The right college degree or technical training can greatly boost your chances of getting a job, if you have a felony.
While most degrees are open to felons, you should think long term about what type of job you will be able to get after you finish school.
For example, as a felon you will not get a job in the medical field. Psychiatric and psychology jobs are also not available, with the exception of a substance abuse counselor.
What are the top college degrees for felons?
To figure out what type of education you should pursue, start looking at things from an employer’s point of view.
– Did you steal money or property? If so, you can’t do accounting, or any other finance/banking related job.
– Did you drink an drive and kill someone? Well, here you have to rule out degrees that lead to jobs where you have to drive people around.
The main thing to remember is that you want to become a behind the scenes employee. Companies will want to hide you from customers and have you work away from them.
Of course you should also think about your own talents, current skills and interests. If you have limited mathematical abilities, you probably should not pursue high-tech jobs.
Computer Science / Programming degrees
One of the best degrees you can get is computer science. There is a real shortage and a huge demand for quality developers and software engineers. This is especially the case, if you live on the East Coast (Boston, New York, DC, Maryland), on the West Coast (Seattle, San Francisco, Sillicone Valley, Los Angeles, San Jose), or in any major metropolitan area around USA.
Software developers can get starting salaries at $60K or more, even with a degree from a 2nd tier school (most state colleges/universities and even community colleges).
As a felon, you can negotiate a slightly lower starting salary, if the employer “closes their eyes” on your conviction.
Mobile Computing and App Development
This is one of the most rapidly growing niches within the broad field of computer science. More and more people around the world have smart phones and tables, so there is an ever growing demand for programmers that deal with mobile data and services. Developing new apps (including games) for both Android and Apple platforms is a particularly hot field. Today, app developers easily earn salaries of $70,000-85,000 a year, or more.
Data Base Support and Analysis
This is another highly lucrative degrees with a very promising job outlook. More and more companies require dedicated data base analysts, cloud storage programmers and specialists. As governments, and corporations rely more and more on cloud-based data, there will be a growing demand for professionals who can provide support and run all related operations. Salaries in this sector start at $45,000-55,000 a year , but senior data base analysts can earn as much as $130,000-160,000 a year.
You probably love playing video games on your phone or computer, right? Well, someone created and coded this game and got paid for it:) This is another very popular field in software development, and jobs will continue to increase in the coming years. Starting salaries range from $65,000-80,000 per year.
Freelance Work (No Background Checks, Work from Home)
But even if you can’t find a job at a company, having programming skills opens a ton of opportunities working online. You can do contracting / outsourcing work on Upwork / Odesk / Elance, Guru.com and may other similar short term job market places.
Most “employers” on these websites PREFER American developers over Asian / Indian / Easter European programmers. But Americans are often MUCH more expensive. So as a developer in US – you can charge lower prices in the beginning, and then build up your “resume” and raise your fees.
Best of all – there are no background checks when you do outsource / freelancing work!
Here is Entrepreneur.com top 15 freelance websites list for you to see where you can find freelance jobs.
Missing from this list is Fiverr, but i’d not recommend this, as it’s mostly commodity work with low payouts.
Note 1 – Upwork, Elance and Odesk is now the same company.
Note 2 – I’m not a fan of Freelancer.com – they are not very good in conflict resolution, and have some B/S recurring charges that can wipe out you earnings … se be aware of those if you want to give it a try. But I’d recommend to stay away.
See our full guide on how to become a freelancer:
Freelancing has NO BACKGROUND checks!
I’ve personally used Upwork/Elance and Freelancer to hire people to do work for me … I would strongly suggest Upwork, out of these two. But definitely also check out other sites on the list!
If you don’t have the skills, you can obviously take necessary college courses / certificate programs or learn necessary skills with very inexpensive video courses on Udemy.
Car / Truck / Equipment Mechanic
A mechanic is more of a trade / specialized degree or training, but many community colleges offer these programs. Mechanic jobs pay anywhere from $15-30 / hour, and since there is little to no customer interaction, many companies are willing to hire felons – especially small garages and repair shops, as well as small manufacturers.
So this is an excellent line of work for felons, with “better” pay and many employment options!
Both computer and mechanical engineering are very promising degrees for someone with a felony. You can eventually work in a factory, programming and building robots instead of operating them, making a decent income. These jobs are currently in very high demand, and the more you learn, the more companies will want you to work for them. Professional engineers get average pay of $65,000-90,000 per year to start, and usually earn over $110,000 after working for over five years.
Once again – you can do outsourced work as an engineer on same websites as programmers use (Upwork / Odesk / etc).
Robotics and Automation Services
This is a growing sub-field in engineering, because in the 21st century the use of robots and automation is becoming a part of everyday life. Most companies use robots and smart machines to cut down on the costs of human labor and increase efficiency. Consequently, there is a huge demand for people who will design these machines, and provide technical support on the ground. This field have a very large job pool, with salaries starting at $50,000 per year and all the way to $120,000 for high-end engineers.
If math and computers are not your cup of tea, you can consider a job in the booming environmental sector. Since there is more awareness about the need to preserve our environment and work out protocols for conservation, companies are hiring professionals to spearhead these efforts. There are both private and government jobs available. Average pay is $45,000-60,000 per year.
Becoming an architect is a great option if you are interested in construction and design. There are tracks for commercial or residential architecture and many niches within this broad field. Starting salaries are $60,000-75,000 and the job outlook is very good, especially in large metropolitan areas.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you CAN get a degree, if you wish. Education or training will help you get further in life. Just make sure you have a clear goal and a plan of the type of work you want to pursue after you are done with your education.
Professions you should avoid
While you CAN get the following degrees, finding a job in this fields will be nearly impossible when you have a felony conviction.
- Sports training
- Massage / Therapy / etc
- Any line of work with customer/client interaction
If this article has helped you out in anyway please share it on your social media, or email it to others who are struggling to get work. Together we can help felons find out what college degrees they should pursue.