10 Best Degrees for Convicted Felons

Best Degrees for Convicted Felons - featured image

Did you know that there are nearly as many people with criminal records as there are with college degrees in the United States?

So you have committed a felony, but this shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a college degree and getting on the right track. You shouldn’t let a mistake from the past stop you from striving to improve your situation.

Best Degrees for Convicted Felons - fact

Check this out: Tips for Felons Entering College

While not all colleges welcome applicants with a criminal background, there should be enough colleges for you to apply to. However, because you have a criminal record, it would be best not to expect to receive the same opportunities as non-offenders. For one, ex-offenders are typically not allowed to receive Federal financial aid. 

If you’re serious about pursuing higher education, whether it be a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, here are the top degrees for felons.

What Felons Need To Know Before Applying to Colleges and Pursuing Degrees

While felons can find work after serving prison time or rehabilitation, they will unlikely land plenty of high-paying office jobs.

The good news is that people with criminal records and felonies still can find financially rewarding and meaningful work. They just need to look in the right places. However, there are a few industries where you’ll unlikely be able to obtain employment. 

Employers and licensing authorities may occasionally make a distinction between applicants who have been convicted of violent and nonviolent offenses. In some states, if a specified amount of time has passed since your conviction, you might be eligible to apply for a professional license or employment in a position prohibiting felons.

Therefore, you should certainly steer clear of studying the following subjects as a convicted criminal unless you are positive that you have a feasible professional path that will lead to work in the future:

#1: Avoid degrees that lead to jobs involving children

Even if your conviction were likely unrelated to crimes against children, you would be prohibited from working in practically all daycare centers, schools, pediatric offices, and other places that have contact with children.

#2: Avoid degrees that involve handling the money of other’s businesses

Although some companies accept felons in high-trust positions involving money, most of them ban convicted felons. Convicted felons are typically not eligible for bonds since the insurance requirements are intended to shield the employer from financial loss due to dishonest employee behavior. Most insurance companies view people with criminal histories, as well as those who have been on probation or parole, as risks.

#3: Avoid healthcare degrees.

While some healthcare positions accept felons, most of them do not. Much of that depends on how closely you interact with your patients. 

Most jobs in the medical field call for a greater level of patient interaction and are frequently perceived as requiring a greater degree of public trust. Of course, criminals don’t typically have the level of reliability or honesty needed to operate in these fields.

A sexual offense-related felony, a violent crime, a drug-related offense, or theft will prevent you from entering the medical industry.

Criminal offenses in the form of dishonesty and deceit will make it exceedingly difficult for someone to work in the medical industry. These heinous crimes will raise serious questions about privacy protection and patient data security.

#4: Avoid law enforcement degrees

Being a convicted felon makes entering law enforcement 100 times more challenging. Many employers now check your criminal past before extending you a job offer, and most police agencies and law enforcement organizations will not recruit anyone with a felony conviction. It’s challenging to get a job with a felony on your record, not even as a college professor. 

Take a look: The Highest Paying Jobs With A Trade School Education

10 Best Degrees for Convicted Felons

Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance Abuse Counseling

A substance abuse counseling degree is among the top and most preferred for people with criminal records, especially drug-related ones. A substance abuse counselor performs a variety of duties. They can help people manage their physical and mental health, help them set goals, try to uncover behaviors or patterns that obstruct healthy growth, and support people receiving treatment.

Courses in a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse counseling programs include:

  • Foundations of Addiction and Substance Use
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Multicultural Counseling in a Diverse Society
  • Relapse Prevention
  • Pharmacology of Drug Abuse
  • Trauma, Addiction, and Substance Use Disorders

Substance abuse counselors can work in various healthcare settings, including:

  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health clinics
  • Private practices

Employment in this field is expected to grow 18% from 2022 to 2032. Professional qualification or licensure may be necessary for some jobs.

Individuals with a history of substance misuse and even those with a criminal past can better navigate challenging conversations and explore themes that non-offenders may not be able to because of their profound grasp of the process from the client’s perspective. Also, they can better empathize with others and relate to their situations more easily. As a result, it might be simpler to remove obstacles and build trusting relationships with customers. 

Computer Science

Computer Science

Ex-felons with the temperament and aptitude to succeed as good computer programmers or even computer scientists should choose a degree and career in computer science. There is a continuing need for experienced computer programmers in businesses nationwide. 

As one of the broadest degree programs, you may need to direct your education in a way that will lead to a high-paying job. You will eventually need to choose a specialty if you’re interested in a Computer Science career.

Common courses/specializations include:

  • App Development
  • Database Management and Data Wrangling
  • Game Design
  • Computer Security
  • Network Administration

A few of the most common career paths for students with a degree in computer science include:

  • Game Developer
  • Mobile App Developer
  • Systems Architect
  • AI Engineer
  • IT Project Manager
  • Web Developer
  • UX Designer
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Software Developer

According to BLS, Computer and Information Research Scientists is expected to grow 23% from 2022 to 2032.

