Did you know that roughly 3% of the American population has served time in prison?
There’s a large section of the population that lives life with felony offenses on record.
When it comes time to start again, many decide to go after degrees and higher education, though some feel this is unobtainable.
If you have a felony and have thought of aiming for a college degree, we’re here to help you find a path.
Read on for some of the many successful degree paths you can find with a criminal record.
Top College Degrees for Felons
Before we get started, know that there’s no “best degree” for people with felonies.
Just as with people with no criminal record, the best degrees are the ones that fit what you’d like to do with your life.
There are few degree choices that your felony charges will stop you from chasing.
Here’s a strong list of the degrees you can chase without fear of your criminal record interfering.
Many felons can find careers in the business administration industry.
These jobs include positions like sales managers, business consultants, event planners, and market research analysts.
It’s also a massive path with countless opportunities.
Because of this, the salary ranges heavily depending on the level of position and company you work for.
You can expect to make anywhere from $25,000 up well into six figures depending on where you end up!
Computer science is a constantly-growing field and one that many felons have chosen to major in.
Part of this is because many computer science careers are remote, helping ease social pressures or issues that may come as a result of a criminal background.
As a field, there are a huge number of careers that one can chase in computer science.
Programming, technical support, software, and hardware development, and more rest down this path.
Because of this, you can expect a similar range of salaries to business administration.
Construction management is a smaller field than some others on this list but is certainly one you can look into.
Many construction teams purposefully hire felons to help give them a second chance.
Much of the work is focused on manual labor and physicality, which can make your physique much more important than your record.
Moving into management with a degree can help you to turn out a solid career.
Depending on where you live, construction could often have a high demand.
A construction management career has salaries that range from $70,000 to $100,000 on average, though many positions pay outside of this range.
Counseling is something that many felons move into.
It’s especially common among people whose felony took an emotional or psychological toll on them, working to help others through their struggle.
Counselors are employed in many different situations.
Crisis counselors, assault counselors, grief counselors, and countless more.
Because of this, it’s difficult to give a range of salaries.
Your specialization, employer, location, and many more factors will affect what your salary becomes.
Some careers in the criminal justice field or law enforcement are not open to felons.
Becoming a police officer or something similar, for example, is strictly prohibited in many states if you have a criminal record.
However, many other possible careers make a criminal justice degree in the field worthwhile.
Some criminology fields will happily accept felons, and with the right interviewer, you may even manage to swing your record as experience in the field.
That said, a career in criminal justice is difficult to chase with a felony.
While it’s certainly an option, you may want to make sure you have an in before you start taking out loans.
The culinary arts are popular among those with a criminal background.
Oftentimes, this is because there are restaurants in every city and every state, no matter how small.
Felons can often find a job in the kitchen of a restaurant easily, depending on the employer.
Majoring in the culinary arts can help you move into management or employment in a kitchen quickly.
You may also decide to specialize in a specific art, such as baking.
Your pay will depend heavily on your position, location, expertise, and experience, but you can generally expect a salary between $30,000 and $60,000 on average.
Entrepreneurship is an excellent career path for people with a criminal record.
Simply put, this is because you don’t have to worry about a background check when you’re your boss.
You also have a great amount of freedom to decide what you’ll do for work.
You may even decide to lean on your position as a felon to enrich or inform your new career.
Perhaps you decided to start a company that caters to those with a criminal record or helps to highlight them to work to remove the social stigma.
That said, it’s impossible to say what the salary for entrepreneurship is, given that it varies completely from case to case.
Mobile Computing and App Development
Along with computer science, specializing in app development is a great way to find a career with a criminal record.
It’s mobile, challenging work that requires collaboration and experience.
Salaries, per usual, range depending on position, but you can expect a salary of $40,000 or higher in most cases.
Database Support and Analysis
Database support is also a career that compliments mobile work, which might call out to some felons.
The United States is home to countless companies that require this sort of technical work, making it a rich and ever-growing career path.
Analysts tend to earn between $40,000 and $70,000.
Game design is a difficult field to get into, and you may have better luck if you follow this path through entrepreneurship.
Still, you can certainly find a job in game design with a felony.
Some states, such as New York, California, and Texas, are home to many game design studios.
Expect an entry-level salary of around $40,000 depending on location.
Engineering is a broad category.
Civil engineers, mechanical engineers, and many others will take different paths.
Your felony may stop you in one and not matter in the least in others, and it also makes it more difficult to say a salary.
Given the importance of engineers, you can expect a healthy salary, though it depends massively on your city and state.
