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Can a Felon Become a Computer Programmer?

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You may have had experience with IT in the past and are thinking about becoming a computer programmer. As a felon, can you?
Let’s look into this.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • What Is a Computer Programmer?
  • Training to Become a Computer Programmer
  • How Much Does a Computer Programmer Earn?
  • Background Check?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?


What Is a Computer Programmer?

A computer programmer writes computer software programs and applications, testing them to make sure they work properly. 

A computer programmer must be knowledgeable about different computer languages.

A successful programmer can create and correct computer code that allows a computer to follow instructions in a step-by-step manner.

Computer programmers learn a variety of programming languages and must be able to go from a person’s instructions to a programming language that contains logical steps to carry out the original instructions.

As a computer programmer, you need to be analytical and detail oriented, able to spend a lot of time alone working on the computer. If that describes you, you might have a future as a computer programmer.

Training to Become a Computer Programmer

Many computer programmers have a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree in computer science. 

However, it isn’t necessary to have a degree as long as you have taken the requisite classes to learn the basics of computer programming. You can get this type of education at a university, community college, or a vocational school.

A degree in computer science gives you the ability to learn programming languages easily. There is no certification required to become a programmer. However, a computer programmer can be certified in specific programming languages or certain computer products within a business.

This might not be such a different road to travel as you look to your future and a new career.

How Much Does a Computer Programmer Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately 174,400 computer programmers as of 2021.

The median annual salary for a computer programmer was $93,000 in 2021. Experience, specialization, and geographic location could have a significant impact on these earnings.  

Growth in this field has slowed as more individuals learn the necessary computer language skills without formal computer programming education. There is not as much need for the complexities of programming languages and skills.

Generally, a computer programmer on the East or West coast or in the South receives a higher salary than for one in other areas.

Background Check?

You will run into a background check in your quest to become a computer programmer. In fact, there will likely be more than one background check that would be run as part of the admission requirements for a college or vocational school.

The type of background check would vary according to the college, which could be a challenge for you with a felony conviction. It would depend on whether or not it was a college or a vocational school. 

A background check at a vocational school would likely not be as strict as many trade schools make some effort to admit felons without such a stringent background check.

For universities, more than 60% of colleges currently consider criminal histories in decisions

For many schools, their background check consists of a single question regarding convictions for a felony or misdemeanor. So maybe the college or vocational school route, either one, would get you access to a computer programming program.

Whether it is at a community college or a vocational school, a background check will usually focus on convictions that have happened within the past seven years.

But even a felony conviction may not eliminate you. Trade schools are known for accepting those who have previous involvement with the criminal justice system. So that’s not so bad.

Then, to get a computer programming job, you will have to go through the application process, which will require a background check by a potential employer. Of course, the type of felony will make a  difference.

Those who have been convicted of a more serious offense such as a violent or sexual offense will be at a disadvantage in passing the background check for many types of jobs, including work as a computer programmer.

Crimes against persons won’t work in your favor. Drug offenses can sometimes interfere as some view those with drug-related convictions and issues as unreliable.

Other types of felonies may not limit your chances of successful employment. Some fields are known for giving felons an opportunity.

So why not the computer field?

An Opportunity for Felons?

Yes, becoming a computer programmer is a possibility for you as a felon. It’s the type of field that doesn’t require a license or certification.

There are many training opportunities available through universities, community colleges, and trade schools.

You might have an easier time getting a job such as a computer programmer that doesn’t involve direct contact with the public. There could be limited opportunities finding a programmer job that includes working around personal records and information along with financial data.

While the field is not experiencing the type of growth that you might like to see, there is still enough opportunity to make it an attractive option, if you have experience and interest in the computer field.

It is worth a look.

In order to be successful in your pursuit of becoming a computer programmer, it is essential to be honest about your background. Lying about your conviction could prevent you from becoming a computer programmer.

If a felony isn’t disclosed but found on doing a background check, this is fraud. It’s a punishable crime which would require an attorney and could result in being sent back to prison.

Having your felony expunged can give you the chance you need to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a computer programmer.

Also, running a background check on yourself would tell you what a school or a potential employer would view. We recommend doing that to help you be prepared.

If being a computer programmer is your goal, be persistent and don’t give up.

Your mistakes from the past don’t have to continue to derail you. Hold to your goal and be defined by how you recover from your mistakes.

It can be worth it to live an honest life.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a computer programmer with a felony? What was that like, and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.

8 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become a Computer Programmer?”

  1. Seeking to reenter the IT World after a 10 years absence. I’m 6 months into my search. And I believe the biggest barrier, at this time, is the criminal conviction ( Class A misdemeanor) in the State of Texas, 09/2012. Additionally, I’m researching skill sets that are trending. I’m learning Python, SQL, and seeking certifications in Cloud computing and Cybersecurity; combined with expanding my soft skills in leadership and project management. If I could partner with a third party, i.e., 501(c3) offering training and assistance with re-entry into the workforce is probably my best bet. However, I’m open to any suggestions at this point. Thanks in advance!!

  2. Any felony conviction in my border state in the Southwest will disqualify from any kind of employment. The rule is for the government and I should know is that if you are being considered for Federal Employment and there is another person as well considered. The other person with NO record will get hired every time. Even though they may not have the work experience that you might have but they will be hired over those who have a record. Been there and done that.

  3. This post is a bit contrived and has some fairly bold statements, “Any felony conviction appearing on a background check will disqualify an individual from being a computer programmer.” That is a not necessarily true, though they may be denied, it doesn’t automatically disqualify them like say working for the Government. Also, expungement of convictions is not possible in all states nor is it always effective. Private background checks will return a list of convictions prior to the expungement in most cases. Applying for every possible job development position that is relevant to the felon’s skill-set or starting a company are pretty much the only valid approaches. There are no guarantees one way or the other. Sincerely, someone who knows.

    • If you have anything expunged from your recorded and they find that, and deny you for the job you can sue the state for libel, expungement means off of your record no trace.

      • Yes sure but who’s going to have the money to hire all these attorneys for the rest of your life to do all this wrongful termination or discrimination in hiring, suing all over the place. You’ll be in litigation for the rest of your life and if you can never get a JOB how are you going to pay for all of this? The ACLU doesn’t take MOST people’s cases who approach them about all this. I know, I tried them when I was in jail for something I hadn’t even done. And because of massive racial profiling.


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