcare

Another sector in which detailed background checks are required by law is in health professions. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are hired in positions of trust, where they literally hold the life and death of their patients in their hands, and again, great care is taken to make sure that they are suited for the job.

Medical professions are also one of the few sectors where it’s not uncommon for medical histories to be required from candidates.

3. Government Positions

Whether you are hiring or applying for a job in local, state or federal government, you can expect in depth background checks to be part of the process. Government officials are in positions of trust, and they need to have spotless backgrounds in order to make the grade.

4. Financial Fields

Whether it’s banking or accounting, if you want to hire or apply for jobs in a financial field, there will be a lengthy background check process. Your financial history will probably be examined in depth, and there will certainly be a criminal record check, to make sure that you have not had any finance related charges or convictions. In these fields, certification and educational checks are also routine.

5. IT and Computer Related Positions

A few years ago, most of the current jobs in IT and computers didn’t exist, but because these individuals have access to so much data, and because these positions require high levels of trust, these are one of the sectors where mandatory and routine background checks are most common today.

Varies from State to State

One of the reasons why companies are trusting professional screening companies more and more today is that the rules and requirements can vary greatly from state to state, when it comes to legally required background checks.

What is an absolute requirement in some states may not be in another, and the process can differ too. There’s a fine line between legal compliance and invasion of privacy, and if you’re in any doubt, it’s always best to ask the pros. This is definitely one case where too little or too much of anything can hurt you and your company.

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