10 Best Degrees for Felons


Unfortunately, having a felony charge on your record can make it hard to bounce back after release. Many former convicts view that as the end of their ability to have a career. Some even become discouraged from attempting to get a degree. This fact is especially depressing as government assistance can also be limited, depending on the state where you live and the crime you went in for initially. Though many companies and industries rule out those whose felony convictions appear on their record, there are many majors to choose from that are each well-suited for felons. Often those with felony charges feel like returning to a life of crime is the only option to support their families or themselves. There are many career choices for felons in the best degrees for felons that can help with a fresh start and a new lease on life.

Below is a list of 10 degrees you can get with a criminal record, many of which require little time and money, like two-year associated degree that offer an excellent return on investment. While careers for convicted felons can seem unachievable, scan this list and find something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and be proud of a life you have built on the other side of the system. 

1. Automotive Technology

An auto technology degree is very achievable and supportive of someone re-entering society following a long or short sentence. You only need a high school diploma or GED to enter this course of study at a community college or technical school. Many of these programs are so friendly of those who have a history of convictions that they offer them as part of prison reentry programs. You can work in the auto industry without a certificate of training. However, it is a benefit to have gone through a program that trains you on the ins and outs of the industry. One of the aspects of training that you get from a program like this is the ability to work with the public and explain to people in lay terms what might be happening to their vehicle. This field is known to offer starting salaries of nearly $50k

2. Environmental Science/ Conservation 

It is no secret that our planet is suffering. The only real upside to this fact is there are more and more infrastructure and career opportunities related to environmental sciences and conservation. As far as careers with a felony background go, there are many ways to plug into this particular industry. You can pick a path that is more geared to forest restoration or even solar panel installation. These jobs are not going anywhere, and are welcoming of people interested in this degree path. This degree can include access to a government job or work within the private sector. 

3. Robotics and Automation

Robotics and Automation is the perfect field to study in engineering. You will notice once you start researching robotics that this sector is present in all aspects of our lives. What better way to work at the cutting edge and support companies to use smart machines and robots more effectively. These industries are practically begging people to immerse themselves in robotics design to keep their companies thriving. One of the real benefits of this degree path is it is unbelievably lucrative. Graduates can enter the workforce earning $50,000 annually out of the gate and can make up to $120,000. Yes, even with a felony charge on your record. 

4. Substance Abuse Counseling

People often go into Substance Abuse Counseling from a personal and even emotional place. Many times students go into this field wanting to help others who are seeking the support they once needed. There are many ways to achieve such a degree, including plenty of online opportunities for coursework. Counseling is a great track to be on if you want to get into the community and use your life experience to make a difference in people’s lives. This education track gives students a chance for hands-on learning experiences, as there is often a practicum embedded into such programming. 

5. Computer Science/ Computer Programming

Computer Science is a multifaceted track that can be a gateway to some of the most in-demand careers out there. There are many focal points you can hone in on for this educational path, including database management, algorithm analysis, web development, and even software development. Computer programmers learn to write code, while software developers tell computer programmers what to build. There are many flexible ways to engage in this academic track, with a lot of online options for coursework. It is clear that this is a field that is not going anywhere, and also it is one that can allow felons to work for themselves or find a company that is not interested in disqualifying someone with a past. 

6. Graphic Design

Careers in graphic design are not going anywhere, and many companies are hiring qualified graduates who are not even conducting background checks. Graphic Design is a flexible career journey that can allow you to freelance from our home, or plug you into the payroll of an established company at a permanent employee. The options for this degree are endless. Design is an excellent field for anyone interested in designing websites, visual marketing, and working with digital multimedia platforms. There are many ways to engage with this industry, but even an associate’s degree alone can get your foot in the door. There are many opportunities to study this broad field at a community college, trade school, or even online. 

7. Carpentry

The field of Carpentry not only allows you to use your hands, engage your top-notch problem-solving skills, but it is also quite a lucrative career path. Many trade schools welcome people who were previously incarcerated. Some carpenters are more than willing to bring on apprentices who have a record. There are even online learning opportunities for students who pick this hands-on trade. There are many places a graduate can put to use a degree like this, whether it be union work, or just placing a handyman ad highlighting your skills on your neighborhood listserve. This is also one of the best careers for female felons, as there are many free training opportunities for women interested in learning this historically male-dominated trade. 

8. Marketing

I would venture to say that marketing is one of the highest-paying jobs that is often welcoming to people with a criminal background. Getting onto a marketing team, students usually need a bachelor’s degree in a related field. You can plug into many different organizations and companies by creating materials that speak to their target audience and sell their services or goods. Students in this degree path learn the psychology of communicating with consumers, and effective ways to conduct market research. There are ways to work as a freelance with this degree. People also plug their skills into companies and organizations that are already established. 

9. Business

There are so many places you can go with a business degree. You can become an entrepreneur and start your exciting endeavor. You can also contribute to an already established company with your in-demand skills post-degree. You can go somewhere lucrative even with an associate’s in business, or you can take your education as far as you want for more in-depth skills and job potential. This multifaceted path can pour you into the world of human resources, marketing, communications, and even public relations, and there is something here for everyone. Yes, even someone with a criminal record. 

10. Medical Technician 

You may ask, are there medical careers for felons? You can easily accomplish an associate’s degree or even a bachelor’s to be a medical technician, no matter what your criminal background says. There are many ways to get on this career track, including a certificate in phlebotomy. The beauty of this path is you can take expedited coursework and get in the field pretty quickly, or take your time if you want a more thorough approach. Many skills you will gain include medical terminology and communication skills for healthcare, which are transferrable to almost all careers in the healthcare industry. 

While it can be discouraging to re-enter society, maybe you are even beginning your journey in the workforce for the first time with a background employers may not understand. There are many ways to start again. So many industries have empathy for people trying their best to get their lives right and make better choices, and some don’t even check. Don’t lose sight of all of the ways you can not only contribute to society but also earn a salary that you’re proud of, and of course, promises self-sufficiency. College acceptance with a felony is not as daunting as you may think, or even as hard as it once was. Look into different ways to accomplish your academic goals, including online learning and community college. Now is as good a time as any to take a step in the right direction. Invest in a new beginning; invest in yourself.