Computer science professions are typically few of the most meritocratic professions; if you are qualified to perform the work, you are qualified to be employed at a high salary. Additionally, this is one of the best degrees to start a freelance career. 

Several colleges and universities offer online programs in computer science. On the other hand, if you’re not yet ready to pursue a four-year degree, you can enroll in far less expensive options, such as enrolling in courses from Udemy or obtaining certification in free programs from online schools like W3Schools

Culinary Arts

Culinary Arts

Working in restaurants is a fantastic alternative for many people with criminal histories. High-caliber cooks and chefs are virtually always needed in the restaurant industry. And when it comes to background checks and which employers will hire, this industry is frequently much laxer.

The study of culinary arts spans from certification options to master’s degree levels. Yet, most students studying culinary arts may start with an associate degree.

Coursework for culinary arts degree typically include:

  • Food preparation
  • Sauces and stocks
  • Flavor and food pairing
  • Presentation
  • Food science

The variety of online degree options available might greatly increase a criminal offender’s prospects of finding employment in the culinary arts. Additionally, there are hundreds of kitchen jobs in every major city in the nation, making this one of the most location-independent careers you can pursue. It is also among the simplest places to find work immediately. 

According to BLS, the average annual salary of Chefs and Head Cooks is $56,520. While this is not the highest-paying position in the nation, being a chef may still offer a comfortable lifestyle in much of the US.



Engineering is not only one of the highest-paid fields but also one of the highly meritocratic professions. However, some of the biggest companies employing engineers may discriminate against those with felony convictions, like computer programming. Generally speaking, no matter what errors you may have made in the past, if you can execute the task, you’ll obtain the job.

Engineering is a diverse subject. The range of positions includes anything from chemical engineering to robotics and automation. Salaries vary greatly depending on the region, the specialty, and the amount of schooling. Yet, normal engineering positions will begin at roughly $63,080 and increase from there virtually indefinitely. For instance, management-level chemical engineers willing to go abroad frequently earn well over $106,880 annually. Top-paid business executive engineers with in-demand skills can make significantly more than that.

Engineering fields demand substantial training, which can be achieved through earning a degree and certifications. You may need to make significant financial commitments or take out loans, so you should carefully weigh your options. Ensure you have the mindset and aptitude to succeed and genuinely want to pursue this vocation.

Fortunately, cheap online programs in engineering are now widespread. It’s the best option for people who cannot afford the high tuition costs. You can obtain good online degrees from approved and well-known universities for less than $30,000, a cost that some ex-offenders who live on the cheap will quickly recover in their first year of employment.

Construction Management

Construction Management

The career prospects for these managers are predicted to increase by 5% between 2022 and 2032, making construction management a desirable topic of study at the moment. Due to the strong demand and lack of qualified construction managers, there are several work chances for convicts in this industry.

A construction management degree can be earned in three-degree levels: associate, bachelor, and master. However, those who pursue an associate degree may not have the opportunity to land well-paying jobs. So, you need a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. With these classes, you can learn how to manage a residential or commercial building site. 

The average coursework for a degree in construction management includes the following, although the curriculum varies:

At the bachelor’s level:

  • Structural design methods
  • Construction scheduling and cost control
  • Construction law

At the master’s level:

  • Construction management techniques
  • Decision-making and risk management
  • Environmental law and management
  • Quality management and construction performance

Building estimation, construction safety, project management, and code compliance are among the industries where convicts might find work. The role of the building manager includes keeping an eye on the big picture and ensuring that the construction project is completed on schedule, stays within budget, satisfies quality standards, and complies with building rules. Several construction supervisors may work on different duties if the construction project is large.



With the difficulty of finding employment due to a criminal record, more and more ex-cons are turning to self-employment to generate cash or create a lifestyle with more freedom than a regular job. But you must remember that running your own business will have several pros and cons, so you should greatly consider earning a business degree. 

A business degree will give you the necessary knowledge to run your own business and benefit you in a conventional job with a company. So if all else fails, at least you have a degree that will get you a job elsewhere. 

Because business is such a broad topic, many different educational opportunities are available. There is probably a business degree field that suits you, no matter how introverted, creative, exact, or organized you are. While the curriculum for each program differs, the most common coursework will include the following:

  • Business Ethics
  • Cost Accounting
  • Financial Analysis
  • Economics
  • Business Law
  • Human Resource Management
  • Marketing
  • Supply Chain Management

Federal data predict that business occupations are expected to grow faster than average from 2022 to 2032.



Thousands of small businesses in the United States are in the automotive repair and maintenance sector, making this advantageous for convicts. Compared to other professions, this one historically had a superior track record of hiring convicts.

While the field shows very little growth, there are still 67,700 expected yearly openings for automotive service technicians and mechanics.

Generally speaking, local business owners who can personally observe your abilities and the value you add are far more inclined to overlook your criminal record. Corporate human resources departments are the most likely prospective employers to exclude someone based on a criminal background automatically.