Substance Abuse Counseling
Substance abuse counseling is highly common among felons.
Sometimes clinics will even seek out felons or those with previous substance abuse issues to help have a kindred soul guide others through these issues.
These counselors often earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, location depending.
Psychology has a wide swathe of careers that one can go into.
Many of these are criminal justice careers, which can make it difficult.
Others might restrict you have a class A felony or sexual assault charge.
However, many counseling positions you can find will favor a psychology degree, with the salary being similar to substance abuse counseling.
Paralegals often serve as support for legal professionals, such as lawyers and judges.
While working in criminal justice is sometimes difficult with a felony, there are many paralegal positions you can pursue with your criminal record.
Paralegals are often entry-level, making the salary lower and usually by hour, ranging around $30,000 depending on your state.
Robotics and Automation Services
Many of the manufacturing wings of robotics companies will happily recruit people with a criminal history.
You can easily find a job opportunity in several different roles, from entry-level to management and further.
Because of this, the salary ranges immensely, with entry-level work often resting around $35,000 to $50,000 depending on your role.
Environmental science is heavily dependent on your location.
Some states, like Florida and others with rich national park scenes, will welcome environmentalists professionally.
Other states may not focus on these careers, making it hard to find employment regardless of your legal issues.
Because of this, though, many companies are much less resistant to hiring felons so that they can focus on the environment.
It’s a great way to give back to the environment for your second chance and find a passionate career.
Working in this field for the government can get a salary of around $70,000.
Vocational studies are a strong career path, especially for entrepreneurship.
Many companies may resist hiring felons for jobs that require personal communication or visiting homes, however.
It’s especially difficult for a sex offender to obtain positions of this sort due to social stigma and laws.
It’s especially difficult if you have a class A misdemeanor or murder on your record.
Primarily, this is because some states have laws that would prevent that felon from being around some demographics, such as children.
Vocational careers also range by your chosen path but average around the $50,000 range in most locations.
Mechanical studies are common among people with criminal records and felonies.
As a vocational study, mechanics are always in high demand and employment is often easier to find.
You can also open a shop, though this is more difficult.
Expect your average mechanic to earn around $30,000 to $50,000
Best Online Degrees for Felons
You might choose to go for an online degree program for a huge variety of reasons.
Maybe you’re hesitant to rejoin society fully, or maybe you have restrictions over when you can leave your home.
If you’re interested in online degrees, consider looking into the following:
- English and Writing
- Computer Science
- Art & Illustration
- Integrated Studies
- Criminal Law
Featured Online Programs
Many universities have online programs you can look into.
Consider looking at local colleges and universities, and any university you’ve had a dream of pursuing.
Bachelor’s degree options and many lower-level or even graduate-level degrees are often available.
As a starting point, consider the University of Arizona Global Campus.
UAGC offers dozens of degrees in plenty of fields.
Strayer University also has a wide variety of online options, as does the University of Phoenix.
With technology being so prevalent in today’s society, most colleges will offer some form of an online program.
What Careers Are You Ineligible for as a Convicted Felon?
The specifics of your crime can affect this.
Some medical career positions are off the board, along with some criminal defense positions, social work careers, and many law enforcement jobs.
Some educational fields may also hesitate, especially if the position is close to minors.
Working in a high school won’t work, but you could teach in a state prison with inmate students.
A possession charge or a long-past prior felony conviction of a different sort can both cut off some careers.
You would likely struggle as a criminal defense attorney with a severe offense on your record, for example.
Research your chosen career to see if your felony charge will hurt your plans.
Can You Qualify for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?
There are many scholarships and grants that a felony offense won’t block you from.
Financial aid often isn’t affected by a criminal conviction.
Some states, like South Carolina, offer grants up to $50,000 in some cases.
New York state funds allocate a decent number of grants and scholarships as well.
Grants and Scholarships for Felons
Scholarships are often given on a state, city, or university level, and it’s difficult to name all of them.
There are countless scholarships, given by organizations and entrepreneurs for federal-level aid.
Research your local area to see what grants and scholarships are available for you.
Programs and Colleges That Accept Felons
It’s a sad reality that many colleges are more likely to reject people with a criminal record.
Local colleges or state-level public schools are more likely to accept you.
Most universities won’t have rules against felons, but you can find it more difficult to apply.
Afterward, initiatives like the Federal Bonding Program can help you in finding employment.
Some colleges such as highly-competitive Ivy league schools are much less likely to accept you.
Still, nothing is impossible, and you can apply to as many schools as you wish.
The worst they can do is say no and let you move on to the next one!