In addition to the sector being highly accepting of applicants with criminal histories, many prisons with lower levels of security may provide classes in auto repair. If you already have experience in mechanics, it is best to continue and expand what you know in a trade school.

There are other ways besides getting a formal degree to become educated in auto mechanics. You can also learn how to be an auto mechanic by finishing an apprenticeship under a master mechanic or securing a position as a store assistant and requesting on-the-job training.



For those who want to start their own business, an entrepreneurship degree is an additional option to a business degree. Entrepreneurship is more of a “possibility thinker” than a business degree, which is more of an “analytical thinker.” As a result, an entrepreneur places more emphasis on creating new value than a businessman on making a profit.

Enrolling in an entrepreneurship degree program allows you to develop your skills while following your excitement for creating new goods and commercial opportunities. You will study practical strategic ideas that can be used in the modern world. Graduates are prepared to apply their knowledge to launch their own companies and offer business advice to the corporate sector.

Coursework focuses on the following:

  • Management
  • Planning
  • Marketing
  • Finance For Large and Small Company Enterprises

Additionally, this degree is ideal for ex-felons because few occupations in entrepreneurship necessitate particular licenses or credentials. 

Electrician or Welder

Electrician Or Welder

Criminals seeking cheaper, highly-paying, and meritocratic employment options frequently choose the path of an electrician or welder. These professions are two of the most inclusive career options. Most training opportunities are open to people with a high school diploma and a knack for manual labor.

You may need to earn an associate degree to become an electrician or welder. An associate degree typically only lasts up to two years, depending if you choose to continue to a certification/specialization. However, you can find employers looking for trainees if you want a cheaper alternative to entering the field.

Some employers will train you but need you to sign a contract committing to work for them for a certain period of time before you can go on to another employer or launch your own business. While some employers train for free, others may charge you if you choose not to complete it. Moreover, don’t anticipate making more than $25,000 during your training year.

The annual average salaries of electricians and welders, according to BLS, are $60,240 and $47,540, respectively. If you want to earn more, you need to obtain specializations. The highest-paid industry for electricians and welders is the oil rig industry.



When people hear the word marketing, the first thing that may come to mind is advertising. However, there is more to marketing than just that. Marketing is any activity a business engages in to draw a target audience to its goods or services through compelling messaging. And with the rise of digital marketing, ex-felons can have better chances of landing job opportunities online.

A bachelor’s degree is often required for marketing positions. Some firms require an advanced degree for senior and management jobs, and a degree in marketing, for example, can help people stand out in the job market.

A marketing degree can provide a variety of special advantages. It provides access to various job prospects, which is a notable benefit. Marketing has many different subspecialties, including:

  • Public Relations
  • Advertising
  • Sales

The average annual salary for Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers is $138,730. However, you may have limited offers because you have a record, and this path entails mingling and connecting with people. But with the right mindset, you can find a spot in this industry.

Job Interview Tips

Finally! You’ve graduated from college and are proudly carrying your diploma or degree. It’s time to put your knowledge to good use and get employment in the industry you worked so hard to get into. Here are some pieces of advice for ex-offenders who are being interviewed. 

Answer Directly

Avoid providing too much detail, especially during the first interview, and simply respond to questions. If the employer raises issues, answer them directly and stick to the main argument.

Avoid talking negatively, especially at the start and finish of the interview. Keep in mind that first and last impressions matter the most.

Remain Engaged and in the Now

Always remain engaged in the conversation and avoid dwelling on the past. Instead, discuss what you’ve been doing lately and how you’ve resolved to live your life to the fullest.

Maintain normal eye contact without becoming weird. Anybody, convicted or not, is subject to that.

Be Proud of How Far You’ve Come 

You should be really pleased with yourself since you have come a long way. Whatever your conviction was, you are successfully conquering its harmful effects, which is an incredible achievement.

Act Natural

While getting stressed and anxious is normal, especially since this may be your first attempt at a new life, doing so can be detrimental. 

Practice your interviewing techniques as often as you can; the more you do so, the more naturally you’ll come across. Hey, interviews are challenging for many individuals, so don’t worry about how you’re feeling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the worst felony convictions for College Admissions?

While no law forbids individuals with felony convictions from applying for college, some colleges strictly ban individuals with a felony record of a violent or sexual offense. For the majority of institutions, those involved in violent and sexual crimes are great threats to the whole campus community, which is evident. 

Can felons get government jobs?

Yes, even if you have a criminal record and have served time in prison, you are still eligible for some job opportunities in the federal government. 

Should convicted felons opt for online college degrees?

Convicted felons should opt for online degree programs for a simpler admissions process. Above all, online degrees tend to have fewer requirements since students are not required to meet face-to-face, eliminating the concern for student safety. If you have trouble finding a program that fits your background during your college search, looking into online schools may help.

What companies hire felons?

There are probably more companies than you realize that employ people with criminal histories. Multi-billion companies like Tesla, Inc., PepsiCo, Inc., Coca-Cola, and many more hire ex-felons. 

Additional Info: The Easiest Online Associate Degrees

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor